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Harmful Effects of Radiation on Human Body

With about more than 60 naturally-occurring radioactive materials found in the environment (air, water, and soil), radiation is everywhere around us – either in these natural ways or with man-made radiations. While radiation is mostly used with safety measures, accidents (for example the 2011 earthquake in Fukushima, Japan, and the 1986 Chernobyl explosion) may occur which may prove as great sources of radiation poisoning. Now, the effects of these radiations on the human body can either be mild or life-threatening.

Acute Radiation Syndrome

Acute Radiation Syndrome a.k.a. Radiation Sickness is a rare condition – occurs due to extreme events – could be accidental or an inevitable exposure due to certain medical/other processes. These extreme radiations can be extremely dangerous. It demands a really high radiation exposure on the human body which can be compared equally to roughly 18,000 chest x-rays distributed over your body, within a short period of time.

A short period of exposure to this extreme radiation can lead to initial symptoms (within few hours) like nausea and vomiting. This condition can also progress to cause death in its proceeding weeks.

Prevention and Removal

Studies and researchers still do not have a cure for radiation sickness. However, there do exist methods of prevention and removal of a certain extent of radiations from the body. It is recommended that anybody with the possibility of radiation exposure should seek medical attention without neglecting the possible risks.

Effects on Human Body Parts

There are various types of radiations and each radiation may affect a one or more of the body parts. The intensity may also vary from case to case. Given below is a list of certain body organs that specifically get affected by radiation. In a general approach, radiation destroys the cells in the body that divide rapidly.

1. Heart: Exposure to radiation of 1000 to 5000 rems to the human body causes immediate damage to small blood vessels, cause heart failure and may also lead to instant death.

2. Brain: Exposure of radiation above 5,000 rems leads to damage of brain cells. Brain cells do not reproduce therefore exposure of radiation below 5,000 rems does not have any damage. In extreme conditions, radiation destroys small blood vessels and kills nerve cells which may lead to seizures and immediate death.

3. Blood System: Radiation above 100 rems results in mild radiation sickness. This is the reduction in the count of blood’s lymphocyte cells. This reduction leads to weakening of the person thus more prone to infection. The initial symptoms of mild radiation sickness are very similar to that of regular flu thus may often go unnoticed. Only a blood count test helps in the identification.

4. Hair: Exposure of radiation above 200 rems, leads to severe hair loss including hair loss in clumps as well.

5. Thyroid: Thyroid glands are susceptible to radioiodine (radioactive iodine). Radioiodine in large quantities is capable of destroying all or some parts of the thyroid gland. Potassium iodide is a compound that helps to reduce the effects of this exposure thus consumption of it is recommended.

6. Gastrointestinal Tract: Radiation levels above 200 rems result in the damage of the intestinal tract lining that in-turn causes nausea, vomiting with blood and diarrhea.

7. Reproductive System: The reproductive tract is another body organ whose cells divide rapidly. Therefore, even at radiation levels as low as 200 rems, the reproductive tract is prone to damage. In the long run, few radiation sickness victims may become sterile.

Written by MedPlus