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Benefits of Ionizing Radiation Report

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Updated: Sep 17th, 2021

Introduction

Ionizing radiation had been used in medicine to combat cancer. In the last three decades, nuclear medicine had been extensively used in more than 60 percent of cancer cases (Bhatt 97). Ionizing Radiation is usually employed in the “detection and treatment of disease and evaluation of physiological and pathological behaviors not detected by any other diagnostic procedure (97). About 90 percent of the total radiotherapy conducted used teletherapy/brachytherapy, while 7 percent employed radiopharmaceuticals (97).

Definition of ionizing radiation

Ionizing radiation occurs as “either electromagnetic rays (such as X-rays and gamma rays) or particles (such as alpha and beta particles). It occurs naturally (e.g. from the radioactive decay of natural radioactive substances such as radon gas and its decay products).” (Health & Safety Executive) Ionizing Radiation or radiation therapy is the treatment choice for every type of solid tumor including cancers of the “brain, breast, cervix, larynx, lung, pancreas, prostate, skin, spine, stomach, uterus, or soft tissue sarcomas.” It may also be used to treat “leukemia and lymphoma (cancers of the blood-forming cells and lymphatic system, respectively).” (National Cancer Institute) Dosage is dependent on the type of cancer.

Usage of ionizing radiation

Ionizing Radiation attacks cancer cells and shrinks tumors. Although cells in the surrounding areas where the cancer cells and tumors are located are injured, most would eventually recover after the radiation treatment. Radiation therapy may be applied externally or internally. External radiation therapy is usually given to outpatients for the treatment of cancer. Another type of external radiation treatment is referred to as intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT) that is given to patients during surgery. Internal radiation therapy involves the implantation of radiation inside the body directly to the tumor site. It requires hospital confinement (National Cancer Institute).

Aside from treatment, ionizing radiation helps doctors detect and track the progress of certain diseases. To obtain the information, the patient ingests, inhales, or is injected with small amounts of radionuclides. With special cameras, the conditions of the organs are revealed (National Institute of Health). Essentially, ionizing radiation helps improve the detection and treatment techniques, thus increasing the survival rate of cancer patients. Radionuclides are also used in palliative medicine to reduce pain among cancer patients.

Other benefits include the use of radiation in biomedical and clinical research. They are primarily used to determine how genes work. Finally, ionizing radiation is used in PET (positron emission tomography) where radioactive material is injected into the patient to track the metabolism activity and circulation of the brain. This allowed physicians and scientists to locate tumors or sites of epileptic activities (National Institute of Health).

In this case, the benefits of ionizing radiation far outweighed the dangers of using the radioactive substance on humans. The cure for cancer has yet to be found and at the moment, the use of ionizing radiation mitigates the worsening of the disease. Ionizing radiation, when used appropriately brings positive effects, especially on cancer patients. Medical practitioners and government regulators must take extra precautions when using the substance for research, evaluation, and treatment.

Ionizing radiation is also applied in food technology. Primarily, food irradiation is used to eliminate food-borne microorganisms and other disease-causing bacteria. Irradiation is commonly applied in pasteurizing and canning processes. Common food-borne microorganisms eliminated by food irradiation include E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and Campylobacter found in raw meat and poultry. Toxoplasma organisms that cause severe eye and congenital infections found in raw could be removed as well. The risk of Listeria found in processed meats, Shigella and Salmonella found in fresh produce are destroyed by irradiation (Centers for Control and Disease Prevention). Other food-related products treated with irradiation include animal feeds, spices, and grain. The main benefit derived from the process is protecting food products that are stored over some time or transported over long distances (Centers for Control and Disease Prevention).

The food industry uses three types of radioactive rays – gamma rays, electron beams, and x-rays (Centers for Control and Disease Prevention). Gamma rays are primarily used to sterilize medical and household products. When a product is sterilized using gamma rays, the product is taken into a sealed chamber and exposed to the trays for a prescribed period. The radioactive component is stored in a pool of water when not in use (Centers for Control and Disease Prevention). Electron beams are used to treat foods no thicker than an inch. The electronic beam is “a stream of high energy electrons, propelled out of an electron gun.” Although no radioactivity is involved, workers must use appropriate protection before using the device (Centers for Control and Disease Prevention). Finally, x-rays, a relatively new technology developed for food industry applications can be used on thicker food. Workers need to be protected from the rays because they can penetrate deeper into objects.

“Food irradiation is declared safe and high doses of radiation do not cause food to become radioactive”. However, there are research findings the radiation can damage intrinsic nutritional value in food such as vitamins A, B1 (thiamin), C, and E. The radiation treatment does not leave a residue (National Safety Council). Other benefits that could be derived from applying the irradiation process on food include: 1) the process is environmentally friendly and eliminates the necessity of using chemicals to treat food products and protect them from disease-bearing microorganisms; 2) it helps reduce the incidence of diseases caused by foodborne diseases; and 3) irradiation extends the shelf life of food products thus reducing costs from spoilage (National Safety Council).

Other consumer products are treated with irradiation that yields several benefits. For example, computer disks, audio, and videotapes are irradiated to make them impervious to dust; products such as baby powder, cosmetics, hair products, and contact lens solutions are sterilized using irradiation (National Safety Council).

Food irradiation gives food products longer shelf life and protects consumers from food-borne diseases. Consumer products and household items are also subjected to radiation to sterilize them and eliminate potentially dangerous microorganisms. Irradiation of food and household items should have the approval of regulatory bodies. Items purchased that are treated with irradiation have indicators or symbols to differentiate them from untreated products. The symbol “radura” and a written notice are found on food packaging to inform the consumer (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Food and consumer products irradiation are only some of the ways known technologies like radiation is applied to promote better health and prevent diseases obtained from microorganisms found in most consumer products.

References

Bhatt, B.C., “,” 2007.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Food Irradiation,” (2007). Web.

Health & Safety Executive, “Ionizing Radiation: Radiation Protection,” (2007). Web.

National Cancer Institute, “: Questions and Answers,” 2007.

National Safety Council, “How is Radiation Used?” (2002). Web.

National Institute of Health, “What We Know About Radiation,” 2007. Web.

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