Differences between Contamination and Exposure

Posted On: July 26, 2018

Contrary to popular belief, exposure to radiation is not the same as contamination. It is a common misconception that exposure to radiation, in turn, makes someone radioactive. It becomes important then, to understand the differences between irradiation [exposure] and radioactive contamination.

contamination and exposure



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 The Major Differences


  • The presence of unwanted - in most cases, potentially hazardous - substances in the body or sample.
  • The result of ingestion, inhalation, or deposit of a radioisotope onto the body or the sample's surface.
  • It is not caused by radiation.
  • It changes the properties of the affected sample. For example: appearance, texture, and reactions.
  • Contaminants can be used as indicators of pollution and/or the presence of impurities.

Irradiation [Exposure]

  • The result of ionizing radiation from an external source of radiation being absorbed by part or all of the body or sample.
  • External exposure to radiation alone does not cause the body or sample to become either radioactive or contaminated.
  • Occurs as a result of internal contamination: the ingestion, inhalation, or absorption of a radionuclide into the blood stream.
  • It does not change the taste, texture, appearance, or properties by any significant degree.
  • Irradiation has a range of practical and beneficial uses, particularly for medical and industrial applications.

Radiation Hazards with 360training.com

Learn more about contamination and exposure with 360training.com. Sign Up for the HAZWOPER 8-Hour Annual Refresher Plus GHS Hazardous Communication Course, or our 40-Hour HAZWOPER or 24-Hour HAZWOPER course. Designed for workers involved in emergency response operations, and the handling, storage, treatment, clean up, and disposal of hazardous substances.

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