HAS THE WORLD GONE BANANAS?
Ask most people what they think are the main sources of radiation and you’re likely to hear three main answers – nuclear power, radioactive waste and fallout from A-bombs. And once upon a time I thought the same way. After all, nuclear power and bombs use radioactive materials and produce radioactive waste, which goes everywhere and gets into everything. Right? Well, not quite. I have often heard it said that “no radiation is safe”. But, for most people, nuclear power and fallout from nuclear weapons aren’t the major contributors to the radiation they are exposed to. They’re not even close! Let me therefore outline five modest steps that you can take to protect yourself from common sources of radiation – most that you are probably not aware of.
Step One: build your house out of straw
I know this strategy didn’t work so well for the three little piggies, but bear with me… Most of us get our largest annual dose of radiation from naturally occurring sources, including several radioactive minerals found underground. But these minerals don’t stay buried away: they are commonly found in building materials like concrete and brick. In other words, the stuff houses are made of. So one way to avoid natural sources of radiation is to eschew typical building materials and opt for straw instead. And your straw house would be better off without a basement: radioactive radon gas, found in rock and soil, can seep into your home and accumulate to potentially dangerous levels.
Step Two: install a lead-lined roof
Step Two for radiation protection is where things get tricky. We need to deal with the fact that another large portion of our annual dose of radiation takes the form of cosmic radiation from outer space. To keep our exposure to cosmic rays to a minimum we should place nice, thick, lead rooftops on our straw house. I am no engineer, but I suspect there may be structural support issues here...