A Small Dose of Radiation

  • An Introduction into the Health Effects of Radiation

Radiation Dossier

Name: Nonionizing Radiation

  • Use: power transmission, communication, LEDs, light bullbs, heating, cooking, microwave ovens, vision, lasers, photosynthesis (sunlight), mobile phones, WiFi, etc.
  • Source: Ultraviolet light, visible light, infrared radiation, microwaves, radio & TV, mobile phones, power transmission
  • Recommended exposure: different depending on source, i.e. sunlight can damage skin
  • Absorption: depends on source
  • Sensitive individuals: variable, e.g. fair skinned children (sunburn)
  • Toxicity/symptoms: Depends on source. Solar radiation: sunburn, cataracts, cancer; microwave radiation: warming of skin or internal organs; controversy exists around exposure to low frequency energy such as AC power lines.
  • Regulatory facts: government regulates exposure
  • FDA and FCC set a SAR limit of 1.6 W/kg for mobile phones.
  • General facts: long history of use
  • Environmental: Our dependency on energy results in a range of consequences, for example drilling for oil and mining coal to run power plants to generate electricity, in turn mercury is released in the atmosphere from burning coal.
  • Recommendations: depending on individual sensitivity; limit exposure to solar radiation (ultraviolet radiation); reduce energy consumption

Name: Ionizing Radiation

  • Use: nuclear power, medical x-rays, medical diagnostics, scientific research, cancer treatment, cathode ray tube displays
  • Source: Radon, x-rays, radioactive material produce alpha, beta, and gamma radiation, cosmic rays from the sun and space
  • Recommended daily intake: none (not essential)
  • Absorption: interaction with atoms of tissue
  • Sensitive individuals: children, developing organisms
  • Toxicity/symptoms: damages DNA leading to cancer
  • Regulatory facts: heavily regulated
  • General facts: long history of exposure to low levels
  • Environmental: many nuclear cleanup sites contain radioactive waste that must be moved off site to prevent possible leakage
  • Recommendations: limit exposure, monitor workplace exposure where applicable

Radiation Chapter

PowerPoint presentation

More Information and References

European, Asian, and international Agencies

  • England - Health Protection Agency (HPA) - Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards. (accessed: 5 May 2009).
    The radiation section of HPA does research, provides information and advice on the effects of radiation on humans and the environment.
  • World Health Organization (WHO) - Ultraviolet radiation (accessed: 5 May 2009).
    Site contains information on the global efforts to reduce UV (sun-light) radiation exposure.

North American Agencies

  • US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - Radiation Protection - Calculate Your Radiation Dose (accessed: 5 May 2009).
    This site shows you how to examine your current exposure to radiation.

Non-Government Organizations

  • Health Physics Society (accessed: 5 May 2009).
    Site has extensive information about the health physics and radiation protection.


  • Radium Girls: Women and Industrial Health Reform, 1910-1935. by Claudia Clark, Publisher: University of North Carolina Pr; ISBN: 0807823317; (June 1997). 384 pages.
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