Have you seen acute radiation poisoning on TV, people wrapped in bandages? Have you wondered what’s going on there? The mystery lies within the radiation. All of us are already aware of different types of radiation. But do you know the kind of radiation which damages tissue? It’s called ionizing radiation. It comes in high-energy waves like X-rays and gamma rays, etc. This sort of radiation damages atoms, which in turn affects whole molecules(like DNA), and that can affect our cells, organs and the whole body. Let’s take an example. Our cells are comprised of water(H2O), which can break down into O2 or H2 or H2O2(Hydrogen Peroxide) by radiation. These depends on dosage. Ionizing radiation has no safe dosage. Sieverts are used to calculate the use of doses of radiation and Gray for the actual absorption of radiation into tissue.
A stomach X-ray might be around 8 milliGrays or 8 milliSieverts. Repeated low-level exposure like tanning can cause cancer. But vast amounts may result in acute radiation poisoning. It occurs in 4 phases. The first phase is prodromal, which causes vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea, anorexia within a few minutes or days later.
The second phase is the latent phase, causing flu symptoms. Third phase is the manifest illness followed by recovery or death in the fourth phase. Exposure to 125 abdomen x-rays hits the lowest level of poisoning. From 1-10 grey, the radiation penetrates tissue and kills none marrow cells by destroying their DNA. This causes no replacement of white blood cells in case of infection, no new red blood cells and platelets in case of injury. More than 10 grey causes the cells in the gastrointestinal tract to be killed. This results in electrolyte imbalance, dehydration, etc. Over 20 gray may cause the cardiovascular system and central nervous system to swell with fluid. The brain can’t control the body in less than 3 days. Acute poisoning is hard to treat due to the damage of DNA at the atomic level.
Some famous examples of these include the disaster at Chernobyl and the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, there’s still a lot to explore.