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Hiroshima Day 2019: Radiation Effects On Humans And Protective Measures

On the fateful day of 6 August, 1945, the Japanese city of Hiroshima was almost wiped out by a lethal atomic bomb by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) during World War II. This was the first time the world had witnessed a nuclear explosion.

The nuclear weapon aka uranium bomb named 'little boy' was detonated on Hiroshima at 8:15 am, directly killing 70,000 people. Within 3 days of this blast, another nuclear weapon demolished the city of Nagasaki. To commemorate the lives lost in this atomic explosion, Hiroshima day is observed on 6 August every year as a sign of respect to the victims of Hiroshima.

In the aftermath of the Hiroshima blast, an approximated 90,000-166,000 people succumbed to death due to nuclear radiation effects by the end of 1945, along with increased rates of cancer and chronic diseases among the survivors. Not only the dwellers of Hiroshima and Nagsaki, some of those who entered the cities to provide assistance also lost their lives. Hiroshima peace memorial was built in remembrance of the ones who died in this incident from radiation waves.

Exposure to high levels of radiation, can cause some severe health issues. Read on to find out effects of radiation on human health and some protective measures to take against radiation.

Sources Of Radiation

Natural radiation comes from various sources. There are 60 naturally radio-active materials found in soil, water and air. Radon, a natural gas that originates from rock and soil, is considered to be the primary source of natural radiation. The most common source of radiation is ionizing radiation, which is used in medical devices, including X-ray machines. Radiation is used to generate electricity, in food processing to make it last longer, to sterilize equipment etc. They have widespread utilization in carbon dating as well. People are also exposed to background radiations that occur from cosmic rays, especially in high altitude.

Daily activities that expose people to sources of radiation, include

  • watching television,
  • travelling in aeroplane,
  • passing through a security scanner, and
  • using microwave oven or cell phone.

Radiation Effects On Human Health

Though ionised radiation benefits the medical industry, agriculture and research based studies, it also results in severe side effects. High level of radiation results into acute radiation syndrome or 'radiation sickness', which one of the most lethal impacts of radiations. It can cause symptoms such as skin burn, eventually leading to cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Lower level of exposure doesn't cause immediate health effects, however, it might gradually contribute to the overall risk of developing cancer.

Protective Measures

Once the cells are damaged with radiation, it is irreversible. Cells do not repair themselves naturally.

There are few steps that you should follow in case affected with high levels of radiation, such as:

  • Remove your clothes immediately
  • Rinse the area with water and soap
  • Seek medical advice at the earliest

Doctors might use potasium iodide (KI) to block thyroid uptake if the patient inhales a great amount of radioactive iodine or radioiodine (RAI, also called I-131). Prussian blue, used in capsules, can also help trap cesium and thallium in the intestines and prevent them from being absorbed.

However, it is always recommended to limit your exposure to radiation by taking the following preventive measures.

  • Avoid going out in the sun during midday. Make sure to use sunscreen and cover parts of your skin properly with clothes.
  • Keep your children away from x-ray machines as much as possible.
  • If you are pregnant or lactating, inform your doctor before going for an x-ray, CT scan or PET.