How does Radiation Affect the Human Body and How Can We (As a Radiologist) Protect Ourselves in the Work Place? - Essay Prowess

How does Radiation Affect the Human Body and How Can We (As a Radiologist) Protect Ourselves in the Work Place?


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How does Radiation Affect the Human Body and How Can We (As a Radiologist) Protect Ourselves in the Work Place?


Radiation in high doses is potentially life threatening in human beings. Damage to the human body brought about by exposure to radiation is dependent on the variation of radiation, time under exposure and the body parts exposed to radiation. The human body ia affected by doses of radiation in a manner which is either sudden, prompt or delayed. Prompt effects of radiation are in most cases evident a few months after exposure (Blyth & Sykes, 2011). Delayed effects to radiation do manifest themselves in the human body years after exposure resulting in complex medical conditions such as cancer and deformities in unborn children. It is critical to make note that the average number of individuals among the US population developing one or more of the many forms of cancer is 25 per every 100 people. This essay seeks to look into the adverse effects of radiation on the human body and more so explore ways in which radiologists can take protective measures in their professional roles.

Effects of radiation on the human body

Radiation is released when atomic nuclei in an unstable element’s atoms decay bringing about the release of ionized particles referred to as ionizing radiation. If the degree of ionizing radiation is high, this tends to be fatal to human beings. It is well known that when these ionized particles reach organic substances like human tissue the level of radiation will determine the effects on the human tissue leaving the victim with burns or highly prone to cancer (Mettler, 2012).

The Roentgen Equivalent in Man (REM) is the standard international unit for calibrating doses of radiation such that it is the determinant of the degree of radiation harmful to human tissue. It is a result of the absorbed radiation in rads multiplied with the weight factor (Douple, Mabuchi, Cullings, Preston, Kodama, Shimizu & Shore, 2011). The weight factor represents the propensity of a radiation dose to cause biological injuries on human tissue. Scientists provide that doses of less than 50 REM do not bring about significant effects on the human body other than changes in the blood tissue. REM levels bordering 200 are known to bring about physical illness though the chance of a fatality at these levels is highly unlikely. Radiation doses ranging from 200REM to 1000 REM is known to bring about highly serious illnesses in human beings such that the more the radiation dosage nears 1000 REM the more likely the chance that the degree of damage on human tissue will be severe (Douple et al. 2011).

Before the Second World War ended, two atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki leaving the inhabitants of these two cites affected by two forms of radiation. The first form of radiation was as a result of the explosion of the atomic bomb on impact while the second form of radiation resulted from the fallout that resulted soon afterwards (Douple et al. 2011). Radiation from the fallouts resulted from the radioactive debris that was left floating in the air after the atomic explosion.  Fallouts are known to rise after an explosion then gradually descend onto the ground. Scientific research provides that doses of radiation reaching levels of 100 REM can cause what is referred to as radioactive sickness leading to the loss of lymphocytes, feelings of extreme nausea, headache and vomiting. When REM doses near 300, affected persons are known to instantly loose their hair with cells in the nervous system and the digestive system’s digestive tract being adversely affected (Douple et al. 2011). If the radiation doses exceeding 300REM and above cause affected persons to looses more lymphocytes thus seriously limiting the effectiveness of the human body’s immunity levels. This leaves the body prone to puny but infectious illnesses.

Radiation is known to influence the human body’s ability to produce blood clotting agents adversely such that the production of platelets is compromised leaving the body prone to incidences of internal bleeding (Douple et al. 2011). This implies that a small cut on the body of an individual exposed to these levels of radiation will probably bleed more as the ability of the blood to clot is compromised. Experts in the field of radiation provide statistics which imply the all human beings affected by radiation levels of 450REM, nearly half of them suffer fatal radiation effects. They also provide that radiation levels exceeding 800REM are enough to kill any exposed human being.

Millisieverts per hour acronym (mSv) is the approved unit of measure sanction by the global commission for Radiological Protection. For instance, X-ray investigation on gastrointestinal organs is known to expose individuals to radiation levels of 14 mSv (Douple et al. 2011). The global commission for Radiological Protection only recommends a radiation level exposure ceiling of 500 mSv for volunteers willing to participate in efforts towards averting nuclear radiation crisis situations. For volunteers in rescue operations where the radiation levels near 1000mSv, the Radiological Protection Commission allows for the evacuation of human lives and the prevention of serious injuries resulting from high levels of radiation exposure (Douple et al. 2011).

There are a number of signs as well as symptoms that occur on a human being upon the acute exposure to radiation for a period not exceeding 24 hours in mSv’s. a degree of radiation ranging from zero to 250 presents no damage on human health. From 250 to a level of 1000, most individuals are known to loose their appetite, experience nausea and get more prone to damage on internal organs such as the spleen, lymph nodes and the bone marrow tissue (Holmberg, Czarwinski & Mettler, 2010). Levels ranging from 1000 to 3000 cause people to experience mild or even very severe cases of nausea, appetite loss, and severe infections with a high chance of recovery. From 3000mSv to 6000mSv, nausea levels are severe as is appetite loss, peeling of the skin and chances of death due to hemorrhaging (Miller, Schueler & Balter, 2012). From 6000mSv to 1000mSv, an individual has low chances of survival as the nervous system is in most cases severely affected. For levels exceeding 10000mSv, physical incapacitation and even death is expected with survivors expected to suffer from cancer (Miller, Schueler & Balter, 2012).

Occupational safety from radiological hazards

Radiation avoidance in the medical profession from X-ray radiation or gamma radiation is realized through the use of techniques that ensure the shortest possible exposure time to radiation. Other methods employ the application of radiation blocking films, accurate positioning of radioactive beams, the use of lead aprons and other radiation shielding materials (Durán, Hian, Miller, Le Heron, Padovani & Vano, 2013). The second line of defense with regard to radiation exposure is through the application of radiation damage minimization techniques which are aimed at limiting the effects of radiation on the biological functions of the body. Minimizing the effects form radioactive damage is enabled through the embodiment of interventions aimed at limiting the potential adverse effects of the body from radiation (Durán et al. 2013). This implies that this falls in the field of science concerned with biochemistry, cellular biology and human genetics.


Blyth, B. J., & Sykes, P. J. (2011). Radiation-induced bystander effects: what are they, and how relevant are they to human radiation exposures?. Radiation Research, 176(2), 139-157.

Douple, E. B., Mabuchi, K., Cullings, H. M., Preston, D. L., Kodama, K., Shimizu, Y. & Shore, R. E. (2011). Long-term radiation-related health effects in a unique human population: lessons learned from the atomic bomb survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, 5(S1), S122-S133.

Durán, A., Hian, S. K., Miller, D. L., Le Heron, J., Padovani, R., & Vano, E. (2013). Recommendations for occupational radiation protection in interventional cardiology. Catheterization and Cardiovascular Interventions.

Holmberg, O., Czarwinski, R., & Mettler, F. (2010). The importance and unique aspects of radiation protection in medicine. European journal of radiology, 76(1), 6-10.

Mettler, F. A. (2012). Medical effects and risks of exposure to ionising radiation. Journal of Radiological Protection, 32(1), N9.

Miller, D. L., Schueler, B. A., & Balter, S. (2012). New recommendations for occupational radiation protection. Journal of the American College of Radiology, 9(5), 366-368.



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