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Uses and Dangers of Radiation
We have to recap the ionisation and penetration of each of the three types of radiation.
Ionisation basically means when a type of radiation travels through an atom, it has the ability to
knock off one of the atoms electrons. When an electron is lost, the charge of the atom becomes
positive and it is then called an ion because it has a charge.
Alpha are very ionising but aren't very penetrating. They can only travel a few cms in air, and
are stopped by paper or skin.
Beta are weak at ionising but quite good at penetrating. They can travel a few metres in air
and are stopped by 3mm of aluminium.
Gamma are VERY weak at ionising. They can travel very long distances in air, were talking
about kilometres. Their intensity is reduced, but not stopped by lead.
Outside the body, gamma and beta radiation are most harmful.
This is because they can easily pass through the skin and get into delicate organs. Alpha isn't as
dangerous outside the body because it can't penetrate through skin.
Inside the body, alpha radiation is the most harmful
This is because one alpha radiation is inside the body; it does a lot of damage in a localised area.
Also, it can't pass through the skin and out again. Once inside the body, beta and gamma can easily
pass out of the body again.
Once inside the body, radiation can cause radiation sickness or cancer. It all depends on the amount
of exposure an individual has had to radiation, or the type of radiation.
Alpha, beta and gamma particles will collide with living cells inside your body which will damage or
destroy the molecules. If you have a lower dose of radiation, it will cause cell damage. But if this
happens to a lot of cells, it can cause some cells to have mutations. Mutations are what cause
cancer. If you have really high doses of radiation, it can completely kill body cells which will cause
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Uses of Radiation
Tracers You can take a drink/tablet or an injection containing gamma radiation and a doctor will
be able to see the problems inside your body using an external detector.
Treatment of cancer gamma radiation can be fired at the area inside your body which has
cancerous cells. This has to be done carefully to prevent harming too many normal body cells.
Sterilisation Gamma rays can be used to sterilise food or medical equipment.…read more
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They use lead aprons and lead screens to reduce the amount of exposure to gamma rays
when treating cancer or other diseases.
When an individual needs an x-ray, they will cover the rest of their body with lead or other
absorbing materials to make sure radiation doesn't enter parts of the body which aren't
being x-rayed.…read more