Radioactive materials are hazardous. Nuclear radiation can ionise chemicals within a body, which changes the way the cells behave. It can also deposit large amounts of energy into the body, which can mutate DNA and damage or destroy cells completely
Some of the effects that radiation has on a human body are shown below.
|Eyes||High doses can cause cataracts|
|Thyroid||Radioactive iodine can build up and cause cancer|
|Lungs||Breathing in radioisotopes can damage DNA|
|Reproductive organs||High doses can cause sterility or mutations|
|Skin||Radiation can burn skin or cause cancer|
|Bone marrow||Radiation can cause leukaemia and other diseases of the blood|
The risk associated with radioactive materials depends on the amount of exposure. Being exposed to highly radioactive materials or being exposed to radioactive materials for long periods of time or on a regular basis, increases the dose received which, in turn, increases the risk.
Given that radioactive materials are hazardous, certain precautions can be taken to reduce the risk of using radioactive sources. These include: