What radiation does to a body?

What radiation does to a body?


Let’s say some crazy world leader will decide to press the big red button. Or terrorists taking control of a nuclear reactor. You survived the first explosion. The world is poisoned by radiation. What’s it like? When nuclear reactions occur, they divide the particles with such energy that the electrons break away from atoms. Changed when creating a pair of ions that are extremely reactive chemically. It is ionizing radiation, and from that start all the problems.

To calculate the dose

There are many types of ionizing radiation. Cosmic, alpha, beta, gamma, x-ray, neutron, and others. What is important is how strongly the organisms exposed to this radiation, that is, which receives the radiation dose.

Absorbed dose is measured in gray (Gy, Gy) or sieverts (SV) which take measure of Grams and multiply it by the type of radiation to calculate the effective dose in living tissue. The average exposure for a couple of seconds abdominal x-ray is 0,0014 G is easy dose that is applied locally so it is not so bad. The danger begins if the impact radiation has on the body – for example, in the control room of Chernobyl immediately after the explosion. Where would you absorb 300 SV per hour. But hardly would have lasted an hour. The dose would be fatal after 1-2 minutes.

You die

Large doses of ionizing radiation over a short time leads to acute radiation syndrome, that is, to the radiation poisoning. The severity of symptoms depends on the level of exposure. Radiation dose is 0.35 Grams will be similar to the flu — runny nose, and dizziness, headache, fatigue, fever. If the body is subjected to irradiation of 1-4 Gy, blood cells begin to die. You will be able to recover — treatment of this kind of radiation syndrome usually involves blood transfusions and antibiotics, but can also weaken immune response because of the fall in the number of leukocytes, the blood will not clot and there will be anemia. You’ll also notice a odd sunburn if exposed to 2 Gy of ionizing radiation. Technically, it is a sharp radiodermatitis, and its symptoms include red patches, peeling skin and sometimes swelling.

A dose of 4-8 Grams can be lethal, but the way of death will depend on the level of exposure. With such irradiation of patients suffer vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness and fever. Without treatment you could die in just a few weeks after exposure.

Physicist Louis Slotin, who died from exposure during their research in 1946 in the Manhattan project, were exposed to 10 Gy of gamma and x-rays. And today he would not have survived in spite of modern treatments such as bone marrow transplantation. Patients who are exposed to radiation between 8 to 30 Gy experience a runny nose and diarrhea within the hour and die within 2 days – 2 weeks after exposure.

Radiation dose over 30 Gy cause neurological damage. Within a few minutes, patients experience severe vomiting and diarrhea, dizziness, headaches and unconsciousness. Frequent attacks and tremor, and ataxia — loss of control over muscle function. Death within 48 hours inevitable.

It remains to survive

If you are lucky enough to evade the toxicity of radiation caused by a nuclear explosion or reactor meltdown, it does not mean that you will find a happy ending. Prolonged exposure to ionizing radiation, even at doses that are weak to weaken you, can lead to genetic mutations and cancer. That is the biggest risk faced by the survivor of the accident at Fukushima and Chernobyl. According to recent estimates, thousands more will die from cancer caused by radiation poisoning from precipitation.

Normally, cells are controlled by the chemical structure of DNA molecules. But when the radiation is emit enough energy to disrupt molecular bonds, strands of DNA are crumbling. Though most of their fine restored about a quarter — no, so begins the long process which leads to increase the rate of mutations in future generations of cells. The probability of cancer increases with effective radiation dose, but the severity of the cancer dose-independent. The mere fact of exposure is a value, not low or high level radiation.

For the long-term exposure to radiation of a model that predicts the level of risk does not provide definite answers. The most common model assumes that from the point of view of impact on the most people the most dangerous source of radiation is a low-level background radiation. Therefore, even though acute radiation poisoning is awful in itself, experience is more necessary because of the slow but steady exposure.