As human beings, chemicals, particles, and organisms we can’t see constantly surround us. Some of these are common knowledge, like the bacteria on our skin and the oxygen particles in the air. Others can be more dangerous, like radiation. Discover these sources of everyday radiation you may not know about.
The word “radiation” may sound scary because we associate it with things like nuclear radiation and cancer, but it’s important to understand what radiation actually is. Radiation is simply the transmission of energy, either in waves or particles. Radios, microwaves, music, and tanning beds all give off radiation, just different kinds and amounts.
Here are the three most common types of radiation:
As you can see, some types of radiation take the form of waves, some are particles, and some (like sound) require a transmission medium. Virtually any type of particle can become radioactive through the process of radioactive decay. This is when an unstable atom attempts to become more stable.
When people talk about radiation as something dangerous, they’re usually referring to ionizing radiation, which is a stronger kind of radiation that can change the atomic structure of an atom and break down chemical bonds. For these reasons, scientists consider ionizing radiation to be much more dangerous to biological existence than non-ionizing radiation.
There are two main types of smoke detectors, ionization and photoelectric. Photoelectric sensors use light to detect smoke, while ionization detectors use alpha particles from americium to do the job. People sometimes worry about the americium in ionization detectors, but the alpha particles are safe inside the smoke detector housing, ensuring they pose no risk to you or your household.
Fluorescent lamps cause people to worry for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they give off ultraviolet (UV) light and emit electric and magnetic fields (EMFs). These are types of radiation, though the amount fluorescent lights produce is so small that it’s harmless to most people.
In fact, you’re more likely to run into problems with the mercury inside fluorescent lamps than the radiation. Though the amount of mercury is small, you do need to dispose of it properly if your fluorescent lamp breaks. If you’re careful, you shouldn’t have any issues.
Bananas and Brazil Nuts
Food is one of the many sources of daily radiation you may not know about. Bananas and Brazil nuts are just two popular examples of naturally radioactive food that contain lots of potassium, some of which can be radioactive. Of course, the radiation is so small that it hardly matters.
People often become alarmed when they hear about radiation, but it’s not all dangerous. It’s important to understand the major sources of radiation and know which ones can actually cause health problems. Plenty of other types are harmless.