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We live in a radioactive environment. Humans are subject to background radiation all the time and the normal levels are well known. It is in the air we breath, the food we eat, and the places in which we live and work. There is evidence to suggest that unless radiation exposure reaches about ten (10) times that normal background level, there is no harm to humans from radiation. Furthermore, there appears to be evidence that radiation at or near the normal background level may be beneficial to, and even necessary for, life.
For low levels of radiation exposure (under 10,000 mrem), the biological effects are so small they may not be detected. The body’s natural repair mechanisms often repair any damage to the cells before any effect is felt or detected. This protective effect of low levels of radiation is called radiation hormesis. There are currently no data to establish the occurrence of cancer following exposure to low doses of radiation.
Too much radiation, like too much of anything, is harmful.
The effects of too much radiation (over 50,000 mrem) can range from mild gastrointestinal problems (such as nausea and vomiting) to changes in the blood, to damage to the central nervous system.
High levels of radiation dose have caused cancers (leukemia, breast, ovarian, pancreatic etc) and led to death. There is no doubt about that. However, there are myths on the subject. Most people who died at Hiroshima did not die from the radiation; most died from the blast of the bomb and subsequent fires.
The number of incidents in the first half-century of a new technology is remarkably small. More people die each day in mining coal throughout the world or on the roads of the United States, than are killed by high levels of radiation.
Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information of the American Nuclear Society
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