How to protect yourself from alpha radiation
The discovery of radioactivity and its unusual properties gave rise to a huge interest in the scientific world and caused a lot of questions.
A huge breakthrough in the study of this phenomenon was the classic experience of the English scientist E. Rutherford, who placed the radioactive emitter in a magnetic field. To the surprise of the experimenters, the radioactive beam was divided into 3 parts. The rays that experienced the minimum deviation were named - alpha rays.
What is alpha radiation? What did it become for mankind - friend, helper or enemy? What is the harm from it and how to protect yourself from alpha radiation?
What is alpha radiation?
Continuing his experiments, Rutherford found that this radiation undergoes a marked deviation not only in the magnetic field, but also in the electric field. And clearly gravitates to the negative pole. A whole series of similar experiments performed in vacuum installations made it possible to determine what alpha radiation is - positive particles whose parameters coincide exactly with the parameters of ... helium nuclei. The ordinary helium atom has only two electrons. After parting with them, you get a twice ionized atom, that is, the core of helium. Therefore speaking of α-radiation, it is perfectly legitimate to assert that these are double ionized helium atoms.
Alpha radiation sources
There are several natural and artificial sources of alpha radiation.
- Nuclear alpha decay of heavy elements (radium, thorium, etc.) at which helium nuclei are emitted.
- Accelerated helium nuclei, striving to embrace earth gravity from the cosmic depths together with interstellar gas flows.
- Experiments conducted in radioisotope laboratories and on accelerators of charged particles.
- Uranium industry facilities and nuclear reactors.
How does alpha radiation behave in different environments?
The initial velocity of the alpha particles is within 14-20 thousand km / s. And since these are quite heavy particles (they are more massive than beta particles 7300 times!), Their ionizing ability is very high.
So, depending on the initial energy, the alpha particle, moving in the air at 15 ° C and normal atmospheric pressure, is able to create 150,000-250,000 ion pairs. The energy costs for ionization are very high, so the lifetime of these particles is very short. As these particles slow down, their ionization capacity increases.
The free path of alpha particles in the air is in the range of 3-11 cm, and in solid and liquid media in total - hundredths of a millimeter.
How can you protect yourself from alpha radiation?
In direct proportion to the mean free path, the damaging ability of alpha radiation is found. It is very small. With a large ionizing ability, alpha particles penetrate into the tissues of the human body only to a shallow depth, damaging only the surface of the skin. It is believed that external α-irradiation is not dangerous. But getting these massive particles inside the body (with food, water or through damaged skin) is fraught with serious poisoning because of their strong ionizing effect, the formation of oxidants, free hydrogen and oxygen. Their accumulation in the pituitary gland, adrenal cortex and other tissues leads to pathology in the work of various systems and organs, to a decrease in the adaptive properties of the organism.
Of all the types of ionizing radiation, the alpha-particle flux is considered to be the most harmless, since it does not require special protection for external irradiation. It is enough to move away from the radiation source by 10-20 centimeters. However, a screen made of plain paper, cloth or a thin layer of aluminum and clothing, completely absorbs this radiation.
The real danger arises only when there is a threat of internal exposure. To avoid this trouble, do not allow the penetration of radionuclides into the body, and use personal protective equipment:
overalls, helmets, armlets and shoes of special materials;
- to protect from the danger of the eye, it is sufficient to use shields made of plexiglas;
- To protect sensitive skin, dermatological pastes and creams should be used.
Among the recommendations explaining how to protect against alpha radiation, there are interesting information about the effect of certain food products on the process of removing radionuclides from the body.
This ability is possessed by foods containing vitamins B and C. To treat small doses of radiation with a fairly good effect, use quail eggs. They are extremely rich in vitamins, amino acids and other substances with a preventive radioprotective effect. To the number of plants that do not accumulate radioactive elements, belongs to Jerusalem artichoke.
To detect alpha radiation, conventional dosimeters can not be used because of its low penetrating power. But the Geiger counter with its clear, dry clicks warns about the existence of such a threat, which will allow taking measures to protect against alpha radiation.
Application of alpha radiation
The knowledge gained about the physicochemical properties of these rays made it possible not only to learn how to protect ourselves from alpha radiation, but also to develop the tactics of alpha therapy. It uses the isotopes, radon, thoron obtained under alpha radiation, which have short lifetimes and are rapidly excreted from the body.
The range of possible procedures includes:
- radon baths;
- drinking radon water;
- radon applications and irrigation;
- inhalation of air with a radon component.
Physicians believe that the use of alpha particles in therapy is more effective and safe for patients than beta radiation. Their impact is more focused and much less procedures are required to kill cancer cells.
Alpha-therapy has anti-inflammatory, analgesic and soothing effect, therefore it is indicated for the treatment of gynecological, cardiovascular diseases, as well as problems with the musculoskeletal system.
Thus, the huge research work of a whole galaxy of physicists has made it possible to establish the limits of the danger of this radiation, the methods of preventing and protecting it from its effects. And the developed technique of alpha therapy returned health to a huge number of patients.