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How dangerous is radiation?

How dangerous is radiation?

When people hear the word of radiation most tend to think of nuclear bombs, meltdowns, and piles of toxic waste in the uncurable unclearable poison of doom. It travels through the air through your walls and kills everything in its path. There is nothing natural about radiation and no amount of it is safe. In truth, this belief is wildly inaccurate. There's an extreme amount of misinformation surrounding what radiation is and what amounts of it have certain effects on the human body.

Radiation is a fundamental part of nature. This isn't an energy force that scientists learn to create but learn to harness. Radiation is and always has been scattered all across the surface of the Earth and throughout the entire universe. Whenever you look at something and see what color and shape it is your eyes are being bombarded by radiation. The visual spectrum that allows you to see everything that you see, hear, and feel is in some way involved with this type of energy.

All of the heat that reaches us from the Sun does so by way of radiation as this is the only way energy can travel through a vacuum. Certain amounts of radiation are actually required for life and the radioactive materials that they make nuclear tech out of are all minds out of the Earth. Like with anything else the threat of radiation does not come from the thing itself.

But dosage before we get to dose we need to clear something else up.


There are two very very distinct categories of radiation:-

1. Ionizing
2. Nonionizing

These simply have to do with where a type of radioactive frequency falls on the spectrum.

Non-ionizing radiation such as visual light microwaves infrared and WiFi signals are essentially harmless to the human body. Their extremely low frequency and measurable effects on the human body are almost nonexistent.

Ionizing radiation on the other hand is far more energetic X-rays, nuclear materials, and sunbeams all involve a certain amount of ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation is far more energetic than non-ionizing enough so it actually restructures some of the molecules in our body if received at a high enough dose. But even this kind of radiation isn't as harmful as many think it is.


So Let's take a look at doses.

The base unit to measure radiation levels is a Severt. But because many of the levels we are going to be looking at here are incredibly small I'm going to use microsieverts instead. There are 1M microsieverts in a Severt. From here on out all levels will be measured in microsieverts.


Let's first start by defining the natural level.

The average person receives about 5,000 Microsieverts of ionizing radiation per year. This comes from random pockets found all over the universe. From the potassium in your body, the Sun, and many other sources. 5,000 microsieverts is what's considered a natural dose.


Now Let's look at the amount it takes to harm you.

A fatal dose of radiation is considered to be about 5M microsieverts receiving this dose within a single day is almost guaranteed to kill you within the month.

Let's look at a more likely scenario those who receive 1M microsieverts within a year have about a 5% increase chance to develop cancer.

So to get to the point where you have a 5% increase in cancer risk a notable concern you would have to close the gap between 5,000 and 1M. Let's see what kind of things we can expose ourselves to receive doses of ionizing radiation.


Let's look at nuclear workers.

These are people who work in nuclear power plant's waste disposal centers and research centers. There is an imposed limit for the dosage you're allowed to receive for this kind of work 50,000 microsieverts per year. Most radiation workers don't even reach this limit. 

Now Let's consider the situation in Japan.
Those who lived within 20 kilometers of Fukushima a year after the disaster received about 20,000 microsieverts each year about four times that of the natural yearly dose but not enough to have the measurable effects of a 5% increase in cancer.

A chest CT scan will give you a dose of about 5,000 microsieverts a mammogram of about 400 microsieverts. Living within one mile of a nuclear power plant for an entire year results in about 150  microsieverts. An oral X-ray results in a dose of about 5 microsieverts. An Arm X-ray is just over 1. Living within 50 kilometers from an active nuclear plant for 1 year gives you 0.1 of microsieverts the same amount as eating a single banana.

Yes, bananas are surprisingly radioactive due to their high potassium content. So if you received the dose from everything that we just listed here you still wouldn't be one-tenth of the way to receiving that 5 % increase chance to develop cancer. Now keep in mind this isn't to say ionizing radiation is harmless by any means. Like with anything a certain dose can be fatal.

But this should be a reminder to consider dosage rather than substance alone. There's a toxic dose of vitamin C and a nontoxic dose of Cobra venom. So if you think you need an X-ray or want to buy a home near a nuclear power plant don't let the threat of the invisible monster of radiation discourage you. If you have any questions or any other sort of feedback feel free to leave a comment I'm always happy to hear from viewers. 

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