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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

What is stoichometry
ngwuebo Reply
what is atom
yinka Reply
An indivisible part of an element
the smallest particle of an element which is indivisible is called an atom
An atom is the smallest indivisible particle of an element that can take part in chemical reaction
is carbonates soluble
Ebuka Reply
what is the difference between light and electricity
Joshua Reply
What is atom? atom can be defined as the smallest particles
what is the difference between Anode and nodes?
What's the net equations for the three steps of dissociation of phosphoric acid?
Lisa Reply
what is chemistry
Prince Reply
the study of matter
what did the first law of thermodynamics say
Starr Reply
energy can neither be created or distroyed it can only be transferred or converted from one form to another
Graham's law of Diffusion
Ayo Reply
what is melting vaporization
Anieke Reply
melting and boiling point explain in term of molecular motion and Brownian movement
Scientific notation for 150.9433962
Steve Reply
what is aromaticity
Usman Reply
aromaticity is a conjugated pi system specific to organic rings like benzene, which have an odd number of electron pairs within the system that allows for exceptional molecular stability
what is caustic soda
Ogbonna Reply
sodium hydroxide (NaOH)
what is distilled water
is simply means a condensed water vapour
advantage and disadvantage of water to human and industry
Abdulrahman Reply
a hydrocarbon contains 7.7 percent by mass of hydrogen and 92.3 percent by mass of carbon
Timothy Reply
how many types of covalent r there
JArim Reply
how many covalent bond r there
they are three 3
TYPES OF COVALENT BOND-POLAR BOND-NON POLAR BOND-DOUBLE BOND-TRIPPLE BOND. There are three types of covalent bond depending upon the number of shared electron pairs. A covalent bond formed by the mutual sharing of one electron pair between two atoms is called a "Single Covalent bond.

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Source:  OpenStax, Chemistry. OpenStax CNX. May 20, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11760/1.9
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