Radiation exposure can cause chemical changes in the body with time by either damaging them irreparably or by creating permanent abnormalities. Click To Tweet That’s because it impacts parts of our DNA that cause cancer. Even though our bodies are equipped with cells to combat this effect prolonged exposure can make them redundant enough to lead to organ failure.
Effects of radiation on industrial workers
Industrial workers are exposed to radiation on a daily basis, an occupational hazard which has dire consequences on their bodies. Here are some of them:
Overlong radiation exposure can lead to massive hair loss. This can happen at levels that exceed 200 rems.
At 5000 rems, brain cells start to get damaged. The radiation kills off nerve cells and small blood vessels that bring blood to this crucial organ leading to seizures and death.
The thyroid gland is particularly susceptible to radiation and radioactive iodine in particular. In large amounts, it can actually destroy this organ. While potassium iodide can reduce effects, it might stop working overtime if the worker is not isolated from the radiation source.
Anyone who is exposed to about 100 rems of radiation is more prone to infections. That’s because at those levels, the lymphocyte cell count in blood lessens which weakens the immune system. Also known as radiation sickness, the illness can remain for 10 years and may also lead to leukemia or lymphoma.
Exposure to radiation levels between 1000 and 5000 rems can damage blood vessels leading to the heart. This can lead to heart failure, strokes or death.
The manifestation and persistence of these health issues depends on 2 types of exposure:
The duration of the exposure has a lot to do with whether health effects are long term or short term. As the name implies, chronic exposure refers to continuous radiation exposure over a period of time. In this case there is a gap between the exposure and the health effect it causes which is why it can lead to cancer, benign tumors, cataracts and genetic issues.
Acute effects on health due to exposure occur if the worker is exposed to large amounts of radiation. It can come from multiple places within a short period of time and environmental sources are rare. It is common in industrial workers who have to handle strong sources of radiation as their job or if they are near nuclear explosions.
All in all it takes more than 75 rad of exposure to result in acute health effects such as radiation sickness. This is equivalent to about 75,000 millirem of an x-ray. As comparison consider the fact that it takes about 4 rem for a safe adult x-ray and exposure between 5 and 10 can lead to serious health issues such as cancer.
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