This shakes things up all over the body. Let's do a head-to-toe walk-through to investigate how high doses of radiation can damage the human body. BRAIN: Nerve cells (neurons) and brain blood vessels can die, leading to seizures. EYES: Radiation exposure increases the risk of cataracts.
Why is radiation bad for your body?
Radiation damages the cells that make up the human body. Low levels of radiation are not dangerous, but medium levels can lead to sickness, headaches, vomiting and a fever. High levels can kill you by causing damage to your internal organs. It's difficult to treat high radiation exposure.
The radiation used for cancer treatment comes from special machines or from radioactive substances. Radiation therapy machines aim specific amounts of the radiation at tumors or parts of the body where there is/was disease to kill cancer cells or keep them from spreading. Radiation affects all cells.
Nuclear waste, for example, remains radioactive for eons. But after about 3000-20000 years (depending on the type of reactor) nuclear waste is only as radioactive as naturally occurring uranium ore. The rule for nuclear explosions is 7 times 7 times 7. After 7 hours, 90% of the radioactivity is gone.
Like other cancer treatments, radiation may cause unpleasant side effects, such as overall fatigue, skin irritation, and other side effects depending on the part of the body being treated. Any side effects you might have depend on the type of cancer, location, dose of radiation, and your general health.
In other words, not only is there a threshold for radiation exposure – a limit below which radiation should not be harmful– but at certain low levels ionizing radiation may do more good for your cells than harm. The idea that a low dose of a bad thing can have good effects is called hormesis.
Average Natural Background: 300 Millirems. The average exposure in the United States, from natural sources of radiation (mostly cosmic radiation and radon), is 300 millirems per year at sea level. Radiation exposure is slightly higher at higher elevations-thus the exposure in Denver averages 400 millirems per year.
Signs and symptoms of radiation sickness usually appear when the entire body receives an absorbed dose of at least 1 Gy. Doses greater than 10 Gy to the whole body are generally not treatable and usually lead to death within two days to two weeks, depending on the dose and duration of the exposure.
Large doses of ionizing radiation in a short time period lead to Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS), aka radiation poisoning. The severity of ARS symptoms depends on the level of exposure. A radiation dose as low as 0.35 Gy could feel a bit like you have the flu—expect nausea and vomiting, headaches, fatigue, and fever.
Geiger Counter, with Geiger-Mueller (GM) Tube or Probe—A GM tube is a gas-filled device that, when a high voltage is applied, creates an electrical pulse when radiation interacts with the wall or gas in the tube. These pulses are converted to a reading on the instrument meter.
On average, Americans receive a radiation dose of about 0.62 rem (620 millirem) each year. Half of this dose comes from natural background radiation. Most of this background exposure comes from radon in the air, with smaller amounts from cosmic rays and the Earth itself.
Medical Uses. Hospitals, doctors, and dentists use a variety of nuclear materials and procedures to diagnose, monitor, and treat a wide assortment of metabolic processes and medical conditions in humans. In fact, diagnostic x-rays or radiation therapy have been administered to about 7 out of every 10 Americans.
As radioactive material decays, or breaks down, the energy released into the environment has two ways of harming a body that is exposed to it, Higley said. It can directly kill cells, or it can cause mutations to DNA. If those mutations are not repaired, the cell may turn cancerous.
Symptoms of radiation sickness may include:
- Weakness, fatigue, fainting, confusion.
- Bleeding from the nose, mouth, gums, and rectum.
- Bruising, skin burns, open sores on the skin, sloughing of skin.
- Diarrhea, bloody stool.
- Hair loss.
- Inflammation of exposed areas (redness, tenderness, swelling, bleeding)
VA recognizes that the following diseases are possibly caused by exposure to ionizing radiation during service:
- All cancers.
- Non-malignant thyroid nodular disease.
- Parathyroid adenoma.
- Posterior subcapsular cataracts.
- Tumors of the brain and central nervous system.
Types of Cancer that Are Treated with Radiation Therapy. External beam radiation therapy is used to treat many types of cancer. Internal radiation therapy is often used to treat cancers of the head and neck, breast, cervix, prostate, eye, and certain types of thyroid cancer.
Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun can lead to melanoma and other skin malignancies. Clear evidence establishes ultraviolet radiation, especially the non-ionizing medium wave UVB, as the cause of most non-melanoma skin cancers, which are the most common forms of cancer in the world.
If the radioactive source is outside the body: Alpha radiation is not as dangerous because it is unlikely to reach living cells inside the body. Beta and gamma radiation are the most dangerous sources because they can penetrate the skin and damage the cells inside.
You might also hear it referred to as radiation poisoning. While both acute, short term radiation exposure and long-term radiation exposure can lead to cancer due to DNA damage, cancer caused by radiation is not radiation sickness. The kind of radiation that causes radiation sickness is called ionizing radiation.
The human body absorbs energy from devices that emit radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation. It has been suggested that radiofrequency energy might affect glucose metabolism, but two small studies that examined brain glucose metabolism after use of a cell phone showed inconsistent results.
Radiation sickness can be acute, happening soon after exposure, or chronic, where symptoms appear over time or after some time, possibly years later. The signs and symptoms of acute radiation poisoning are: vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea. loss of appetite.
Use Time Distance and Shielding to Protect Yourself. Putting distance and shielding between you and a radiation source is an immediately effective way of reducing your exposure. Reducing the time you are being exposed is another way. Use a Respirator or Face Mask if You are exposed to airborne sources.