<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

Biological effects of exposure to radiation

Radiation can harm either the whole body (somatic damage) or eggs and sperm (genetic damage). Its effects are more pronounced in cells that reproduce rapidly, such as the stomach lining, hair follicles, bone marrow, and embryos. This is why patients undergoing radiation therapy often feel nauseous or sick to their stomach, lose hair, have bone aches, and so on, and why particular care must be taken when undergoing radiation therapy during pregnancy.

Different types of radiation have differing abilities to pass through material ( [link] ). A very thin barrier, such as a sheet or two of paper, or the top layer of skin cells, usually stops alpha particles. Because of this, alpha particle sources are usually not dangerous if outside the body, but are quite hazardous if ingested or inhaled (see the Chemistry in Everyday Life feature on Radon Exposure). Beta particles will pass through a hand, or a thin layer of material like paper or wood, but are stopped by a thin layer of metal. Gamma radiation is very penetrating and can pass through a thick layer of most materials. Some high-energy gamma radiation is able to pass through a few feet of concrete. Certain dense, high atomic number elements (such as lead) can effectively attenuate gamma radiation with thinner material and are used for shielding. The ability of various kinds of emissions to cause ionization varies greatly, and some particles have almost no tendency to produce ionization. Alpha particles have about twice the ionizing power of fast-moving neutrons, about 10 times that of β particles, and about 20 times that of γ rays and X-rays.

A diagram shows four particles in a vertical column on the left, followed by an upright sheet of paper, a person’s hand, an upright sheet of metal, a glass of water, a thick block of concrete and an upright, thick piece of lead. The top particle listed is made up of two white spheres and two green spheres that are labeled with positive signs and is labeled “Alpha.” A right-facing arrow leads from this to the paper. The second particle is a red sphere labeled “Beta” and is followed by a right-facing arrow that passes through the paper and stops at the hand. The third particle is a white sphere labeled “Neutron” and is followed by a right-facing arrow that passes through the paper, hand and metal but is stopped at the glass of water. The fourth particle is shown by a squiggly arrow and it passes through all of the substances but stops at the lead. Terms at the bottom read, from left to right, “Paper,” “Metal,” “Water,” “Concrete” and “Lead.”
The ability of different types of radiation to pass through material is shown. From least to most penetrating, they are alpha<beta<neutron<gamma.

Radon exposure

For many people, one of the largest sources of exposure to radiation is from radon gas (Rn-222). Radon-222 is an α emitter with a half–life of 3.82 days. It is one of the products of the radioactive decay series of U-238 ( [link] ), which is found in trace amounts in soil and rocks. The radon gas that is produced slowly escapes from the ground and gradually seeps into homes and other structures above. Since it is about eight times more dense than air, radon gas accumulates in basements and lower floors, and slowly diffuses throughout buildings ( [link] ).

A cut-away image of the side of a house and four layers of the ground it rests on is shown, as well as a second cut-away image of a person’s head and chest cavity. The house is shown with a restroom on the second floor and a basement with a water heater as the first floor. Green arrows lead from the lowest ground layer, labeled “radon in ground water,” from the third ground layer, labeled “Bedrock” and “Fractured bedrock,” from the second layer, labeled “radon in well water,” and from the top layer, labeled “radon in soil to the inside of the basement area. In the smaller image of the torso, a green arrow is shown to enter the person’s nasal passage and travel to the lungs. This is labeled “Inhalation of radon decay products.” A small coiled, helical structure next to the torso is labeled “alpha particle” on one section where it has a starburst pattern and “Radiation damage to D N A” on another segment.
Radon-222 seeps into houses and other buildings from rocks that contain uranium-238, a radon emitter. The radon enters through cracks in concrete foundations and basement floors, stone or porous cinderblock foundations, and openings for water and gas pipes.

Radon is found in buildings across the country, with amounts depending on where you live. The average concentration of radon inside houses in the US (1.25 pCi/L) is about three times the levels found in outside air, and about one in six houses have radon levels high enough that remediation efforts to reduce the radon concentration are recommended. Exposure to radon increases one’s risk of getting cancer (especially lung cancer), and high radon levels can be as bad for health as smoking a carton of cigarettes a day. Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers and the second leading cause of lung cancer overall. Radon exposure is believed to cause over 20,000 deaths in the US per year.

Questions & Answers

please guys,I need questions on Dalton's law of partial pressure and Graham's law of diffusion
Godwin Reply
what is E cell?
Michelle Reply
what is hydrocarbon
Sensible Reply
this is an organic compound that consist of hydrogen and ox
Okafor
why is isotonic solution the as blood
Hawa Reply
Elaborate more pls
Adeyinka
could you rephrase the question please?
Elaine
what is hydrocarbon? pls
Sensible
Hydrocarbon are organic compound consisting of hydrogen and carbon atoms
Adeyinka
thanks
Sensible
why is electrolytes really active in water
Sensible
relationship between an orbit and a shell
Hawa Reply
relationship between orbit and a shell
Hawa
What a homogenous mixture
Allison Reply
these are mixture of same substance or particles
INETIABOR
they are mixture of same particles or substance
INETIABOR
Define homologous series
Chizoba Reply
it is an organic compound having the same chemical properties which differs in a successive member of CH4
Okafor
when iron is exposed to moisture and it rusts,the value of deltaG for the reaction is
Mary Reply
negative
Max
table
Witszy
what is chemistry
Siyanbola Reply
it is a branch of science that deals with the mixture of chemicals and properties and uses of matter
Okafor
define aci according to Lewis
Ryhanna Reply
an acid is an electron pair acceptor according to lewis
Mary
What is a homogenous mixture
Allison
it is d mixture of d same substances or particle or compound
Okafor
homogenous is the combination or mixture of the same particle or compound
johnson
the third ionization energy of aluminium
sanmi Reply
name the allotrope of carbon used in gas masks
Moses Reply
Discuss the synthesis of sucrose
Ojiya Reply
What is a glycoside and discuss the formation
Ojiya
explain the transitioning of glucose molecules from Fischer projection of glucose to the Haworth projection
Rosey Reply
what is quantum
hezekiah Reply
what are metalliod
hezekiah
Metalloids are substances having the characteristics of both metals and non-metals
Ngwesse
what is acid
Tobi
define acid according to lewis
Ryhanna
Acid is an electron acceptor
Adeyinka
Wat z quantum
Adeyinka

Get the best Chemistry course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, Chemistry. OpenStax CNX. May 20, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11760/1.9
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Chemistry' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask