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RADIATION HAZARDS

Important characteristics of
radiation

• Wavelength
• Frequency
• Intensity
• Velocity
• Straight line propagation
• Spectrum
• Inverse square law
Ultraviolet radiation hazards
• Common sources: sun, UV lamps (‘black lights’),
welder’s arc
• Some devices may emit only a small amount of
visible light while emitting intense UV radiation
• Especially dangerous to the eyes since they do not
dilate readily in response to UV -- retinal burns
• Photosensitization to UV can occur from certain
dermal chemicals and oral drugs (e.g. antibiotics)
Types of UV Radiation

Type Wavelength Effect

UV-A 315-400 nm Little effect


“Black light” Region

UV-B 280-315 nm Skin cancer


possible
UV-C 100-280 nm Cornea damage
Visible radiation hazards

• Common sources: sun, all visible lamps


• Major damage likely only if intense beam is
focused on the retina
• Eye usually registers pain before serious
damage occurs
Infrared Hazards

• Major effect is burns


• Eye is not very sensitive so can be damaged
if IR is intense
• Skin burns possible but usually avoided
due to pain from heat before serious injury
occurs
Radio-frequency and Microwave
Hazards
• Sources include analytical instruments (e.g.
NMR), cathode ray tubes (including oscilloscopes,
TVs, and computer monitors), microwave ovens,
and communications devices (e.g. cell phones)
• Biological effects to man uncertain
• Suggestion of sterility problems, birth defects and
cataracts from microwaves
• Pacemakers are effected by microwaves
LASER HAZARDS

• LASER = Light Amplified by Stimulated


Emission of Radiation
• Especially hazardous due to very narrow
beam which can be very intense
• Lens of eye may concentrate energy onto
retina by another 100,000 times
LASER HAZARDS (cont’d)
• Use minimum power laser possible for job
• Keep laser beam off or blocked when not in use
• Post warning signs when lasers are in use
• Never look directly at a laser beam or align it by
sighting over it
• If possible, use laser in lighted room so that pupils
will be constricted
• Do not depend on sunglasses for shielding.
• Make sure any goggles used are for the
wavelength of the laser used and are of adequate
optical density
Ionizing Radiation
Characteristics
Mass Charge Stopped by
Alpha 4 +2 4 cm air
Beta 0 -1 6-300 cm
air
Lowered
10% by
X-ray 0 0 15-30 cm
tissue
Gamma 0 0 50 cm
Ionizing Radiation Units

• Curie (Ci) = 37 billion disintegrations/sec


• Roentgen (R) = energy which will produce
1 billion ion pairs/mL air
• Rad = 100 ergs absorbed energy/gm
• Rem = absorbed dose in rads multiplied by
factor related to type of radiation (1 for
beta, gamma, X-ray; 20 for alpha)
Ionizing radiation damage

• Tissue burns, minor and/or destructive


• DNA breaks leading to cell death or
mutation, potentially cancer
Human radiation dose-effect data

DOSE (rems) PROBABLE EFFECT


0-25 No noticeable effect
25-100 Slight blood changes
100-200 Vomiting, fatigue
(recovery in weeks)
200-600 Vomiting, severe blood
changes, hemmorhage
(recovery in 1-12 mo.)
600-1000 Survival unlikely
Regulatory mandates
on ionizing radiation

• Nuclear Regulatory Commission


occupational standard (10 CFR 20) is 5
rems/yr for whole body radiation. [Note
that a lifetime exposure to 5 rem total is
thought to shorten life by 1-3 weeks.]
• Standard for nonwork environment is 170
mrem/yr.
Ionizing radiation
General precautions
• Confine radioactive chemicals to small areas
which are posted
• Cover bench tops with plastic-backed absorbent
material
• Use trays to catch spills
• Wear gloves to protect hands and lab coat to catch
splatters
• Dispose of contaminated clothes appropriately
Radiation monitoring devices

• Film badges – after the fact measurement,


developed weekly or monthly
• Geiger counter – best for high energy beta,
gamma
• Scintillation counter – used for wipe
surveys