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How dangerous is radioactive radiation?
In the face of the nuclear disaster in Japan, many people wonder how dangerous is radioactive radiation? The private media landscape in particular is currently creating a lot of confusion. Lay representations and reports prepared for the sensation increasingly unsettle people. It is therefore good to let experts have their say on the possible health effects of nuclear radiation. The medical community IPPNW offers a few valuable answers here.
Science has now agreed that there is no threshold, and even the lowest doses can cause damage. A distinction is made between two different scenarios. On the one hand, the acute high-dose radiation to which the workers and the rescue personnel at the reactor are exposed, on the other hand, the chronic low radiation, which has lasted for at least decades, to which the population and the rescue personnel in the vicinity of the nuclear catastrophe in Japan are exposed.
It must be taken into account that the geographical extent of which areas are or will be affected by the radioactive fallout or cloud is far from being foreseeable. This also applies to the radiation dose and the composition of the radioactive fission products.
With High dose radiation (high dose exposure) we have to do it from 0.5 Sievert (Sv). The cells hit show severe malfunctions. They can no longer divide or even die. The severity of the immediate effects depends on the radiation dose. Immediate acute damage to the organism in acute radiation sickness includes:
- Immediate weakening of the immune system; Infections
- change in blood count and bleeding
- damage to the gastrointestinal tract; Vomit
- Damage to internal organs and the central nervous system
Acute damage (after minutes or hours) or subacute (after days or months) immediate effects start from 0.5 Sv (= 500 millisievert) with nausea and vomiting. Between 1 and 3 Sv (1000 - 3000 millisievert) bleeding and mucosal ulcers occur. At 5 Sv (5000 millisievert) half of the irradiated people die. From 10 Sv (10,000 millisievert) there is no chance of survival.
We are dealing with low radiation (low dose exposure) in the range from 0 to 0.5 Sv (0 - 500 millisievert). In the past 25 years, this problem has been the subject of investigations as a result of the Chernobyl reactor disaster and, for example, of studies on workers in nuclear facilities. (PDF)
Possible diseases that arise as late damage due to low radiation are:
- cancer, including leukemia
- Genetic damage in subsequent generations, severe malformations (including Down syndrome, stillbirth, miscarriage, "missing children")
- numerous possible non-cancerous diseases (cardiovascular damage, high blood pressure, diabetes, brain changes, eye damage, susceptibility to infectious diseases)
Note: 1 sievert (Sv) = 1000 millisievert (mSv) = 1,000,000 microsievert (µSv)
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