Ionizing Radiation: A Tissue Damager


With the advent of various man-made sources like x-ray machines, nuclear power station, etc. the question has always been raised regarding safety of human health. The energy generated in the form of radiation from the radioactive materials like uranium and it’s by products during the ionization has raised the level of radioactivity in the atmosphere.

How does it affect living things?

During radioactivity, the energy produced strips away the electron from the atoms thus breaking the chemical bond. As the human body consists of atoms and molecules, the radiation damages it in such a manner that it cannot be repaired or it could be too severe or widespread to be repaired. Even if the body tries to repair it in its natural process then it would lead to cancerous cells.

What are its effects to any living things?

The factors that judge the severity or type of health effect are the amount and duration of radiation. The health effects are broadly classified into two categories:

  •     Stochastic Health Effects:

Stochastic means the likelihood that something will happen; it refers to long term and low level exposure to radiation. The level of exposure is directly proportional to probability of its occurrence, but do not influence the severity of the effect.

The primary health effect due the radiation is cancer; it is actually the uncontrolled growth of cell. Ordinarily the body controls and processes the growth, reconstruction or replacement of damaged tissue. But the damage occurring at the cellular or molecular level makes it a potent carcinogen.

Mutations occurs when the repair and replacement of cells does not produce the perfect copy of its primitive. Thus radiation is also one the stochastic effect that leads to change in DNA. There are two kinds of mutations:


Teratogenic Mutations: It is caused by the exposure of fetus present in the uterus and it affects only to the individual who was exposed.

Genetic Mutations: These mutations are passed to the offspring.

  • Non-Stochastic Health Effects:

Non stochastic effects, is a short term, high level exposure also referred as acute exposure. It occurs when you are exposed to high level of radiation and its effect increases periodically. This results in non cancerous health effect like burns and radiation sickness. Symptoms of radiation sickness include weakness, diminished organ functions, nausea or skin burns. Acute exposure could result death in 2 months and sometimes premature aging.

Even the patients receiving the radiation treatments suffer from the aforementioned symptoms.

How radionuclides contribute to radiation health effects?

Human organs require certain elements to function, but they can’t distinguish between the radioactive as well as non radio active elements. Thus it accumulates the non radioactive elements as it accumulates other.

  • Iodine: Thyroid cannot differentiate between the stable iodine and radioactive isotopes of iodine resulting in thyroid cancer.
  • Radium 226, Strontium 90 and Calcium has the same chemical property, thus the body tend to accumulate calcium in bones and teeth resulting in bone cancer.

To conclude, if proper radiation shielding is done on the devices then it could avoid all the possible health hazards mentioned above.


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