Radiation Definition

Learn about the definition of radiation, its types, effects, and real-world examples like the Chernobyl disaster. Discover the statistics behind radiation exposure and therapy.

What is Radiation?

Radiation is the emission of energy as electromagnetic waves or as moving subatomic particles, especially high-energy particles that cause ionization. It can come from natural sources like the sun or man-made sources like X-rays.

Types of Radiation

There are two main types of radiation: ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation has enough energy to remove tightly bound electrons from atoms, creating ions. Examples include X-rays, gamma rays, and some types of nuclear decay. Non-ionizing radiation has enough energy to move atoms in a molecule around or cause them to vibrate, but not enough to remove electrons. Examples include visible light, radio waves, and microwaves.

Effects of Radiation

Radiation can have both beneficial and harmful effects. In medicine, radiation therapy is used to treat cancer by targeting and destroying cancerous cells. However, exposure to high levels of radiation can cause radiation sickness, cancer, and even death.

Case Study: Chernobyl Disaster

One of the worst nuclear disasters in history was the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. A reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine exploded, releasing a huge amount of radioactive material into the atmosphere. This resulted in the evacuation of thousands of people from the area and the long-term health effects are still being felt today.

Radiation Statistics

  • According to the World Health Organization, around 3 million people receive radiation therapy for cancer each year.
  • In the United States, the average person is exposed to about 6.2 millisieverts of radiation annually, with medical procedures accounting for about 14% of that exposure.

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