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Effects of Radiation Pollution
The radiation pollution effects vary depending on the amount of radiation to which we are exposed and on the sensitivity of each exposed individual. Thus, while exposure to high amounts of radiation almost always generate serious diseases (cancer is the most common radiation-induced disease) or immediate death, serious life-threatening diseases may develop even from exposure to small amounts of radiation but, in general, over long periods of time, especially in sensitive individuals (the genetic inheritance plays an important role in how sensitive an individual may be to radiation pollution). This is why there is no safe exposure limit to radiation pollution.
Here are some general facts related to radiation exposure effects:
- Any amount of radiation may cause cancer, especially in sensitive individuals. Or, in other words, any exposure to radiation may cause some risk. Thus, it is always safer to minimize as much as possible the exposure to radiation!
- Cancer due to radiation exposure at lower doses usually develops years after the actual exposure.
- While the risk of developing cancer increases with the dose of radiation, the risk may vary largely between individuals.
Exposure to High Amounts of Radiation - Radiation Pollution and Cancer
Cancer generation is the most typical health effect of radiation exposure, especially when high or moderate amounts of radiation are involved (in general regardless of the exposure period). Lung cancer is a typical example of the effect of exposure to radon, which is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. (please note that the risk of developing lung cancer increases with smoking).
Thyroid tumors / cancer may also develop due to the effect of radioactive iodine that accumulates in the thyroid. This is why, when radiation accident occurs, the intake of non-radioactive dose of iodine is taken as precaution in order to leave no space for the radioactive iodine to bind and accumulate.
Skin cancer may also develop as a result to prolonged UV exposure at tanning saloons and/or beaches, especially since the ozone layer gets weaker in protecting us.
The many years of monitoring of radiation effects from detonation of nuclear bombs in Japan in 1940’s, showed that cancers may develop immediately following the exposure to radiation or after shorter or longer periods (up to 30 years from the exposure) of time since the exposure occurred.
Exposure to Low Amounts of Radiation over Long Periods of Time
The health effects of exposure to low amounts of radiation over longer times are not well-known, but the genetic material may be threatened through mutations with unpredictable overall effects. Thus, genetic birth defects and retardation are possible due to parent exposures. Also other health problems may develop affecting the neurological, reproductive or cardiac systems. These may or may not be followed by cancer. Other factors may influence the development of diseases due to radiation.
Hypothyroidism may also be a radiation cause due to the destruction of thyroid gland by radioactive accumulated iodine.