Radiation is a phenomenon to which all human beings are exposed; both of natural and artificial origin. However, there are occasions where disproportionate exposure to radiation can be dangerous. Learn about the risks it has for your health, the protection systems and mechanisms used to detect it, and tips to avoid overexposure.
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What is radiation?
This word is used to refer to a form of energy that is projected as waves or high-speed particles. It can be generated naturally or by human intervention. Through a radiation monitoring system, it is possible to detect the presence of this type of energy in the environment or in any space where operations related to the handling of radioactive material are performed. In addition, radiation is divided into two types:
- Non-ionizing radiation: this type of radiation includes radio waves, cellular phones, microwaves, infrared radiation and visible light.
- Ionizing radiation: this refers to ultraviolet radiation, radon, X-rays, and gamma rays.
What are the health effects of radiation exposure?
When a person is exposed to very high doses of radiation, the functioning of their tissues and organs can be considerably impaired. Acute symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, hair loss, reddening of the skin, local radiation injury (burns) and acute radiation syndrome may also occur. In the context of a radiological or nuclear emergency, the persons designated to deal with this situation and the workers at the facility are much more likely to be exposed to high doses of radiation causing the effects mentioned above. But outside these limits, the general population is unlikely to experience these effects.
What are the radiation protection systems?
To face radiation, international organizations have set up different radiation protection systems. Among the most important are IRPA, ICRP, ICRU, and IAEA. Among them, the ICRP has protection principles compatible with the regulations of a large number of countries to deal with radiation in the industrial field.
How is radiation risk controlled?
Monitoring radiation levels requires the use of specific equipment. These must be able to generate data and provide the necessary information to experts. With this they can then analyze and make decisions to apply the corresponding protocols. Of the monitoring systems mentioned above, the ICRU uses units of measurement and calibration systems to measure the level of radiological risk worldwide. This results in a set of data that constitutes the values of doses. A dose is a magnitude that represents an estimate of the damage generated by radiation, taking into account its level, characteristics and the parts of the body affected by its impact. These data are contrasted with established limit values to determine the severity of the damage caused.
How to protect yourself from radiation?
To protect oneself from radiation, three aspects must be taken into account:
- Exposure time: we must be clear that the longer our body is exposed to high levels of radiation, the more damage it will receive.
- Distance: in case of a nuclear accident, the farther away you are from the emission zone, the lower the radiation dose and the less damage your body will receive.
- Shielding: this refers to the interposition of protective barriers as a way to contain or reduce radiation exposure. In the case of harmful radiation such as alpha radiation, it does not have the ability to pass through a sheet of paper. Whereas with X-rays, a thicker shielding material such as concrete, steel, or metal is required to block its passage.