What is Background Radiation? Types of Radiation

Last Update on October 02, 2022

1. Overview:

The amount of ionizing radiation in the environment at a specific location isn’t the result of the intentional introduction of radiation sources call background radiation. The background radiation is naturally present at all times. It includes internal radiation present in all living things as well as cosmic radiation. This radiation originates from the sun and stars, and terrestrial radiation originates from the Earth. We expose to background radiation from nature. Depending on the quantity of naturally occurring radioactive particles in the soil, water, and air, background radiation fluctuates from location to location and through time. The weather has an impact on the amount of radiation. Since radioactive particles can be washed out of the air during rainstorms and may be shielded by snow cover.

We are continually surrounded by cosmic radiation from the sun, our galaxy, and beyond, which adds to background radiation from the sun. The amount of background radiation at a specific location can also be affected by latitude and altitude.

All rocks and soils have a small amount of naturally occurring radioactivity, which can occasionally be consumed or inhaled if disturbed. In addition to its breakdown products, radon is a gas that can concentrate indoors and be ingested. Additionally, radioactivity can enter our bodies through the food we eat and the water we drink. The annual background radiation dose that you and your family experience depend on a variety of factors.

2. Background Radiation Basics:

Energy is what radiates. It can be made by humans or by unstable atoms that experience radioactive decay. From its source, radiation spreads outward as energetic waves or particles. Radiation comes in a variety of forms, each with unique characteristics and outcomes.

3. Types of radiation:

3.1. Cosmic radiation

Similar to a steady stream of rain, the sun and stars continuously transmit cosmic radiation to Earth. The volume (or dose) of cosmic radiation we are subject to can vary depending on elevation, air conditions, and the Earth’s magnetic field.

3.2. Terrestrial radiation

Terrestrial radiation is produced by the Earth itself. Soil and rock naturally contain radioactive elements, such as uranium, thorium, and radium. Almost all air includes radon, which is the main contributor to the yearly background dose that Americans get from natural sources.

All organic stuff (plant and animal) includes radioactive carbon and potassium, and water contains trace amounts of dissolved uranium and thorium. Some of these substances are fed together with food and liquids, whereas others (like radon) are breathed in. The dose from terrestrial sources varies across the globe. However, areas with higher soil uranium and thorium concentrations typically have higher doses.

3.3. Internal radiation

All people are subjects of exposure to others since they contain internal radiation in their bodies from birth, mostly from radioactive potassium-40 and carbon-14. When comparing to cosmic and terrestrial sources, there is less fluctuation in dose from person to person.

4. How to protect yourself from radiation:

Radiation is a natural component of existence. We are constantly surrounded by background radiation, which is mostly made up of natural minerals. Fortunately, there are relatively few circumstances in which a typical individual would be subject to radiation sources that are not under control above background levels. However, it is advisable to be ready and have a plan in place in case such a scenario occurs.

However, understanding the radiation protection concepts of time, distance, and shielding is one of the greatest ways to be ready. We may apply these ideas to assist safeguard ourselves and our families in the event of a radiological emergency.

5. Time, Distance, and Shielding

Similar to how they would screen you from excessive sun exposure, time, distance, and shielding techniques reduce your exposure to radiation:

  • Time: Restricting or decreasing the exposure time lowers the dose from the radiation source for people who are subject to radiation in addition to background radiation from natural sources.
  • Distance: Just as the heat from a fire diminishes as you get farther away, so does the radiation dose as you get farther away from the source.
  • Shielding: Protection against piercing gamma and x-rays usually provided by lead, concrete, or water barriers. Due to this, some radioactive materials are stored in chambers that are surrounded by concrete, lead, or water, and dentists cover patients obtaining dental x-rays with lead. The dose you receive will therefore be significantly lower or eliminated if the right shield is put between you and the radiation source.

6. Background Radiation Emergencies:

The following recommendations have been tried and tested to offer the greatest protection in cases of large-scale radiological releases, such as those caused by nuclear power plant accidents or terrorist attacks.

You can take the following precautions to safeguard yourself, your loved ones, and your pets in the event of a radiation emergency: Get Inside, Stay Inside, and Stay Tuned. Observe the guidance given by authorities and emergency personnel.

Get inside

  • You might be encouraged to enter a structure and seek shelter there for a while in the event of a radiation emergency.
  • “Sheltering in place” is the term for this action.
  • Get away from doors and windows and into a basement or the center of the building.
  • Bring wildlife indoors.

Stay inside

  • Your radiation exposure will be decreased if you stay inside.
  • Lock the doors and windows.
  • Shower or use a moist cloth to cover any sensitive body parts.
  • Eat food that is kept in containers and drink water.

Stay tuned

  • Emergency personnel are equipped to handle crisis scenarios and will recommend special safety measures.
  • The Internet, mobile devices, radio, and television are good sources of the most recent information.
  • Information on where to go to get screened for pollution will be provided by emergency personnel.

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