Irradiation and Contamintation (Contamination (What is contamination?…
Irradiation and Contamintation
What is radiation?
Exposure to radiation
Objects near a radioactive source are irradiated by it.
Means that they are exposed to it
Irradiating something does not make it radioactive
What is contamination?
Radioactive particles getting onto objects
If unwanted radioactive particles get onto or into an object, then the said object has become contaminated.
e.g. if you touch a radioactive substance without wearing gloves, then your hands would become contaminated.
Contaminating atoms may then decay
Can be harmful
Contamination is especially dangerous as the radioactive particles may get inside your body.
The seriousness of irradiation and contamination depends on the source
Outside the body, beta and gamma are the most dangerous
This is because they can penetrate the skin and vital organs
Alpha is less dangerous because it cannot penetrate the skin and is easily stopped by small air gaps
Inside the body, Alpha is the most dangerous
Because they do all of their damage in a localised area
a concern compared to
when working with Alpha sources
Beta sources are less damaging, as radiation is absorbed over a wider area
Some pass out of the body altogether
Gamma sources are the least damaging, as they mostly pass straight out, and they have the lowest ionising power.
Gloves and tongs should be used when handling substances
This avoids particles getting stuck to your fingers, or under your nails.
Some industrial workers wear suits to stop them from breathing in particles
Keeping sources in lead-lined boxes and standing behind barriers when using sources are common ways of reducing the risk of irradiation
In some industries, the source may be in a different room and remote-controlled arms are used to handle it.