Why Is Radiation Exposure Harmful?

Why Is Radiation Exposure Harmful?

Many people have heard of radiation but not all of us understand the potential harm that is associated with it. And while we know that radiation is potentially harmful, the effects aren't always seen and as dangerous as they seem. If you're concerned about radiation and where its found, we are here to tell you more about the dangers of radiation and how they can be a safe if you're undergoing a procedure that emits radiation. 

What is radiation, anyway?

Before we can explain the dangers of radiation, first we should explain what it is. Another common fact learned in Chemistry classes is that atoms are the basic building blocks of life. Basically, everything is made up of atoms. But what we aren't always aware of is that these atoms can be unstable and give off energy, known as radiation. 

Non-dangerous Radiation

Sometimes this energy that is given off can be in the form of electromagnetic waves or light particles, so technically things like light, heat, radio-, and microwaves are considered radiation. Obviously we know these things are necessary for us to survive, in safe quantities of course, so this type of radiation isn't the kind that doctors warn you about. The technical term for it is non-ionizing radiation which basically means the energy that is radiated can excite other materials, but doesn't break the molecular bonds of those materials, leaving them safe.

Dangerous Radiation

This type on the other hand is technically named ionizing radiation because when the energy excites other materials, it does break the molecular bonds of those materials and therefore forms charged ions. In living cells like plants, animals, and humans, these ionizing processes happen naturally and help us function, but sometimes external radiation (like the kind found in x-rays) can stop normal functioning. Sometimes the ionization will damage the DNA in our cells, which causes all sorts of trouble for us, including mutations, cancers, or other medical issues since the cells are working properly. 

Safe in Moderation

Both kinds of radiation occur naturally in our own bodies and in the environments we live in, so it's impossible to avoid and it's not something we necessarily should be trying to avoid. The key is that we are only exposed to low amounts of this harmful radiation, so it doesn't have a huge impact on our health unless we are exposed to those low amounts very often. Radiation exposure built up over time is the most dangerous because low dosages can damage cells whereas short-term high-exposure radiation like x-rays and cancer treatments can kill cells. Research is still being conducted in regards to the effects of these types of treatments, but we just have to be aware that any ionizing radiation exposure could be dangerous to our health and we have to be as cautious as possible.

We love MRI's because they are free of radiation, which eliminates any concerns you may have about harmful radiation. If you have any questions for us about Open MRI's, we'd be happy to answer them!