Guru Magazine - - Physics -

Step Three: avoid an­tique china

The rest of our an­nual ra­di­a­tion dose comes from man- made sources, the big­gest con­trib­u­tor by far be­ing med­i­cal X-rays and med­i­cal pro­ce­dures us­ing ra­dioac­tive sub­stances (‘ nu­clear medicine’). Af­ter th­ese, the next most im­por­tant cat­e­gory is the ra­di­a­tion that we re­ceive from con­sumer prod­ucts like to­bacco, smoke de­tec­tors, tele­vi­sions, com­puter screens, and vin­tage-glazed china. So it would best if we all quit smok­ing (which we should do any­way), toss out the older elec­tronic de­vices we still have kick­ing around our homes and get rid of our old coloured dishes. And if it weren’t for their med­i­cal ben­e­fit, we should also think twice about hav­ing X-rays done on us. Some­times we just can’t es­cape the fact that life is a trade-off… (Thank­fully, though, the use­ful­ness of a med­i­cal X-ray far out­weighs the risks.)

Step Four: live in a plas­tic bub­ble

So what about the ra­di­a­tion that comes from nu­clear weapon fall­out and nu­clear power waste? Th­ese must have some im­pact, surely? Sur­pris­ing though it may seem, th­ese two sources con­trib­ute a com­bined to­tal of just 3% of the av­er­age per­son’s an­nual dose. To cut down on air­borne nu­clear fall­out from bomb tests or con­tam­i­na­tions leaked from nu­clear power gen­er­a­tors, sim­ply en­case your cozy new digs in a large plas­tic dome. It is wise to first lay out a larger plas­tic sheet on the ground, be­low your house, and then cover it all with a large bub­ble. Be sure to also in­stall fil­ter­ing vents to al­low new air in­side, too.

Step Five: be­ware bananas!

Yes, you read that right: be­ware bananas! One ba­nana a week for the whole year could give you a dose of ra­di­a­tion equal to one den­tal X-ray thanks to all the nat­u­rally-oc­cur­ring ra­dioac­tive potas­sium in th­ese trop­i­cal favourites. Th­ese sneaky yel­low ra­di­a­tion sources have been se­cretly poi­son­ing us for cen­turies. All of th­ese hope­lessly tongue-in-cheek tips re­ally just serve to demon­strate one thing: the state­ment that “no ra­di­a­tion is safe” is aw­fully naïve since all liv­ing things on Earth have been bathed in it pretty con­sis­tently for a very long time. I don’t mean to im­ply that all doses are safe (at high ranges they cer­tainly are not) but ir­ra­tional mea­sures to pro­tect our­selves from tiny amounts are un­nec­es­sary. Any­one who works near X-rays or ra­dioac­tive sub­stances do need their doses mon­i­tored, as do air­line staff (who are ex­posed to higher lev­els of cos­mic ra­di­a­tion when fly­ing at high al­ti­tude). But for all of us, the best pro­tec­tion is sim­ply a lit­tle un­der­stand­ing. And if, af­ter some re­search on the sub­ject, you are still con­cerned, you can al­ways cut out bananas…

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Cal­cu­late your ra­di­a­tion ex­po­sure online with the En­vi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion Agency’s cal­cu­la­tor.

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