Fact or Fiction: Radiation Around You

Fact or Fiction: Radiation Around You

Table of Contents

Fact or Fiction: Radiation Around You

Rad Measures

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Radiation cannot be measured.

It is not normally possible to sense radiation. However, it can be measured by various instruments, such as Geiger counters or the dosimeters carried by many nuclear workers. These instruments measure the different types and energies of radiation and their effects on human health.

Fact or Fiction: Radiation Around You

In or Out

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If a person swallows a radioactive substance, they are considered contaminated.

When a person's body is in the path of radiation, then the person is irradiated. If the person touches, breathes, or swallows a radioactive substance, he or she is considered contaminated.

Fact or Fiction: Radiation Around You

Daily Dose

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Human activities contribute 50% of the radiation to which the public is exposed.

60% of all radiation is naturally occurring. Man-made radiation from sources such as X-rays and other medical procedures account for approximately 40% of the public exposure. Nuclear energy production adds less than 1%.

Fact or Fiction: Radiation Around You

Atomic Thievery

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Non-ionizing radiation has enough energy to remove an electron from an atom.

Only ionizing radiation has enough energy to knock an electron out of its orbit when it collides with one. An atom that has lost an electron this way is called an ion and it can cause damage (including damage to DNA) to chemical bonds in an organism. This makes ionizing radiation (such as X-rays) more dangerous than non-ionizing radiation (such as infrared and visible light rays), which doesn’t have enough energy to affect atoms this way.

Fact or Fiction: Radiation Around You

Phones and Bones

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Microwaves are very similar to X-rays.

Microwaves are larger and less penetrating than X-rays. When they collide with atoms, they don't have the power to knock electrons out of their orbit, which would create ions and disrupt chemical bonds. X-rays are able to do this – which is why they are called ionizing radiation and must be carefully regulated.

Fact or Fiction: Radiation Around You

Undulation Variation

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A microwave is exceptionally small for an electromagnetic wave, hence the name.

Despite their name, microwaves are actually much larger than visible light waves or X rays. If you could see them, the individual undulations in a microwave would be about as wide as a pea, while light waves are about the size of a bacterium and X rays are as small as the nucleus of an atom.

Fact or Fiction: Radiation Around You

An Ode to Ozone

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Most of the ultraviolet (UV) rays emitted by our sun are ionizing radiation.

Only a small part of the UV spectrum is ionizing, and that is entirely blocked by our atmosphere. The UVA and UVB radiation that can reach us are non-ionizing, but can cause sunburn damage if you aren't properly protected.

Fact or Fiction: Radiation Around You

Rad Suit in a Bottle

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A sunburn is an ionizing radiation burn.

Sunburns are the result of damage to chemical bonds in the skin caused by overexposure to ultraviolet radiation. The body can usually repair the damage and it responds to the damage by triggering the production of melanin, our skin's protective pigment. However, overexposure to ultraviolet radiation can increase the risk of skin cancer.

Fact or Fiction: Radiation Around You

The Nature of Things

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People are exposed to radiation all of the time.

Radiation is all around us and we are exposed to some form of it every day. More than 60 percent of all radiation to which people are exposed occurs naturally and is called "background radiation". It comes from radon in the air, cosmic rays, radioactive substances in the earth crust, and in some of our food and drink.

Fact or Fiction: Radiation Around You

Mild-Mannered Hero

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You are naturally radioactive.

Our bodies regularly metabolize common, mildly radioactive elements (such as potassium-40) in our food.

Fact or Fiction: Radiation Around You

Your Score