Natural Radioactivity And Your Health

Development rides on the back of an in-depth understanding of how the universe works and applying that knowledge. The wheels of technological advancement would forever remain our transport medium unto better days. Unfortunately, our undoing will also be sourced from it. It’s a broken world! The human problem remains the human. In striving to advance, we’ve become less humane.

We’ve got a lot on our plate at the moment; covid. But there’s more to come, except proactive measures are taken. Human activities; exploration, manufacturing, urbanization, digitalization, industrialization, and all the phenomenons indicative of developmental progress. All these have led to a negative twist in natural radioactivity. This bend of the curve toward the negative is worrisome for the very fact that death is a process. It’s dangerous to become aware only close to the end. How is this a cause for concern? Keep reading.

Natural radioactivity and your health

Inevitably, humans are exposed to radioactivity. 85% of which is sourced from natural radioactive elements present in the environment; these radioactive elements are termed radionuclide. Potassium-40, Uranium-238, and Thorium-232 and their decay products are significant contributors to a wholesome radiation dose in marine environments. Radioactivity gets into marine environments through various sources, such as the waste materials of industries, which are rich in isotopes of uranium, thorium, radium, and potassium. It’s of great import to note that radionuclides find expression in the terrestrial strata of soils/rocks and water bodies.

The greatest number of natural radionuclides in the environment exist in water sources, especially those from the decay series of 238U and 232Th. Some of these radionuclides, such as 238U, 226Ra, and 222Rn, are found in particulate and in dissolved form in groundwater as a result of rock–water interactions. The concentrations of 238U and 232Th in groundwater are also significantly related to the geomorphology, lithology, and other geological factors of the region. Their existence is due to the presence of certain minerals such as uraninite, pitchblende, silicate, phosphate, validates, lignite, and monazite sand in different rocks bearing aquifers.

Within a marine environment, radioactivity can very easily be admitted into the food chain; this occurrence has led to considerable interest in the research of natural radioactivity and radiological hazard evaluation in sediment samples from the marine environment because it is extremely important to ascertain the quality and quantity of the radiation to which man is exposed to. This study is important due to the damage that radiation can do to biological matter: depending on the complexities around the radiation, damages to the complex molecules within a cell, death of the said cells as well as mutations are viable consequences of radiation on humans objects.

Apart from the terrestrial sources of radiation, another major source of radiation known to man is sourced from extra-terrestrial origin traced to the constant-continuous rain of charged particles or cosmic rays incident upon the earth at a highly ridiculous speed and in all directions. The collision between cosmic rays with atmospheric oxygen and nitrogen nuclei leads to debris, which accounts for the radiation exposure. A small but important component of this radiation is known as a high-energy neutron which eventually ends up having the same energy as that of atmospheric molecules and then eventually combines to form radioisotopes. Inasmuch as the disintegration of these isotopes contributes little to external exposure due to their low penetrating power, they, however, can be ingested or inhaled in their gaseous form. This can be very dangerous if taken in large quantities hence bringing us to the inevitable problem of the intake of radioactivity from edibles. 

As earlier stated, it’s extremely viable within marine environments for such a phenomenon to occur as marine environments supply sea foods, water, and nourishment for plants, all of which humans consume. These consumables are efficient conduits leading to the ingestion of radiation; apart from the quantity or radiative intensity, the quality is also very necessary: alpha rays can have no genetic effect when kept outside the body, but if these were somehow ingested, they lead to severe consequences. Exposure to excessive levels of gamma radiation from these radioisotopes poses a radiological health implication on the living organisms, especially internal irradiation of human lung tissue from the inhalation of radioactive gas radon and its decay products. The interaction of gamma rays with the body’s critical cell (DNA) may alter or destroy the biochemical processes of the body, which will lead to various diseases such as cancer and the development of tumor cells, and sometimes even lead to death. Therefore, the assessment of radiation levels from natural sources is of particular importance as natural radiation is the largest contributor to the external radiation dose of the world population.

Hence it’s without mincing words that I emphatically state the importance of this article, especially in Nations where very little or no research has gone into natural radioactivity and its consequence on humans. It is very much expedient that we understand the composition as well as the intensity of this radiation if any discussion of potential damage will see the light of day. 

 This is a clarion call to governments, institutions, and individuals to invest more into the study of natural radioactivity. Natural radioactivity if not properly monitored and handled, might become a bane to human existence and survival in the nearest future. Strick regulations and detoxification techniques ought to be employed because it might only take the importation of a single product to set the ball rolling in some neutral environment.

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