What are the health effects of ionising radiation?
Very high doses of radiation: death within hours or days, due to damage to brain and nerves
High doses: death within weeks, due to damage to the gastrointestinal tract, to the bone marrow, where blood cells are formed.
Lower doses: less severe:radiation sickness (nausea, fatigue and vomiting). Sterility. Some years later – cancer, (especially of thyroid), diseases of digestive organs, bone, & muscle.
Genetic effects: cell damage passed on to later generations
US Nuclear Regulatory Commission Fact Sheet on Biological Effects of Radiation – Cancers associated with high dose exposure (greater than 50,000 mrem) include leukemia, breast, bladder, colon, liver, lung, esophagus, ovarian, multiple myeloma, and stomach cancers. Department of Health and Human Services literature also suggests a possible association between ionizing radiation exposure and prostate, nasal cavity/sinuses, pharyngeal and laryngeal, and pancreatic cancer.
The period of time between radiation exposure and the detection of cancer is known as the latent period and can be many years……..the radiation protection community conservatively assumes that any amount of radiation may pose some risk for causing cancer and hereditary effect, and that the risk is higher for higher radiation exposures.A linear, no-threshold (LNT) dose response relationship is used to describe the relationship between radiation dose and the occurrence of cancer.
This dose-response model suggests that any increase in dose, no matter how small, results in an incremental increase in risk. …High radiation doses tend to kill cells, while low doses tend to damage or alter the genetic code (DNA) of irradiated cells……………Genetic effects and the development of cancer are the primary health concerns attributed to radiation exposure. The likelihood of cancer occurring after radiation exposure is about five times greater than a genetic effect (e.g., increased still births, congenital abnormalities, infant mortality, childhood mortality, and decreased birth weight)
Genetic effects are the result of a mutation produced in the reproductive cells of an exposed individual that are passed on to their offspring. These effects may appear in the exposed person’s direct offspring, or may appear several generations later.
We all know something about the harm done to humans and animals by nuclear bombs, depleted uranium weapons, nuclear explosions and other accidents – such as large radiation leaks and spillages. We know that high levels of radiation cause quick death, or fatal illness within weeks.
What is not so obvious is the harm being done to human (and animal) health by “low level” ionising radiation from every stage of the uranium – nuclear cycle.
Low level radioactivity
includes the on-going amount of radiation released from the everyday operation of the uranium industry and of the world’s 433 nuclear power plants, plus leaks and accidents.
Low level radiation causes mutations in genes leading to various cancers. It weakens the immune system, making the body more vulnerable to heart disease and to infections.Genetic effects: cell damage passed on to later generations.
“The everyday releases of low-level radioactivity by nuclear power plants has been found to cause several kinds of health damage including premature births, congenital defects, infant mortality, mental retardation, heart ailments, arthritis, diabetes, allergies, asthma, cancer, genetic damage and chronic fatigue syndrome. It has been linked to previously unknown infectious diseases, and the resurgence of old ones by damaging the developing white blood cells originating in the bone marrow and thus weakening the immune system” -Sara Shannon,author of Technology’s Curse
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