Radioactive Pollution | Radiation | Types, Contamination & Prevention

Radioactive Pollution is the harmful effect of radiation emitted by a radioactive element or material. There are two sources of radioactive pollution- natural sources and anthropogenic sources.

Radiation, radioactive pollution

What is Radiation?

The flow of energy in the form of electromagnetic waves, a stream of energetic charged particles (positively or negatively charged), from one space to another without getting in contact with the other surface is called radiation.

 

Radiation depends on frequency and wavelength. If the frequency is more and wavelength is small, then the energy will be more or higher. If the energy of radiation is high, then it will cause more harm to organisms.

What is Radioactive Pollution?

The rays produced in radioactive decay may cause ionization of atoms and molecules of the medium through which they are passing and convert them into ions. Alpha (α), beta (β), and gamma (γ) are majorly responsible for the radioactivity process, and those radiations are produced by the process called radioactive decay.
Alpha radiation contains charged alpha particles. Each alpha particle carries two units of positive charges and reacts strongly with living organism’s tissues. Beta radiation is made up of energetic electrons. Each beta particle carries one unit of negative charge and interacts strongly with matter. Gamma radiations are made up of high energy photons. Photons bring strong electromagnetic interaction with the matter.

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There Are Two Types Of Radiation- Ionizing And Non-Ionizing Radiation

  • Ionizing Radiation is related to high energy means they have higher energy in them, like short wavelength UV rays, x-rays, and gamma rays. The charged rays produced in radioactive decay cause ionization of both atoms and molecules of the medium by which they pass and convert them into ions.
  • Non-Ionizing Radiations are related to the electromagnetic waves having a longer wavelength, from ultraviolet rays to radio waves. These waves have sufficient energy to excite the atoms and molecules of the medium through which they are moving and make them vibrate faster. The sun rays which reach the earth’s surface mainly have non-ionizing radiation.

How Radioactive Pollution Occurs?

Radioactive waste from the anthropogenic nuclear activities and army/defense-related nuclear weapon activities cause many problems. It is important to handle them carefully to protect the environment as well as living organisms for a better and safe tomorrow. They are in contact with a variety of radiations. If the level of the radioactive radiation exceeds a certain limit, it can cause harmful effects to living beings. This harmful effect of radiation emitted by radioactive elements is called radioactive pollution.

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There are two sources of radioactive pollution– natural sources and anthropogenic sources.

Natural Sources of Radiation

Natural sources are those which are exposed or occur in the environment naturally from the earth or other outer sources. Below are a few natural sources of the radiation:

  • Natural minerals or radioactive minerals are found under the earth’s crust. An example is uranium.
  • Cosmic rays are highly ionizing electromagnetic radiation. Their sources are from outside the earth like stars.
  • Radioactive minerals like uranium, thorium, radium, isotopes of potassium found in the lithosphere.

Anthropogenic Sources of Radiation

Anthropogenic sources are those which are created or occurred by mistake or due to human activities, which results in the exposure of humans to the radioactive materials. Below are the few anthropogenic sources:

  • Medical X-rays
  • Smoke detector
  • Lantern mantels
  • Nuclear medicine
  • Nuclear power plant

Radioactive Contamination And Prevention

Pictorial diagram of radioactive contamination Slika 3. Slikovni dijagram radioaktivnog onečišćenja
Radioactive Pollution: An Overview The Holistic Approach to Environment – Scientific Figure on ResearchGate. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Pictorial-diagram-of-radioactive-contamination-Slika-3-Slikovni-dijagram-radioaktivnog_fig3_326405296 [accessed 12 May 2020]
 Radioactive contamination happens if radioactive materials are thrown into the environment accidentally, by a natural process, or by any other human activity (like terrorism and nuclear tests). Radioactive waste can be defined as a material which has or contaminated by the radioactive materials before having energy more than the safe level, which causes damage to human or nature.

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A contaminated person has radioactive materials on or inside their body. External contamination occurs when radioactive material, in any form of solid, liquid, or gas comes into the person’s body or other things and gets infected. It simply means that the external parts of humans or organisms get affected by it not internal parts of the body, which cause less damage and easily enters into the body, which causes many diseases.

Internal contamination occurs when people eat or breathe radioactive materials, or it reaches the internal parts of the body by any means and causes damage to internal parts. Radioactive pollution causes many health-related issues and can stay for a long time in a body or at a particular place. It causes many hazards to humans and nature.

The biological damage caused by the radiation depends upon the following factors:

  • Time of exposure
  • Intensity of radiation
  • Penetration power
  • Place of radiation means it is outside or inside the human body.

Radioactive pollution can be prevented in many ways. Major ways to stop radioactive pollution are:

  • The nuclear reactor should be kept under leakage proof containers so that there is no possibility of the leakage of the radioactive material. Also, there must be a proper cooling system installed in the reactor so that no leakage will occur through coolant.
  • Nuclear tests should be banned or should be done under very strict circumstances so that it won’t affect the environment or and other human beings.
  • Radioactive waste must be properly treated so that it may not cause harm to anyone and nature.
  • Industrial waste which has radioactive material in it should be dump after neutralizing it or at a place where it will cause less harm.
  • Proper monitoring should be done from time to time to get to know about any hazard before the time.

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