Guru Magazine - - Physics -

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...

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