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A patient receives A rad of radiation as part of her treatment and absorbs E J of energy. The RBE of the radiation particles is R . If the RBE is increased to 1.5 R , what will be the energy absorbed by the patient?

  1. 1.5 E J
  2. E J
  3. 0.75 E J
  4. 0.67 E J


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If a 90-kg person is exposed to 50 mrem of alpha particles (with RBE of 16), calculate the dosage (in rad) received by the person. What is the amount of energy absorbed by the person?

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Section summary

  • The biological effects of ionizing radiation are due to two effects it has on cells: interference with cell reproduction, and destruction of cell function.
  • A radiation dose unit called the rad is defined in terms of the ionizing energy deposited per kilogram of tissue:
    1 rad = 0.01 J/kg . size 12{1`r=0 "." "01"`"J/kg"} {}
  • The SI unit for radiation dose is the gray (Gy), which is defined to be 1 Gy = 1 J/kg = 100 rad.
  • To account for the effect of the type of particle creating the ionization, we use the relative biological effectiveness (RBE) or quality factor (QF) given in [link] and define a unit called the roentgen equivalent man (rem) as
    rem = rad × RBE . size 12{"rem"="rad" times "RBE"} {}
  • Particles that have short ranges or create large ionization densities have RBEs greater than unity. The SI equivalent of the rem is the sievert (Sv), defined to be
    Sv = Gy × RBE  and 1 Sv = 1 00 rem.
  • Whole-body, single-exposure doses of 0.1 Sv or less are low doses while those of 0.1 to 1 Sv are moderate, and those over 1 Sv are high doses. Some immediate radiation effects are given in [link] . Effects due to low doses are not observed, but their risk is assumed to be directly proportional to those of high doses, an assumption known as the linear hypothesis. Long-term effects are cancer deaths at the rate of 10 / 10 6 rem·y size 12{"10"/"10" rSup { size 8{6} } } {} and genetic defects at roughly one-third this rate. Background radiation doses and sources are given in [link] . World-wide average radiation exposure from natural sources, including radon, is about 3 mSv, or 300 mrem. Radiation protection utilizes shielding, distance, and time to limit exposure.

Conceptual questions

Isotopes that emit α radiation are relatively safe outside the body and exceptionally hazardous inside. Yet those that emit γ size 12{γ} {} radiation are hazardous outside and inside. Explain why.

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Why is radon more closely associated with inducing lung cancer than other types of cancer?

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The RBE for low-energy β s is 1.7, whereas that for higher-energy β s is only 1. Explain why, considering how the range of radiation depends on its energy.

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Which methods of radiation protection were used in the device shown in the first photo in [link] ? Which were used in the situation shown in the second photo?


Figure A shows a “shoe fitting x-ray device.” Figure B shows a group of people wearing white protective suits standing near a yellow radiation hazard sign.
(a) This x-ray fluorescence machine is one of the thousands used in shoe stores to produce images of feet as a check on the fit of shoes. They are unshielded and remain on as long as the feet are in them, producing doses much greater than medical images. Children were fascinated with them. These machines were used in shoe stores until laws preventing such unwarranted radiation exposure were enacted in the 1950s. (credit: Andrew Kuchling ) (b) Now that we know the effects of exposure to radioactive material, safety is a priority. (credit: U.S. Navy)

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What radioisotope could be a problem in homes built of cinder blocks made from uranium mine tailings? (This is true of homes and schools in certain regions near uranium mines.)

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Are some types of cancer more sensitive to radiation than others? If so, what makes them more sensitive?

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Suppose a person swallows some radioactive material by accident. What information is needed to be able to assess possible damage?

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What is the dose in mSv for: (a) a 0.1 Gy x-ray? (b) 2.5 mGy of neutron exposure to the eye? (c) 1.5 mGy of α exposure?

(a) 100 mSv

(b) 80 mSv

(c) ~30 mSv

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Find the radiation dose in Gy for: (a) A 10-mSv fluoroscopic x-ray series. (b) 50 mSv of skin exposure by an α emitter. (c) 160 mSv of β and γ size 12{γ} {} rays from the 40 K size 12{"" lSup { size 8{"40"} } K} {} in your body.

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How many Gy of exposure is needed to give a cancerous tumor a dose of 40 Sv if it is exposed to α activity?

~2 Gy

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What is the dose in Sv in a cancer treatment that exposes the patient to 200 Gy of γ size 12{γ} {} rays?

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One half the γ rays from 99m Tc size 12{"" lSup { size 8{"99m"} } "Tc"} {} are absorbed by a 0.170-mm-thick lead shielding. Half of the γ rays that pass through the first layer of lead are absorbed in a second layer of equal thickness. What thickness of lead will absorb all but one in 1000 of these γ rays?

1.69 mm

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A plumber at a nuclear power plant receives a whole-body dose of 30 mSv in 15 minutes while repairing a crucial valve. Find the radiation-induced yearly risk of death from cancer and the chance of genetic defect from this maximum allowable exposure.

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In the 1980s, the term picowave was used to describe food irradiation in order to overcome public resistance by playing on the well-known safety of microwave radiation. Find the energy in MeV of a photon having a wavelength of a picometer.

1.24 MeV

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Find the mass of 239 Pu that has an activity of 1.00 μCi .

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Questions & Answers

Suppose a speck of dust in an electrostatic precipitator has 1.0000×1012 protons in it and has a net charge of –5.00 nC (a very large charge for a small speck). How many electrons does it have?
Alexia Reply
how would I work this problem
how can you have not an integer number of protons? If, on the other hand it supposed to be 1e12, then 1.6e-19C/proton • 1e12 protons=1.6e-7 C is the charge of the protons in the speck, so the difference between this and 5e-9C is made up by electrons
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