Radiation Safety in Industrial Hygiene Term Paper

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Radiation Safety in Industrial Hygiene

Nature has it that all living things depend on a certain type of radiation to survive. This is evident in many ways for instance we can see because our eyes sense and become aware of the radiation in the form of light; then there is infrared radiation that allows is to keep ourselves warm in the cold weather, radiation is used for cooking, whether it is on the stove or in the microwave. Radiowaves are used for long distance communication by using sound or picture; and ultraviolet radiation is used for medical treatment or for putting on a good suntan. Even though some forms of radiation can travel long distances, it can be stopped by employing the correct absorbers: starlight can transgress galaxies but then using a piece of paper it can also be stopped; radiowaves are also capable of travelling huge distances but can be absorbed by metal like substances. Just as light travels in straight lines, so does ionising radiation til it is absorbed by materials.

It was back in the twentieth century, that "ionising radiation" was discovered. Ionising radiation is found everywhere and supports our natural background radiation. It is also found in many sources such as the sun, outer-space, the rocks and soil beneath our feet, the buildings we inhabit, the air we breathe, the food and drink we consume, and even in our bodies.

Types and sources of ionising radiation

Inclusion to X-rays, are three types of ionising radiation called alpha, beta and gamma. Alpha rays also called the helium nuclei can be stopped by paper, beta rays also known as high-speed electrons are stopped less easily, and gamma rays need lead or concrete to stop them. It is a known fact that since one cannot glow in the dark due to light similarly, a chest X-ray will not make one radioactive, therefore, ionising radiations will not make one radioactive. This is because in industries in a reactor there are billions of free nuclear projectiles called neutrons, which on absorption into any material cause it to become radioactive. This leads to the material producing its own radiation.

A person's annual radiation dosage originates from the decay of natural radioactivity because the presence of bricks and mortar escalates the concentration of a radioactive gas called radon. Radon is produced naturally from the radioactive decay of uranium and thorium, found in rocks, soil, bricks, mortar, tiles and concrete. Plunging ventilation to conserve energy in turn causes an increase in the radon concentration in the air we breathe. Another way to increase radon concentration is by using bore water, especially in hot showers. Other sources of smaller dosages of everyday radiation come from cosmic rays and from the natural radioactivity found in the consumption of our food and drink. The man-made sources of radiation are from the use of medical technology, such as the usage of X-rays for radiography and tomography, and radioactivity in nuclear medicine. According to a study, a person absorbs more than 2000 microsieverts a year of natural background radiation. Other sources of additional doses depend on the medical use of radiation according to a person's medical history. Dental X-rays account for one-tenth the annual background while multiple X-rays in combination with a barium enema, accounts for a huge percentage of the annual background radiation. Radiation doses are the highest in cancer therapy fro cancer patients..

Some people get more radiation than others since study shows that cosmic rays are different for different latitudes, height above sea-level, and with sun activity: on top of a mountain, the radiation dose is higher than on the ground. Also rocks and beach sand are more radioactive than other parts of the earth. Radioactive substances affects our food and drink, olives and brazil nuts are two food items that receive more radioactivity in comparison to others. There are many industries that produce and release radioactivity into the environment, this is especially the case with coal-burning plants, and to some extent, the fertiliser, mining and building industries. Other sources of radiation exposure are: older luminescent clocks and watches, compasses, exit signs, certain paints and pigments, dental porcelain, fire alarms, smoke detectors, television sets, normal operations of the nuclear power industry, and the use of radionuclides in industry, agriculture and the environment. Still with so many sources, the human race has continued to survive in this radioactive environment.

It's next to impossible to avoid the sources of natural radiation in our everyday life but we can take precautions to maintain distance with the local sources of radiation and also use distance, time and radiation shielding to protect ourselves. The less contact we have with such sources the lesser will be the dosage, however if it is necessary to use a source then it is mandatory one minimises the time spent near it, and in case of the source emitting strong radiation it is a must that one uses adequate shielding between the source and themselves.

The effect of radiation on the body

Ionising radiation does not accumulate in our body, but science proves that the radiation effects are evident from exposure to large amounts of radiation, as in sunburns from too much exposure to strong sunlight. Radiation carries energy that has a damaging effect on the living cells of living things and can either kill them or change their structure and function to inhibit correct functioning but this would take large doses to kill a good number of cells to cause death. Radiation dose would have to be several thousand times bigger than the dose received annually from the environment to cause death. Death would occur if the person were exposed more over a year. For example, exposure to sunlight over a year gives one a suntan, but one-day exposure of sunbaking could cause death by sunstroke.

Over a period of time, the body has the ability to repair small damage caused by radiation, but small dose can become more serious. There are two kinds of radiation damage: damage to any of the cells of our body, putting one at risk, and can even damage our reproductive cells putting future generations at risk. There are many different somatic effects but the long-term effect of radiation is caused by cancer. High exposure to radiation puts a person at a 40:1000000 chance of getting a cancer from a dose of radiation equal to one year of natural background. This means that lifetime dose of natural background gives one a 1:500 chance of dying from cancer.

Detecting radiation

Ionising radiation is detected by using a geiger counter. Radiographers, workers in the nuclear industry, and radiation workers are required to wear a film badge or a thermoluminescent dosimeter to record their radiation doses. The International Commission on Radiological Protection suggests that all doses should be kept "as low as reasonably achievable" stating that doses absorbed by radiation workers should not exceed 50,000 microsieverts over the whole one year, while the public should not receive more than one-fiftieth of the workers lifetime average.

Standards put by the regulating bodies and how they have affected the workplace.

In 1958, the Radiation Protection Act, in New Jersey was implemented. This Act allowed the authority to set standards for the possession, handling, transportation and use of sources of radiation in the State of New Jersey. The Act led to the formation of the New Jersey Commission on Radiation Protection called the Commission to circulate rules and regulations to ban and prevent unnecessary radiation. In adherence with the Act, the Department of Environmental Protection implemented the rules.

In the past decades much concern has been shown regarding the adverse human health effects caused by the exposure to electric and magnetic fields from 60 Hertz electric power transmission, sub-transmission, distribution lines and other sources including appliances. The concern arose after a series of epidemiological studies, showed that children with cancer, such as, leukemia, lymphoma and brain cancer are likely to live longer in housing with higher magnetic field exposures of the electrical distribution wires, measured magnetic fields and magnetic fields. Also studies indicate that workers with high magnetic field exposures, as indicated from job classifications and magnetic field measurements, indicate higher rates of cancer.

Radiation is however not responsible for the assumed mechanism of carcinogenesis caused by the exposure to magnetic fields and this is not found with much evidence since there is not much experimental evidence to assist the epidemiologic findings. Possible reasons for the lack of enough information are due to the wrong explanations for the increased rates of cancer usage of inappropriate exposure measures. It will take a number of years before the issue is solved scientifically, and from a biologically perspective to show that a certain measure of exposure can be linked to exposure and disease.

To reduce radiation, the commission has installed new and modified electric power transmission lines for three reasons. First of all, either it is believed that these lines do not yet exist or if they do exist…

Sources Used in Document:


American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), available at http://www.asce.org/community/airandspace/nae_ec.cfm, accessed on: November 18, 2003

Colden: Industrial Hygiene Philadelphia: Corporate Overview - Colden provides various Industrial Hygiene services to the Philadelphia area, available at http://www.colden.com/RFrad.htm, accessed on: November 18, 2003

Common Record Hearings on the Health and Safety of 765 kV Transmission Lines, available at http://www.ortho.lsumc.edu/Faculty/Marino/Powerline/Origins/ACB4.html, accessed on: November 18, 2003

Confirmation that Ionizing Radiation Can Induce Genomic Instability: What is Genomic Instability, and Why Is It So Important?, available at: http://www.ratical.org/radiation/CNR/GenomicInst.html, accessed on: November 18, 2003

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