Radiation is useful in many ways however; it is harmful to human health. Firstly, radiation is dangerous the human body because it destroys cells. According to Cohen (1990, p.25) cancer is caused when radiation penetrates the human body and damages cells. Novick (1969) sums the way by which radiation causes cancer in the human body when he writes,
When one of these particles or rays goes crashing through some material, it collides violently with atoms or molecules along the way. . . . In the delicately balanced economy of the cell, this sudden disruption can be disastrous. The individual cell may die; it may recover. But if it does recover, after the passage of weeks, months or years, it may begin to proliferate wildly in the uncontrolled growth we call cancer. (p.105)
Radiation is measured using MILIREMS (a.k.a. MREM). Cohen (1990, p. 26) notes that one milirem of radiation is equivalent to 7 billion particles of radiation. According to the University of Waterloo (2009, p. 1) SOMATIC effects refer to the damage which radiation does to human cells which can be passed to succeeding generations of cells. On the other hand GENETIC effects refer to the damage caused by radiation to genes and chromosomes. This damage affects future generations.
From time to time, it is important to measure radiation in order to know the amount of it that is available at any given time. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) the devices used to measure radiation are as follows: Survey meters (GEIGER MULLER PROBE (pancake detector), IONIZATION CHAMBER INSTRUMENTS, SCINTILLATION INSTRUMENTS) GAMMA OR ALPHA SPECTROMETER, RADIONUCLIDE DOSE CALIBRATOR, GAS FILLED DETECTORS and DOSIMETERS (POCKET DOSIMETERS, PHOTOGRAPHIC FILM DOSIMETERS, THERMOLUMINESCENT DOSIMETERS, TLDS AND FILM BADGES).
In some cases radiation occurs naturally. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (2007, pp. 5-6) natural radiation includes: RADON (a gas that originates from the decay of radium found in rocks which accounts for 55% of radiation), THORIUM and POTASSIUM in the earth’s crust (8%), and COSMIC radiation from the sun and other galaxies (8%). Furthermore, man made radiation includes: X-RAYS, RADIATION THERAPY in hospitals, NUCLEAR REACTORS and RADIOACTIVE WASTE. According to Health Canada (2008, p.1) protective devices used in radiography include LEAD SHIELDS, RADIOGRAPHIC CASSETTE HOLDERS, PROTECTIVE APRONS and PERSONAL DOSIMETERS.
Cohen, Bernard L. (1990) The Nuclear Energy Option Pittsburgh: Plenum Press
Health Canada (2008) “Radiation Protection In Veterinary Medicine – Recommended Safety Procedures For Installation And Use Of Veterinary X-ray Equipment – Safety Code 28” Retrieved 8th February 2009 from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/pubs/radiation/91ehd-dhm151/procedures-mesures-eng.php
Novick, S. (1969) The Careless Atom New York: Dell Publishing
United States Environmental Protection Agency (2007) “Radiation Risks and Realities” Retrieved 8th February 2009 from www.epa.gov/radiation
University of Waterloo (2009) “Radiation Effect on Life” Retrieved 8th February 2009 from http://www.science.uwaterloo.ca/~cchieh/cact/nuctek/safetyeffect.html