Potassium Iodide

Radiation and Your Health

 

childrenHow are our bodies exposed to harmful radiation?

How much is too much?

As we mentioned in our radiation FAQ, the average person receives 6.5 mSv (millisieverts - 1/1000 of a sievert) or less of radiation per year. This amount is generally considered to be safe and have no impact upon our health. However being exposed to a large amount of radiation, especially all at once, can cause severe or even fatal radiation injury or illness. Doses of 0.7 Gy (70 rads) are enough to cause radiation sickness - even as little as 0.3 Gy (30 rads) can cause mild symptoms. Doses of 450 cGy's (centigrays - a centigray = 1/100 of a gray or 1 rad) in a short period of time will be fatal to approximately 1 in every 2 adults.

2 Sv (2000 mSv) of radiation is enough to make your eyes develop cataracts. Long-term skin exposure to 20 or more Sv of radiation is likely to cause chronic dermatitis and skin cancer.

What parts of our body are most susceptible to radiation injury?

Because of the tissue makeup and function of various organs in our bodies, some are more susceptible to radiation than others. In order from the most to least affected:

  1. Lymphoid organs, such as bone marrow, the small intestine, reproductive organs - suppression of the bone marrow is a very common effect of radiation poisoning.
  2. Skin, gastrointestinal system, parts of the eye (cornea and lens)
  3. Growing bones and cartilage, blood vessels
  4. Lungs, pancreas, liver, kidneys, adrenal glands, pituitary gland, mature bones and cartilage.
  5. Brain, muscle, spinal cord.

radiation mortality chartWhat are the long-term health risks?

 

What is Acute Radiation Syndrome?

Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS), also known as radiation sickness or radiation poisoning, is a collection of medical issues caused by a large external dose of penetrating radiation delivered in a short period of time. These are grouped into 3 categories:

What are the symptoms of Radiation Poisoning?

Initial symptoms of Acute Radiation Sickness occur within 1 hour to 2 days of exposure and include:

If you experience any of these symptoms following exposure to radiation, it is CRITICAL that you seek medical assistance as soon as you can, even if the symptoms seem to go away!

After radiation poisoning, your symptoms may disappear and you will look and feel fine - even healty. But the radiation is still actively at work in your body, destroying your bone marrow. It can be up to 6 weeks before additional life-threatening symptoms appear. If you had symptoms initially , it is very important to get to a doctor or hospital to be checked out and receive treatment, even if you feel OK.

What is the best way to protect yourself?

 

Sources:
http://www.bt.cdc.gov/radiation/arsphysicianfactsheet.asp

http://orise.orau.gov/reacts/guide/syndrome.htm
http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/usa/doctrine/dod/fm8-9/1ch5.htm

Next: What is Radioactive Iodine?


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