Cancer and Radiation


What is Radiation?

  • Radiation is a form of energy that is present all around us.
  • Different types of radiation exist, some of which have more energy than others.
  • Amounts of radiation released into the environment are measured in units called curies. However, the dose of radiation that a person receives is measured in units called rem.

Radioactive contamination and radiation exposure could occur if radioactive materials are released into the environment as the result of an accident, an event in nature, or an act of terrorism. Such a release could expose people and contaminate their surroundings and personal property. A radiation dose chart that shows the safe levels a body can handle is linked HERE. It explains that a person can safely absorb small amounts at a time; from eating a banana (YES) to an x-ray to an airplane ride. Check out this interesting chart.

Here is a link to the Center for Disease Control. This information can be read/viewed in a variety of languages. It explains how radiation can effect us.

Protecting yourself and your family. Click Here

Info on Potassium Iodide

Nuclear Reactor Accidents. Read the section labeled About Nuclear Reactor Accidents

Types of Radiation (info from USA Environment Protection Agency)

  • Ionizing is high-frequency radiation that has enough energy to remove an electron from (ionize) an atom or molecule. Ionizing radiation has enough energy to damage the DNA in cells, which in turn may lead to cancer. Gamma rays, x-rays, some high-energy UV rays, and some sub-atomic particles such as alpha particles and protons are forms of ionizing radiation.
  • Non-Ionizing is low-frequency radiation that does not have enough energy to remove electrons or directly damage DNA. Low-energy UV rays, visible light, infrared rays, microwaves, and radio waves are all forms of non-ionizing radiation. Aside from UV rays, these types of radiation are not known to increasecancer risk. It is important to understand the difference between these types of radiation. For example, the non-ionizing radiation given off by a cell phone or a television screen is not the same as the ionizing radiation you might get from x-rays taken in the hospital.

Additional information obtained from the CDC website and condensed.

Radioactive Contamination and Radiation Exposure

Radioactive contamination and radiation exposure could occur if radioactive materials are released into the environment as the result of an accident, an event in nature, or an act of terrorism. Such a release could expose people and contaminate their surroundings and personal property.

What Radioactive Contamination Is

Radioactive contamination occurs when radioactive material is deposited on or in an object or a person. Radioactive materials released into the environment can cause air, water, surfaces, soil, plants, buildings, people, or animals to become contaminated. A contaminated person has radioactive materials on or inside their body.

What External Contamination Is

External contamination occurs when radioactive material, in the form of dust, powder, or liquid, comes into contact with a person’s skin, hair, or clothing. In other words, the contact is external to a person’s body. People who are externally contaminated can become internally contaminated if radioactive material gets into their bodies.

What Internal Contamination Is

Internal contamination occurs when people swallow or breathe in radioactive materials, or when radioactive materials enter the body through an open wound or are absorbed through the skin. Some types of radioactive materials stay in the body and are deposited in different body organs. Other types are eliminated from the body in blood, sweat, urine, and feces.

What Radiation Exposure Is

Radioactive materials give off a form of energy that travels in waves or particles. This energy is called radiation. When a person is exposed to radiation, the energy penetrates the body. For example, when a person has an x-ray, he or she is exposed to radiation.

How Radioactive Contamination Is Spread

People who are externally contaminated with radioactive material can contaminate other people or surfaces that they touch. For example, people who have radioactive dust on their clothing may spread the radioactive dust when they sit in chairs or hug other people.

People who are internally contaminated can expose people near them to radiation from the radioactive material inside their bodies. The body fluids (blood, sweat, urine) of an internally contaminated person can contain radioactive materials. Coming in contact with these body fluids can result in contamination and/or exposure.

How You Can Limit Contamination

Since radiation cannot be seen, smelled, felt, or tasted, people at the site of an incident will not know whether radioactive materials were involved. You can take the following steps to limit your contamination.

  1. Get out of the immediate area quickly. Go inside the nearest safe building or to an area to which you are directed by law enforcement or health officials.
  2. Remove the outer layer of your clothing. If radioactive material is on your clothes, getting it away from you will reduce the external contamination and decrease the risk of internal contamination. It will also reduce the length of time that you are exposed to radiation.
  3. If possible, place the clothing in a plastic bag or leave it in an out-of-the-way area, such as the corner of a room. Keep people away from it to reduce their exposure to radiation. Keep cuts and abrasions covered when handling contaminated items to avoid getting radioactive material in them.
  4. Wash all of the exposed parts of your body using lots of soap and lukewarm water to remove contamination. This process is called decontamination. Try to avoid spreading contamination to parts of the body that may not be contaminated, such as areas that were clothed.
  5. After authorities determine that internal contamination may have occurred, you may be able to take medication to reduce the radioactive material in your body.

Prenatal Radiation Exposure

Pregnant women should consult with their physicians if they have any concern about radiation exposure to their fetus.

The exposure of a fetus to radiation is referred to as prenatal radiation exposure. This can occur when the mother’s abdomen is exposed to radiation from outside her body. Also, a pregnant woman who accidentally swallows or breathes in radioactive materials may absorb that substance into her bloodstream. From the mother’s blood, radioactive materials may pass through the umbilical cord to the baby or concentrate in areas of the mother’s body near the womb (such as the urinary bladder) and expose the fetus to radiation.