What is radiation? Is it harmful for humans?


Radiation – It consists of an invisible stream of alpha particles, beta particles, and gamma rays, possessing a great deal of energy. The radiations are produced during natural radioactivity as well as during the nuclear processes. It is because of these nuclear radiations that the use of nuclear energy can become a health hazard.

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Types of Radiation:

  • Electromagnetic radiation including microwaves, x-rays and gamma rays
  • Particle radiation such as alpha radiation, beta radiation, neutron radiation
  • Acoustic radiation such as ultrasound, sound seismic waves
  • Gravitational radiation

Effect of radiation on human body – All the radioactive substances are dangerous for human health because of the ionizing nuclear radiations emitted from them. The nuclear radiations have high energy due to which they convert the molecules of living cells into charged particles called ions. These ions are chemically very reactive and disrupt cell membranes, reduce the effectiveness of enzymes or even damage genes and chromosomes, thereby causing serious illness including leukemia and cancer.

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The gamma radiation is the most dangerous radiation because of its high penetrating power and high energy. Gamma rays pass freely through the flesh and get absorbed in the bone structure. When gamma rays are absorbed, they lose energy and this energy destroys tissue cells, and blood corpuscles, causing irreversible damage to the human body. The extremely damaging nuclear radiations can enter into our environment from any one (or more) of the three stages involved in the production of nuclear energy by the fission process. These are:

  • Processing of nuclear fuels
  • Leakage from reactor due to faulty construction or accidents
  • Disposal of nuclear wastes
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