What is dangerous gamma radiation and how to protect it from it
Among the variety of electromagnetic radiation, near the X-rays, very short electromagnetic waves have found themselves "shelter" - this is gamma radiation. Having the same nature as light, it propagates in space with the same speed of 300,000 km / sec.
However, due to its special properties, gamma radiation has the strongest poisoning and traumatic effect on living organisms. Let's find out what gamma radiation is, how dangerous it is and how to protect it from it.
What is dangerous is gamma radiation
The sources of gamma radiation are cosmic rays, the interaction and decay of the nuclei of atoms of radioactive elements and other processes. Coming from distant cosmic depths or being born on Earth, this radiation has the strongest ionizing effect on man.
In the microcosm there is a regularity, the shorter the wavelength of electromagnetic radiation, the greater the energy of its quanta (portions). Therefore, it can be argued that gamma radiation is a quantum flow with very high energy.
What is dangerous gamma radiation? The mechanism of the destructive effect of gamma quanta is as follows.
- Due to the huge penetrating ability, "energetic" gamma quanta easily penetrate into living cells, causing their damage and poisoning.
- On the way of their movement they leave the molecules (ions) destroyed by them. These damaged particles ionize a new batch of molecules.
- This transformation of cells causes the strongest changes in its various structures. And the changed or destroyed components of irradiated cells decompose and begin to act like poisons.
- The final stage is the birth of new, but defective cells that can not perform the necessary functions.
The danger of gamma radiation is exacerbated by the absence of a mechanism in humans capable of sensing this effect up to lethal doses.
Different human organs have individual sensitivity to its effects. The most vulnerable to the attack of this radiation are the rapidly dividing cells of the hematopoietic system, digestive tract, lymphatic glands, genitalia, hair follicles and DNA structure. Penetrated in them gamma quanta, destroy the coherence of all processes and lead to numerous mutations in the mechanism of heredity.
A particular danger of gamma radiation lies in its ability to accumulate in the body, as well as the presence of a latent period of exposure.
Where gamma radiation is applied
With uncontrolled, spontaneous effects of this radiation, the consequences can be very heavy. And given that it also has an "incubation" period, retribution can overtake many years and even generations.
However, the inquisitive minds of scientists were able to find numerous applications of gamma radiation:
- sterilization of certain products, medical instruments and equipment;
- control over the internal state of products (gamma-defectoscopy);
- determination of the depth of wells in geology;
- accurate measurement of distances overcome by space vehicles;
- dosed irradiation of plants allows obtaining their mutations, from which high-yielding varieties are then selected.
As an effective therapeutic method of treatment, gamma radiation is used in medicine. This technique is called radiation therapy. It uses a feature of gamma radiation to act primarily on rapidly dividing cells.
This method is used to treat cancer, sarcoma in cases where other methods of treatment are ineffective. Dosage and directional irradiation can suppress the vital activity of pathological tumor cells.
Where else does gamma radiation occur
Now we know what gamma radiation is and realize the risks associated with it. Therefore, we constantly look for new ways to protect ourselves from it. But a century ago the attitude towards radioactivity was more careless.
Since 1902, radioactive glaze covered objects of ceramics and jewelry, with the help of such radiating additives, colored glass was produced. Therefore carefully stored antique souvenirs, can be a mine of delayed action.
- A considerable danger may be found in items found or purchased in the territory of disbanded military units, in old medical or measuring equipment.
- Many diligent owners find unfamiliar objects in scrap metal, sort them out because of curiosity or in the hope of finding an application for them. Before you take such a thing in your hands, try to find out the surrounding radiation background.
How to protect yourself from gamma radiation
Our whole life passes against the background of natural electromagnetic radiation. And the contribution of gamma quanta to this background is quite significant. However, despite their periodic outbursts, their harm to living organisms is minimal. Here, earthlings save huge distances from the sources of these radiations. Quite different is terrestrial sources. The nuclear power plants are particularly dangerous: their nuclear reactors, technological circuits and other equipment. The organization of protection against the gamma radiation of personnel at these and other similar facilities includes the following activities.
- Protection by time, that is, by limiting the time of work. The liquidators of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant were given several minutes to carry out specific work. Procrastination caused an additional dose of radiation and severe consequences.
- Protection by distance (from working to the danger zone).
- Method of protection by a barrier (material).
For effective protection from gamma radiation, materials with a large atomic number and high density are used. These criteria are satisfied by:
- lead glass;
Lead absorption is the best intensity of γ-ray absorption. A lead plate with a thickness of 1 cm, 5 cm of concrete and 10 cm of water - this radiation is weakened twice, however, they are not an insurmountable obstacle for them. The use of lead as a shield against exposure to gamma radiation is limited by its low melting point. Therefore in hot zones expensive metals are used:
Special materials are used to make protective clothing for employees working in the area of radiation sources or radioactive contamination. Its basis is rubber, plastic or rubber with a special filler made of lead and its compounds.
Radiation shields can be used as protective equipment.
Protection from gamma radiation is also a very cautious attitude towards the things around us that seem to be quite harmless: diving watches, sextants, icing sensors, etc. Their dials contain radium salts 226, which are sources of alpha and gamma radiation.
Of all types of radiation, gamma radiation has the greatest penetrating power. In this case, the most effective way to protect against external gamma radiation are special shelters, and in their absence - cellars of houses. The thicker the walls, the more secure the shelter. The basement of a multi-storey house can weaken the effect of radiation 1000 times.
Unfortunately, the danger of radiation contamination can arise quite suddenly. And irradiation can get people completely unrelated to nuclear energy. We hope that the information obtained will help you to maintain your health and protect yourself from the threat of additional radiation exposure.