Tag: Ionizing Radiation

Radiation Exposure in Our Daily Life Compared to X-ray Exams

Several sources of radiation exposure are present in our environment. Radiation is an energy that travels through space at the speed of light. The energy comprises electric and magnetic fields, and possesses wave-like properties. Hence, radiation is also popular by the name of electromagnetic waves. They are present in two forms – ionizing and non-ionizing. Radiation is present in almost everything; some are harmful, while most are not.

There is a general conception that human beings experience radiation exposure only in X-ray rooms. However, this is not true. Things present in the environment also emit radioactivity that can be harmful. Radiation is harmful when the exposure is great and the dose exceeds human tolerance. For example, miners working in uranium mines are at a high risk of death because of excess radiation exposure. It could also result in long-term issues relating to health, such as cardiovascular disease or cancer. Read on to understand the exposure of radiation in our daily life as compared to X-ray exams.

Types of Radiation

There are two broad categories of radiation. They are further present in many forms based on their characteristics.

Non-Ionizing – Non-ionizing radiation is incapable of activating atoms or molecules because of the low energy levels. These are present in everyday products that surround us like microwaves, cellular telephones, cordless phones, remote control garage doors, etc., but in very low frequencies.

Ionizing – Ionizing radiation has high energy levels, which activate atoms by knocking out the electrons from their orbit. When the electron is moved, it creates an imbalance; thus, the atom receives a positive charge. These charged atoms and molecules are called ions, and the radiation that produces ions is called ionizing radiation.

Ionizing radiation is present in many forms:

Alpha Radiation

Alpha radiation has positively charged particles emitted by elements, such as uranium. It can enter the body through skin, easting, or breathing. A thin sheet of paper can be used to stop alpha radiation from entering the body. However, if it enters the body through food or air, it can cause biological damage to the body as the tissues would be directly exposed to the radiation.

Beta Radiation

Beta radiation has more penetrative properties than Alpha, and it can pass through water. The use of thick aluminum sheets or plastic sheets stops beta radiation from entering the body. However, it has the potential to induce damage to the exposed tissues.

Gamma Radiation

Gamma radiation has no charge or mass; thus, it has a deep penetrative property. It can pass through the human body if not stopped, and can cause major damage to the body as it passes. Dense materials like concrete absorb it.

Neutron Radiation

When neutrons interact with atoms of matter, they emit a type of radiation known as neutron radiation. The emission leads to a rise in other types of radiation. It is highly penetrative, and it can be absorbed by materials having a high amount of hydrogen atoms like plastics or paraffin wax, water, and concrete.

Natural Sources of Radiation Exposure

Radioactivity has existed from the beginning of time. Radioactive elements are present everywhere, from the earth’s crust to the walls of our house and the air we breathe. Humans are exposed to radioactive elements externally, but the human body also contains such elements in its muscles, bones, and tissues. Let us explore some other naturally occurring sources of radioactive elements.

Natural Gas

The gas used for cooking, heating, steaming, and other purposes exposes us to radioactive elements, but the exposure is minute; therefore, it is not harmful. The annual exposure to radiation through natural gas amounts to 9 mrem.

Radon

Soil and rocks emit a highly active, naturally occurring gas called radon. It is the major source of natural radiation exposure. It can get into houses via the floor or the walls. Radon is light enough to rise into the atmosphere. However, there is a great chance of it getting trapped inside the house and being inhaled. We can also ingest it through water or dust particles.

Air Travel

People working in the aviation industry who are frequent flyers like pilots, air hostesses, stewards, etc. are at a high risk of being endangered by harmful radiation. Aviation employees who fly regularly consume around 200 mrem annually as per the EPA.

Televisions, Microwaves, Cellphones

Human beings are exposed to radiation through radioactive elements that are emitted from televisions, microwave ovens, and other daily-use electrical items. But, the level of radiation exposure is too low to cause any damage. Did you know that more than 60 objects which we use in our daily lives expose us to harmful radiation?

X-ray Exposure

Exposure to X-rays occurs during medical procedures. Radiologic technologists conduct X-ray exams while wearing protective gear. They have control of the environment inside the examination room. The exposure to different examinations such as fluoroscopy, mammography, and CT scans differ from each other, and may even be high, but it is always kept under the dose limit set for patients.

Each body part reacts differently to radiation. Thus, the dose limit is different based on body parts. Radiation also has medical benefits; for example, radiation therapy is useful in curing cancer; however, a dose limit is set for all patients and workers in the radiologic department. The Environmental Protection Agency, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and state agencies decide the dose limit.

Damage Caused by Exposure to X-rays in Comparison to Naturally Occurring Radiation

The exposure to naturally occurring radiation and X-rays does not affect the general public much. It is only harmful if radiation exposure is great. Workers in the radiology department and the nuclear testing department are at high risk of developing cancer even with limited tenure in these departments. People who work in uranium mines are at a high risk of inhaling radon, which could be fatal. Radon exposure in mines is much higher, and critically damages the exposed tissues.

Conclusion

With the increased use of radioactive elements in the coming future, it is important to look after people who work in places with various harmful radiation.

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Read more about this and other subjects and get 12 Category A ARRT CE Credits in the X-Ray CE Course “Understanding Ionizing Radiation and Protection”

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Healthcare Worker Classification and Areas of Work

healthcare worker classification

For the purpose of radiation safety, healthcare worker classification is divided into two categories – those who directly work with radiation and those who do not directly work with radiation but may be exposed to it. Occupational dose limits apply to workers who directly perform radiation work. Hospital employees who do not directly perform radiation work are treated like members of the general public in terms of restricting exposure.

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Patient Radiation Dose Measurement in Fluoroscopy and CT Examinations

Fluoroscopy and patient radiation dose

Radiation dose represents the energy deposited per unit mass of tissue. It is typically measured in Gray (Joules/kg). This deposition of energy may cause damage the tissues, and therefore, patient radiation dose must be measured and monitored. Patients are exposed to some of the largest doses of radiation during fluoroscopically-guided procedures and computed tomography examinations. Radiologic technologists play a key role in limiting this dose, based on the ALARA principle, by using the correct imaging techniques.

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Personal Radiation Monitoring Devices: Features and Safety Issues

personal radiation monitoring devices

National regulations determine whether healthcare providers who work in radiology departments require radiation monitoring. In some countries it is mandatory for all personnel exposed to radiation to wear dose-monitoring badges. If individual monitoring is not mandatory, it may be useful to monitor the workplace by placing a dosimeter at a point of interest such as the operator’s position during the image acquisition. In addition, special precautions may be necessary for pregnant workers. Are you monitoring your radiation exposure at work? Do you know the correct way to use your radiation monitoring device? Read about the features of personal radiation monitoring devices used by radiologic technologists.

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Occupational Radiation Exposure Limit: Are You Safe?

occupational radiation exposure limit

Radiologic technologists and other healthcare workers are exposed to X-rays in the course of their work duties. There are certain occupational radiation exposure limits for X-ray techs. Remaining within these limits is essential for safety in the workplace. Read on to refresh your knowledge on the key safety limits with regards to occupational radiation exposure.

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