Radiation 101

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Printable “A GUIDE TO RADIATION VOL.01″

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Due to the explosions and meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi, an innumerable amount of radioactive particles have been released into the vast areas of eastern Japan as well as into the Pacific Ocean. Now, 2 years after the nuclear accidents, would it be okay to travel there? — It depends on where you are going, what you are doing, and your age, sex, etc. There is a whole variety of radiation and understanding it will help you protect yourself. Even if you are not exposed to radiation directly (i.e. bombs, bomb tests, power plant accidents, CT scans, environmental radiation…) your body can develop illnesses by inhaling and ingesting radioactive materials. It’s called INTERNAL EXPOSURE or INTERNAL RADIATION and has been a serious concern as a long-term effects. However, it is often excluded from considerable harms of radiation by international regulators and nuclear proponents.

Radiation is odorless, flavorless and invisible. The only way to recognize its presence is from readings on radiation monitoring machines. Since there are many different studies, views and interests about radiation, it’s difficult to know what it does to your body, and how it does harm. We’ll explain briefly.

 

Radiation

x-rays are what we are accustomed at medical facilities. You wear lead jackets to prevent your body parts to be penetrated with radiation apart from where you are being scanned.

γ-rays (gamma) , very similar to but has more energy than x-rays, also goes through your body and could hurt your DNA.

α (alpha) particles, emitted from atoms such as uranium and plutonium, do not go through your skin but you can inhale and ingest them. If they get into your body, they can irradiate cells of various organs and cause illnesses like cancer.

β (beta) particles can do the same to your body as alpha particles.

Each dose you get exposed to is cumulative and even low levels of radiation can be harmful. Nuclear industry and its proponents (including all governments that utilize nuclear energy in their energy program) often assert that low doses of radiation produce no harmful effects to human body, but as US National Academy of Sciences report concludes, there is no safe dose of radiation.

The Case of Japan

Because of the lack of reliable regulations and safety measures by the Japanese government, many people began monitoring radioactivity on their own. Monitoring and studying radiation have become an essential daily activity to them. Based on the readings, people are choosing what food products to eat/avoid, which area to let children play, and sometimes choosing to relocate to a safer area. Radiological science no longer belongs to the academy or industry, because we all are living so intimately with the danger of radiation, often forcibly imposed by nuclear energy proponents.

Radioactive Materials Primarily Released from Fukushima Daiichi:

  • Iodine-131: β, γ (half-life 7.5 days)
  • Tellurium-129m:  β (half-life 33 days)
  • Caesium-137: β (half-life 30 years)
  • Strontium 90: β (half-life 30 years)
  • Plutonium isotopes: α (half-life 24,000 years)

Radiation Is Cumulative in Your Body

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This diagram shows human organs and radioactive materials that are likely to accumulate in each organ. The time periods show the biological half-life of each material. (Diagram reference: Jinzaburo Takagi, Mikiko Watanabe, “Shokutaku Ni Agatta Houshanou” 2011)

 

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