What is nuclear radiation used for?

Radioactivity: Why It's So Dangerous to Humans

After the nuclear accidents in Japan, there is no threat to Germany so far. What you should know anyway.

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Radioactivity sign

Japan is thousands of kilometers away from Germany and so far there is no immediate danger in this country from, for example, radioactive fallout. However, the explosion in the Japanese nuclear power plant has already released radioactive substances that are dangerous for humans.

Radioactivity destroys body cells and changes the genetic make-up

Radioactive rays are harmful to health when they reach a certain level; high doses inevitably lead to death. Because radioactivity can destroy body cells. Even low-dose radiation can change the genetic makeup and thus cause cancer in the long term. In particular, leukemia, thyroid, lung and breast cancer are possible long-term effects.

What is radiation sickness?

The effects of exposure to large parts or all of the body is known as radiation sickness. The intensity of the radiation is usually measured in gray (Gy), the unit gray indicating the amount of radiation dose absorbed by the tissue.

How Much Radioactivity is Too Much?

From the critical dose of one Gy, the body reacts relatively quickly with nausea, fever and diarrhea, for example. The bone marrow is attacked, bleeding and infection can occur. An exposure of more than five Gy also affects the digestive tract, but with optimal treatment, the affected person may be able to recover. With whole-body irradiation with more than six gray, the chances of survival are low, even with optimal treatment. There is almost no chance of survival above 15 Gy.

The nuclear accident released radioactive cesium-137 and iodine-131.

What is radioactive cesium-137?

Natural cesium 133 is a shiny gold, very soft metal and occurs in tiny traces in the rocks of the earth's crust. Its radioactive relative, the dangerous cesium 137, is produced during nuclear fission and can get into the environment via exhaust air or waste water from nuclear facilities.
It is absorbed by the green parts of the plants directly or through the roots. It is also found in milk, meat and fish via this detour. Mushrooms were particularly polluted after the Chernobyl disaster. High levels of cesium-137 can damage human muscle tissue and kidneys. It is distributed evenly in the body so that its radiation hits the whole organism. Cesium 137 decays with a half-life of 30 years - that is the period of time that passes until half of the radioactivity is broken down.

What is radioactive iodine 131?

Natural iodine is very important for the human organism. Marine animals and fish in particular contain a lot of iodine. The thyroid is the organ that processes natural iodine.
The radioactive iodine isotope 131 is created during nuclear fission in a nuclear reactor or during a nuclear weapon explosion. This substance accumulates in the thyroid gland when it enters the environment and is absorbed by humans. It is a very volatile substance that can be transported quickly over long distances in the air. In the first weeks after Chernobyl, iodine 131 was the main source of food contamination. It is mainly consumed with fresh milk.

What to do if a radioactive cloud comes?

- If radioactive substances are transported over long distances by wind and weather, people should stay in closed rooms if possible, preferably with solid masonry.
- Under no circumstances should children play outside.
- It is important to wash thoroughly and change clothes after each time you are outdoors.
- Food such as garden fruits, which could be contaminated, should be avoided.

What to do if there is a threat of radioactive contamination?

- In general, experts advise you to leave a contaminated area as quickly as possible.
- Residents should wear breathing masks or other filter masks to prevent the body from absorbing radioactivity.
- Protective clothing can help, such as waterproof rainwear. It can't keep the rays out - only a special material with lead could do that - but it prevents contaminated particles from settling on the skin.
- Potassium iodide tablets (iodine tablets) taken in good time prevent radioactive iodine ingested through respiration from accumulating in the thyroid gland.

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More information from the authorities:

Radioactivity: View official measurements online

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Source: kra / dpa

| Updated: Friday, July 20, 2012 2:54 pm

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