Radiation myths: What is true and what is not

(ORDO NEWS) — Mutations, luminescences and remedies … Radiation is probably something around which there are many more myths than around anything else. It is not visible and not everyone knows how it affects a person. Here, the creators of action movies, together with the creators of video games, come up with additional “facts”. As a result, everyone thinks what they want, but no one really can say what radiation is and how to deal with it. Myths are becoming more and more, and thanks to the widespread use of social networks, they sometimes fly off at an alarming rate. Let’s better understand which of what we know are myths and which are true. We have prepared some revelations for you. Let’s get started?

Does lead protect against radiation

It is believed that lead is almost the only way to protect yourself from radiation. There is something truthful in this statement, but it cannot be considered completely true at once for several reasons.

First of all, you need to understand that there are different types of radiation. Different types of radiation emit different particles, and not all of them can be trapped by lead. There are those for whom lead is simply useless, and there are those for whom it is simply not needed.

For example, alpha radiation (the nuclei of helium-4 atoms) is very effectively trapped by literally thin tissues. That is, it is enough for you to be in clothes and glasses. In this case, the radiation will no longer reach your skin or will do it with very weak values. You cannot suffer from this.

The opposite situation with beta radiation. Here we are talking about electrons, which have a much lower ionizing ability. Moreover, their penetrating ability, on the contrary, is much higher. However, even here some small protection is enough, for example, foil.

There is also gamma radiation. It has a relatively low ionizing ability, but at the same time the best penetrating ability among other types of radiation. That is why it is considered the most dangerous, since it is quite difficult to defend against it. It is believed that it is from this type of radiation that lead in all its manifestations should protect.

Lead will indeed be more effective than some of the other types of protection. With the same thickness of the shield, it is lead that will retain more particles due to its higher density, but it cannot be considered a panacea for radiation either.

First of all, one must understand that the lead layer must still be large enough to somehow protect against serious danger. That is why, when it comes to bunkers and nuclear power plants, it is much easier to use a slightly thicker layer of concrete. It is easier in construction and less toxic. At the same time, toxicity is a problem not only in production, but also while in such a bunker.

Is it true that radioactive substances glow

Thanks in large part to video games like Half-Life and disaster movies, people think that radioactive substances glow with some kind of bright light, but they are not. Sometimes radioluminescence – the so-called radiation associated with radioactivity – is still observed, but extremely rarely. Even in cases where there is a glow, it is caused not so much by the radioactivity of the material, but rather by the interaction of radiation with surrounding materials.

An example is the hour hands that were used in the movements of the 20-30s of the last century. To make these arrows glow, radium was included in a paint based on copper and zinc sulfide. As a result, they glowed green and the hours that have survived to this day are still glowing, which indicates that the radiation from them continues. Apparently this gave rise to the idea that radioactive objects and liquids should glow.

In living nature, luminescence is also found, but in fireflies or plants it is in no way associated with radiation and is caused by completely different processes. In the case of radioluminescence, you just need to understand that it occurs extremely rarely and only when interacting with other substances. Even uranium salts, which are green in themselves, do not glow when decayed.

Is radiation created by humans

Since all cases of radiation pollution of nature and death of people are associated with human activities, it is generally accepted that radiation is, in principle, the work of human hands, but this is not so.

Radiation is completely natural. It was before us and will be, even if we ourselves or something will destroy us on our planet. For example, the sun’s rays are also radiation, it is just that it is strongly filtered out by our atmosphere. Although, in hot countries, where the rays pass through the atmosphere in a straight line, the natural background radiation is quite high. It is unlikely that you can die from this, but at the poles it is still safer.

There is radiation everywhere in space. This is due to the fact that it is nothing more than high-energy particles that ionize atoms. As a result, they can lead to structural changes and even destroy the molecules of the human body. The nuclei of some atoms are unstable and they can, by emitting particles, pass into a stable state. The result is alpha, beta or gamma radiation.

These particles are everywhere. Therefore, there is the concept of “natural background radiation”. It does not harm humans, as we have adapted to it, but with excessive doses, such as sunny places and zones of radiation tests or disasters, it is better to be careful.

Does iodine protect against radiation

Iodine cannot protect against radiation at all. But he can help in some way. The fact is that the thyroid gland accumulates iodine for the needs of the body. During a radiation release, there is a lot of radioactive iodine-131 in the air and on various objects (including food). The thyroid gland is designed in such a way that it actively absorbs any iodine until it “fills the store”. As a result, during radiation disasters, it is recommended to take iodine so that the thyroid gland gets what it needs. Excess iodine (radioactive) is excreted from the body. Otherwise, it can lead to the development of cancer.

The Ministry of Emergencies must inform about the need to take iodine. If during a catastrophe there is a small amount of radioactive iodine in the air, then its shock dose can only harm the body. The same applies to other substances (including vitamins) that are considered radioprotective. If there is a nuclear power plant nearby, then it is better to have a supply of these substances, but take them only if told.

Can radiation cause mutation?

Many people watch science fiction films and think that radiation exposure opens up new super-abilities in the body. In fact, radiation can indeed lead to mutation, but it is extremely unlikely to be so good that its carrier will be taken into the “X-Men”.

Radiation can damage DNA strands. The damage is often localized and affects only one thread. In this case, the damaged areas can be replaced by nucleotides. If both threads are damaged, then the genetic information is completely lost, and the cell can start the self-destruction mechanism.

This is roughly how radiation therapy works for cancer patients. Even cancer cells can self-destruct if severe structural changes occur in them. On the other hand, a normal cell can become cancerous if damaged.

You should not worry too much about this if you follow basic safety rules. For example, if you are not in the scorching sun without sunscreen. Background radiation is not capable of harming a person, as he gets used to it, but if you move for several days to an area of ​​increased radiation, for example, closer to a nuclear test site or to a hot country, you need to be very careful with this. The cells of the skin epithelium can be damaged. One of the most unpleasant consequences is the development of melanoma, which has a very poor prognosis in terms of treatment.

Remember that myths about radiation are mostly about minimizing its harm. Therefore, take care of yourself, be more careful with the hot sun, especially at noon, when it is most active, and stay away from the sites of radiation tests and disasters.


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