Radiation leaks and nuclear disasters are not something uncommonly witnessed in the past decades. With the ongoing threat of nuclear attacks, more and more countries are opting to have a controlled nuclear power station, as well as the increase in the use of nuclear power in many applications, submarines for example. With this need, it is also important to understand that radiation can have disastrous effects on the human body too.
Most humans are exposed to smaller doses of radiation on a regular basis from a variety of sources. The body is able to deal with these doses without any harmful effects. At higher doses, it is evident that damage occurs.
What Is Radiation?
If the atomic nucleus of an atom is unstable, it will alter its form in an attempt to become stable and the nucleus will begin to decay. As this takes place, ionizing particles or waves are emitted. These particles are radioactive in nature. If organic matter, including that of humans, is exposed to the radioactive particles, it can cause harm and damage. In human tissue, high levels of these particles will result in burns and possible cancer.
REM (roentgen equivalent in man) is a unit of measure used to determine the amount or dose of radiation. It allows us to specify what amounts of radiation could be considered safe or harmful to human tissue. It is calculated by factoring the dose of radiation that has been absorbed, measured in RADs, and a weighting factor (WR) that specifies the potential strength of the radiation and its ability to result in biological damage.
REM Dose and the Effect in Humans
A brief dose of up to 50 REM is unlikely to lead to any harm, although there might be some change in the blood.
Doses of 50 to 200 REM would probably lead to illness but is unlikely to result in death. If the dose is between 200 and 1,000 REM, serious illness will most likely occur and a dose over 1,000 REM will generally result in death. Now these numbers are something you should definitely be aware of.
When human cells and their components are exposed to radiation, important proteins and essential parts of the DNA become ionized and electrons are expelled. This results in denaturing of the proteins and the breaking of DNA strands. You can check out https://ecotestgroup.com/ to know more about equipments which are able to detect radiation.
Specific effects of radiation on the body
- Hair: Exposure at 200 REMs or higher will result in rapid hair loss
- Lungs: Inhalation of invisible nuclear particles can result in lung cancer after a while.
- Brain: Damage to brain cells will only occur at an exposure of 5,000 REMs or higher. Radiation affects small blood vessels and nerve cells which could lead to seizures and death.
- Eyes: Exposure to radiation increases the risk of cataracts
- Heart: A dose of 1,000 to 5,000 REMs would instantly harm small blood vessels and most probably result in heart failure and death.
- Thyroid: The thyroid gland can be affected specifically by radioactive iodine. In high doses this will cause major or total damage to the thyroid. Potassium iodide can be used to minimise these effects.
- Blood System: At an exposure of about 100 REMs, the lymphocyte cell count of the blood drops. This makes the person more susceptible to infection. This condition is often called mild radiation sickness and presents with symptoms similar to flu. If exposure is suspected, a blood count test should be performed immediately.
- Gastrointestinal Tract: At 200 REM or higher, damage will occur in the intestinal tract lining resulting in diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting blood.
- Reproductive Tract: Reproductive tract cells divide quickly so doses as small as 200 REM can cause damage. Extended exposure can lead to exposed person becoming sterile.
It can be said that even the slightest dose of radiation for a short time can be extremely harmful to human body. However, going by the numbers, higher doses and longer exposure would lead to serious illness and death. This is why, every precaution must be taken to prevent or minimize any risk of exposure to radiation.