Radiation levels at Japan’s nuclear plant soared to 10 million times higher than normal. Thus, it is time to know the effects of nuclear radiation exposure.
How can nuclear radiation harm humans? When molten nuclear fuel melts through a nuclear power plant’s barriers, it causes a serious radiation leak. The radioactive materials will seep out to the surrounding environment, and into the air. Once in the upper atmosphere, high winds and jet streams could carry the dust to all places, and dropping radiation on everything, causing radiation poisoning .
Radiation could also contaminate rice lands, lakebeds, and forest floors that provide people with food and water. Certainly, the greater damage will be where it all started. Few days ago, in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant , repair workers were burned as contaminated water soaked their feet and ankles.
Radiation can penetrate deep inside the human body, and into the cells. Exposure to radiation has been known to cause cancer and other radiation sickness . It can also cause genetic defects to children of pregnant women at the time.
Nuclear Radiation and its Effects on the Living Cell
Nuclear radiation can be devastating to all kinds of life on earth. The radioactive ‘dust’ is dangerous because it emits alpha, beta, and gamma radiation that can go right through walls, roofs, and clothes. These radioactive particles may also be taken in the body with the air, food, and water or through an open wound.
When this happens, the radiation that penetrated the body may remain near the entry point or may travel in the blood or lymph fluid. Radiation exposure can damage the body cells and the DNA molecules. At a low-level radiation, injured cells may still be able to repair themselves and replace cells that died. On the other hand, a high-dose exposure, because of nuclear fallout, could cause cells to become sterile, damaging their ability to repair or reproduce. At extremely high doses, radiation causes death of cells through a process called thermalization, which cooks a cell from the inside out.
How Exposure to Radiation Damages the Human Body
The primary factor in determining the health effects of exposure to radiation is the size of the dose that is deposited in the body. The more energy that is absorbed by cells, the greater is the biological damage.
Radioactive materials can damage body cells and can cause mutations in the DNA. High doses of radiation will destroy organs and tissues. An exposure to a dose of 200 rems may result in severe blood damage, nausea, hair loss, hemorrhage, and death in some cases. Effects of high radiation doses may cause death in less than two months for over 80% of the victims.
In Japan today, radiation has reached a level that is regarded as 10 million times higher than normal. Such levels may be high enough to cause acute radiation sickness. Radiation sickness, also known as ARS, occurs when the entire body receives a high dose of radiation over a short period. Ionizing radiation is considered a great threat to health and even a small dose could trigger cancer in the long term. Here are some of the symptoms of radiation sickness.
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