Radioactive pollution: sources, effects, prevention

Radioactive pollution in which radiation is produced by radioactive elements and cause harmful effect on living organisms including animals and human beings.

The types of elements that produce radioactive radiation are called radioactive elements. The phenomenon of emitting radioactive radiation is called radioactivity.

Examples of radioactive elements are

  • Helium
  • Neon
  • Organ
  • Krypton
  • Xenon

Sources of radioactive pollution

There are two main sources of radiations

  • Natural source
  • Artificial source

Natural source

Natural sources of radiations include

  • Cosmic rays
  • Soil radiation 

Cosmic rays

The high-speed electromagnetic waves which travel from space to the earth are called cosmic rays. They highly affect the atmosphere. These are high energy radiations. There are two types of cosmic rays

  • Primary cosmic rays
  • Secondary cosmic rays

Primary cosmic rays

The cosmic rays which do not interact with the matter of earth are called Primary cosmic rays. Primary cosmic rays mostly consist of proton and alpha particle.

Secondary cosmic rays

When primary cosmic rays interact with the matter of earth or atmosphere is called Secondary cosmic rays. At sea level mostly Secondary cosmic rays are present.

Soil radiation

Different radioactive elements are present in the soil. These elements during their decay process emit radiations. Soil radioactive elements include radium, uranium, carbon, etc. radioactive minerals are also

Artificial sources

Different human activities are sources of radioactive pollution. The use of  nuclear material in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the best example of it.

  • Different nuclear tests
  • Medical source
  • Industrial waste of nuclear material

Nuclear tests

Different types of nuclear tests are carried out for different purposes. They include nuclear fission reaction and nuclear fusion reaction. Many types of radiation are released into the atmosphere. They are a major source of environmental radiation pollution.

Many particles of radioactive material that are released in the atmosphere are mixed into the air. They are at a height of 6 to 7 kilometers.

They come back to the earth with rainwater. Through this water, they are absorbed into the soil. This water is then absorbed by plants. Thus these materials can include in the food chain.

Medical source

X-rays are applied to the body parts for medical treatment. Several types of rays are present in it. For example, gamma rays are used for the treatment of cancer. They can cause many other effects on the body. Several other living tissues other than cancerous cells can be destroyed by this process.

Industrial waste of nuclear material

In the industries, many types of radioisotopes are used for various purposes. The waste of this material is disposed of by the soil. This can cause radioactive pollution.

Radioactive waste

The waste material which is obtained from nuclear activities is called radioactive waste. It can be classified into two

  • Low-level radioactive waste
  • High-level radioactive waste

Low-level radioactive waste

  • It is the type of radioactive waste that needs less time to decay than other waste nuclear material.
  • Approximately it needs 10 to 50 years for decay.
  • The half-life of this type of waste is small.
  • Its volume is higher than the high-level radioactive waste.

High-level radioactive waste

  • The radioactive waste needs a long period of time for the decaying process
  • They have extremely high half-lives. Approximately need 100,000 years.
  • They have less size than the low-level radioactive waste.
  • Genetic effect
  • Nongenetic effect

Effect of radioactive pollution

Genetic effect and radioactive pollution

Some time the radioactive material is inhaled inside the body. Some radiations have the ability to penetrate into the cells. They can cause a change in the chromosome structure. Thus genetic damage occurs through this process. Change in the structure of genetic material is known as mutation. It passes through gametes into the next generation.

Non genetic effect of Radioactive pollution

Nongenetic effects do not pass into the progeny. This type of effect occurs mostly on the external parts of the body. It includes

  • Tumors
  • Leukemia
  • Birth defect
  • Eyes defect
  • Skin damage
  • Miscarriage
  • Death
  • Hair loss
  • Blood changes
  • Vomiting
  • Acute somatic effects

Preventive the measure of radioactive pollution

Reviewed by:
Dr. Muhammad Adnan Asghar (Ph.D.)

Chinese Academy of Sciences Fuzhou, Fujian

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