After reading my series comparing the risks of diagnostic radiation exposure, Maureen Denard took things one step farther, writing an article about more general, everyday radiation risks. She has kindly given me permission to share her post with you today:
10 Surprising Places You’re Being Overexposed to Radiation
Radiation. The word alone scares us, but we’re exposed to it on a daily basis in some unlikely places. While there’s no reason to dictate where you go based on radiation, know that extreme exposure to certain types of radiation can be hazardous to your health. Illnesses include vomiting, nausea and in some cases, a loss of white blood cells (the good cells that fight bad germs in our system). Read on for a look at surprising places you may be overexposed to radiation.
1. Airplanes. You may getting to your destination more quickly, but flying from one coast to the other on a commercial flight exposes us to about .03 mSv (one of the many scales for measuring radiation). While this may not seem like much, if you’re flying from coast to coast often or taking numerous flights that put you on a plane for a long duration of time, you’re exposing yourself to major radiation over the course of years
2. Living in the plateaus of New Mexico or Colorado. The view may be majestic, but living in the plateau region of New Mexico or Colorado are exposed to about 1.5 more mSv than those who live at sea level. This means living in these areas for years will eventually add up and can pose a health hazard.
3. Color TVs. This is all TVs, since a black and white television set is hard to come by in this day and age. Watching a color television set exposes us to small amounts of ionizing radiation. In large amounts or with constant exposure ionizing radiation is known to harm humans. The average American watches 28 hours of TV per week, so that’s considerable exposure. Heed your mother’s warning of not sitting too close to your TV the next time you take in the tube.
4. Tabacco smoke. As if you needed another reason to make you kick the habit! Tabacco smoke packs radionuclides. The radiation comes from the leaves used to create the tabacco for cigarettes and while it’s a small amount, most smokers are threatening their health by taking in several cigarettes per day. Smoking kills your lungs and respiratory system and now it exposes you to radiation too.
5. Military soliders Military soldiers are around hazardous materials all of the time and troops from countries around the globe are regularly exposed to fairly high levels of radiation. In few cases this is deliberate, while in others it is a plan gone awry. Still, many soldiers deal with the aftermath of high radiation exposure when returning home from combat.
6. Packaged food. Packaged and bulk food does not come in direct contact with radiation, but instead passes through it. A radiation chamber is a passing point for packaged and bulk food, causing a beam of radiation to “scan” food. Food irridation is used to kill food-borne bacteria and help preserve food. The level of radiation is determined by the reason the foods being irridated and can be significant in food consumed by the military since much precaution is taken in their meals.
7. Those who work in hospitals or clinics where x-rays are conducted. A study found that physicians are more likely to have brain cancer due to the amount of radiation they’re exposed to every day. The study followed doctors in various parts of the U.S. and Canada. Further studies are planned to see levels of radiation absorbed by other areas of the body because this study focused on the head.
8. Smoke detectors. One of the most common types of smoke alarms for offices or homes are those with an ionization chamber. Both emit radiation to homes and businesses on a daily basis. These trace amounts of radiation found in smoke detectors do not typically effect us as long as the radiation source is kept inside of the smoke detector. Though smoke detectors with ionization chambers have been on the market for quite some time, there have been no long term studies on their effect.
9. Camping out excessively. Camping out is fun, but it also means being outdoors for days at a time. Small levels of ionizing radiation comes from the cosmic rays radiated by the sun and stars. If you’re outdoors 24/7 for days at a time, you’re adding to the daily exposure we all receive from these sources. While a log cabin may not be everyone’s idea of camping it does protect from radiation exposure for evening, but if you’re a true camping buff, just keep your trips to a couple of days versus a week..
10. Radon gas. Radon gas is everywhere and can get into our homes. Radon gas is the result of heavy metals naturally disintegrating and it’s in the air we breathe on a daily basis. It is not unusual for an office building or home to have high levels of radon gas inside where people are breathing all day or night. Sealing your windows and doors can reduce the amount of radon gas that enters any space, but still does not guarantee your home will be radon gas free.
Radiation can be hazardous, but with a heads-up on where you may be overexposed, you can live life carefully. Understand some instances that expose us to radiation are harmless because they’re in such small doses such as getting an x-ray or standing near a microwave, so there’s no need to overhaul your life to stay away from the scary buzzword.
So many dangers and potential cancer risks swirl all around us. Be careful out there!
Feel good and keep smiling! Pat