When you hear the words Radiation Exposure, odds are your mind jumps to all kinds of scenarios – mainly revolving around nuclear power plant meltdowns or atomic bombs. In fact, our bodies are fielding radiation on a daily basis – from sources ranging from Mother Nature to the cell phone in your pocket.
Here is a list of 7 of the most common types of common, everyday radiation you are exposed to – along with a little information about its potency and whether or not you should consider some form of protection.
The Radiation Next Door – And What You Should & Shouldn’t Do About It
First – a little more radiation information: not all radiation is considered equal. For example, the sun produces infrared radiation, but that’s a non-ionizing form, because it doesn’t impair the normal function of your body’s cells. Forms of ionizing radiation can change your cell’s DNA, alter their normal function, kill them or transform them in ways that are harmful or even fatal. However, even ionizing radiation is only harmful if it is received in large doses or over such a long period of time that its effects become compounded.
Unfortunately, there are no “magic numbers” regarding how much low-grade radiation is too much – since it would involve research studies, participated in by millions of people, and who were willing to be exposed to varying degrees of radiation. Instead, we say – “all things in moderation” and “protect yourself” if you are being exposed to questionable levels of radiation.
1. Visible Light. Yes! Without radiation, you wouldn’t be able to see. These light particles are bouncing around, reflecting and refracting, interacting with the retinas in your eyes that allow you to see the world around you. Without this form of radiation, it would be a dark, dark, world.
2. Infrared Radiation. Thanks again, sunshine. Infrared radiation – just enough and not too much – is what allows us all to keep from freezing to death. Again, this source of radiation is a good thing because without it – well, there would be no life forms on earth to wonder whether or not there are life forms elsewhere in the cosmos.
3. Microwaves. These waves are involved in lots of stuff. Yes, they are the waves that cook your food in minutes, rather than hours, but they are also used to transmit your cell phone calls and texts on a regular basis. Of course, much has been said in recent years regarding whether or not the increase of transmitted microwaves caused by widespread cellular phone usage is damaging. You can read more about that here. Studies have shown conflicting results so the verdict is still out on that one, which is why we recommend using Bluetooth technology whenever possible and minimizing the amount of time your cell phone touches your physical body whenever it’s powered on.
4. Radio Waves. Does anyone still listen to radios anymore? Yes! They do, and these waves are another form of non-iodizing radiation. Outside of providing you with musical and talk radio entertainment, radio waves are also used to provide you with 4G cellphone technology and your home, office and Starbucks Wi-Fi access. Radio waves are also emitted by cosmic bodies in the universe, and NASA and other astronomically oriented research institutes use them to study celestial bodies, galaxies and black holes. Without them, we wouldn’t know nearly as much as we do about the location, motion and chemical compositions of cosmic matter.
5. X-Rays. All of the above examples are non-ionizing forms of radiation – radiation that doesn’t transmit into your cells and cause a loss of electrons (which is where the damage happens). Now, we’re upgrading. X-rays DO transmit ionizing radiation, which can damage cells. Notice that you wear lead blankets on areas that aren’t being X-rayed and the technician leaves the room to do it? Minor X-Ray exposure won’t do any long-term damage and beats walking around with broken bones or other painful and correctible ailments – but it’s an argument for being conservative with X-Ray-based diagnostic tests unless they are absolutely necessary.
6. Ultraviolet Radiation. So the sun giveth – via infrared radiation that warms but doesn’t harm – and the sun taketh – by spewing out ultraviolet radiation that can hurt. That sunburn you nursed after falling asleep at the beach? That was an example of excess ionizing ultraviolet radiation that damaged your skin cells. Compound this exposure with a sensitivity to UV light and cancer is a possibility – hence the suggestions to wear hats, sunscreen, full-length clothing and to minimize direct sun exposure whenever possible.
7. Gamma Rays. These are like the Granddaddy of radiation and, fortunately, they aren’t easy to come by unless you work with nuclear fusion or fission as part of your job (in which case we hope you are attentive to ALARA requirements and know you’re rights so you are adequately protected at work). Gamma rays are flying willy-nilly in outer space, once you leave the protection of earth’s atmosphere (one more reason to protect that thing!) but they are also used by some manmade tools, like types of radiation that are used to shrink cancer cells and tumors. This is why cancer radiation treatments must be performed so carefully – there is nothing to protect surrounding tissues from their presence as they can penetrate typical, manmade radiation protection materials.
So there you have it. Radiation is a part of our everyday world and our job – literally – here at Lancs Industries is to protect humans from overexposure. Have questions? Need to order or design protective gear to keep your body free of ionizing radiation? Give us a call , 401.884.9926, or contact us online.
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