The public is increasingly becoming aware of the dangers of radiation exposure. Less than a generation ago, many people considered a dark suntan to be a sign of health and vigor. Today, health experts are working hard to convince people that excessive exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation, and to similar ultraviolet emitted by lamps in tanning salons, increases the risk of skin cancers and premature aging of the skin. It is risky to expose skin to full sunlight, especially for a reason as trivial as the esthetics of a suntan. Education campaigns are also being mounted to make home owners aware of the risks posed by radon, which can accumulate in well-insulated homes with certain kinds of concrete-walled or rock-floored basements.
Technological improvements are resulting in much smaller exposures to radiation during medical diagnostic procedures. Efforts are also being made to reduce and better focus the radiation exposures used for therapeutic purposes (for example, to treat some kinds of cancers). Sophisticated developments, such as the three-dimensional x-ray images produced by CAT scanners, allow health care workers to obtain more information with less exposure to radiation.
Steps are also being taken to prevent exposure resulting from anthropogenic sources of radiation in the environment. In 1986, a catastrophic accident at a nuclear reactor at Chernobyl in the Ukraine resulted in a huge emission of radioactive contaminants into the atmosphere, affecting much of Europe. After this disaster, networks of monitors were erected in many countries to detect future radiation leaks and warn threatened populations. The largest monitoring system is in Germany, which has installed several thousand radiation sensors. These systems will be able to detect radiation leaks coming from domestic or foreign sources shortly after nuclear accidents occur, allowing residents to seek shelter if necessary.
Most nations that do not already possess nuclear weapons, have signed a pact to not develop them, and nations that already have them have agreed not to test them above ground (which leads to particularly intense emissions of radioactivity into the atmosphere).
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Eisenbud, M., and T.F. Gesell. Environmental Radioactivity: From Natural, Industrial, and Military Sources. Academic Press, 1997.
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Stannard, J. Newell. Radioactivity and Health: A History. Columbus, Ohio: Batelle, 1990.
"Cosmic Rays: Are Air Crews At Risk?" Occupational and Environmental Medicine 59, no. 7 (2002): 428-432.
Kasner, Darcy L., and Michael E. Spieth. "The Day of Contamination." Journal of Nuclear Medicine Technology 31 (2003): 21-24.
"Radiation Risk During Long-Term Spaceflight." Advaces in Space Research 30, no. 4 (2002): 989-994.
Dean Allen Haycock
Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Quantum electronics to ReasoningRadiation Exposure - The Discovery Of Radiation, Radiation Comes In Many Forms, Measuring Exposure To Radiation , Sources Of Radiation