What does radiation do to the body?

Let's say some crazy world leaderdecide to press the big red button. Or terrorists will seize control of a nuclear reactor. You survived the first blast. The world is poisoned by radiation. What is it like When nuclear reactions occur, they divide particles with such energy that electrons break away from atoms. Altered bonds create pairs of ions that are extremely reactive chemically. This is ionizing radiation, and all problems begin with this.

How does radiation kill?

There are many types of ionizing radiation. Cosmic, alpha, beta, gamma, x-ray, neutron and others. Another thing is important: how strongly organisms are exposed to this radiation, that is, what kind of radiation dose it receives.

The absorbed dose is measured in sludge (Gy, Gy) or inSieverts (Sv), which take the measure Gr and multiply it by the type of radiation to calculate the effective dose in living tissue. The average exposure for a couple of seconds abdominal X-ray is 0.0014 Gy - this is a light dose that is applied locally, so it is not that bad. The danger begins if exposure to the entire body is irradiated — for example, as in the control room of Chernobyl immediately after the explosion. There you would have absorbed 300 Sv per hour. But it would hardly have lasted an hour. The dose would be fatal after 1-2 minutes.

How to die from radiation?

Large doses of ionizing radiation in a shorttime lead to acute radiation syndrome, that is, to radiation poisoning. The severity of symptoms depends on the level of exposure. A radiation dose of 0.35 Gy will be similar to the flu - runny nose and dizziness, headaches, fatigue, fever. If the body is exposed to 1-4 Gy, the blood cells will start to die. You can recover - the treatment of this kind of radiation syndrome usually includes blood transfusions and antibiotics, but the immune response may also weaken due to a drop in the number of white blood cells, the blood will not clot and anemia will appear. You will also notice strange sunburns when exposed to 2 Gy of ionizing radiation. Technically, it is acute radiodermatitis, and its manifestations include red spots, peeling of the skin, and sometimes swelling.

A dose of 4-8 Gy can be fatal, but the path todeath will depend on the level of exposure. With such exposure, patients suffer from vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness and fever. Without treatment, you could die only a few weeks after irradiation.

Physicist Louis Slotin, who died from exposure duringtheir research in 1946 in the Manhattan Project, was exposed to 10 Gy of gamma and X-rays. And today he would not have survived, despite modern procedures, such as bone marrow transplantation. Patients exposed to radiation from 8 to 30 Gy experience a runny nose and diarrhea within an hour, and die within 2 days - 2 weeks after exposure.

Doses of radiation above 30 Gy causeneurological damage. Within minutes, patients experience severe vomiting and diarrhea, dizziness, headaches, and unconsciousness. Often there are attacks and tremor, as well as ataxia - loss of control over muscle function. Death within 48 hours is inevitable.

It remains to survive

If you are lucky enough to avoid poisoningradiation caused by a nuclear explosion or the melting of the reactor, it does not mean that you are waiting for a happy ending. Prolonged exposure to ionizing radiation, even in doses that are weak to weaken you, can lead to genetic mutations and cancer. This is the greatest risk faced by survivors of the Fukushima accident and at Chernobyl. According to the latest estimates, thousands more will die from cancer caused by radiation damage from precipitation.

Usually cells are controlled by chemicalDNA molecule structure. But when the radiation releases enough energy to break the molecular bonds, the DNA chains collapse. Although most of them are restored normally, about a quarter is not, therefore a long process begins that leads to an increase in the rate of mutations in future generations of cells. The probability of cancer increases with an effective dose of radiation, but the severity of the cancer does not depend on the dose. The very fact of irradiation matters, not low or high levels of radiation.

With a long-term exposure to the irradiation pattern,predictive risk levels do not provide unambiguous answers. The most common model suggests that in terms of exposure to most people, the most dangerous source of radiation is low-level background radiation. Therefore, even though acute radiation poisoning is terrible in itself, it’s worth more to experience because of the slow but constant exposure.