Usually when we think about radiation, we think about nuclear bombs. And this is a big cause of an intense radiation. The whole of the world could be covered in a blanket of radiation if a nuclear war were to occur. But the fact is that this is not the only radiation we can be exposed to.
There are naturally occurring substances on earth that have radiating effects — that is, they shed particles that are harmful to humans. Our own sun gives off radiation that can be harmful to us if we sit too long with our skin exposed to sunlight. However, nothing on earth is more intense than the radiation given off by a fission or fusion bomb.
What really happens when you are exposed to radiation?
An intense dose of radiation of up to 50 rem (rem is the dosage of radiation akin to one rad of X or Gamma radiation) will cause minor changes in the blood. From 50 to 200, there is some illness and tissues breakdown, and your intestines boil inside you. A dose of 200 to 1,000 rem can kill you, and the higher the dose, the faster you die. No human alive can withstand a rem measurement of 1,000. This won’t be pretty for anyone. And if you do survive a high dose of radiation, your reproductive tract and other organs are changed so much so that your children will have problems in the form of nasty birth defects.
Where can I find radiation?
Some of the everyday things you can find radioactive isotopes in can even be found in your own kitchen! There’s a form of potassium found in bananas that is radioactive, but obviously not enough not harm you. Other sources include the aforementioned radiation from the sun and isotopes found in the soil right under your feet. Radium, uranium, or plutonium can be mined from the sediments in a wide variety of locations. No one country controls the world’s deposits of Uranium 235 or Deuterium gas, which allows the world to produce weapons of mass radiation.
When the bombs drop
The only real case study we have for widespread radiation sickness is in Japan. This is from an array of events like the bombs dropped in World War II and the Fukushima industrial leak from a power plant. This leak is not like the events at Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Instead, there is a continuous leak from the plant that is endangering the ocean’s plant and wildlife.
The fallout from a nuclear bomb is intense, and the effects of the radiation have been felt for generations after the events. Effects caused by the leak from the power plant will be felt long term as well. This is due to the fact that the leak continued for so long. Now, locals can’t eat many of the fish found near the area of the event. These fish may have more than two eyes or an extra fin by now, since fish reproduce rapidly.
If a war did happen…
In the event of a hypothetical nuclear war, certain steps could be taken to protect us from the radiation. Potassium Iodide can be taken to shield the body from the effects of radiation. Some organizations or countries have already given the pills to their people in the event of power plant failures or bombs. If you work in a nuclear power plant, you may be familiar with this substance as well as others that can treat or prevent the effects of radiation sickness.
The video game company Bethesda, along with others, created the Fallout video game series that places you in a post-apocalyptic world where bombs have already been dropped all around the world. Life goes on, but in an entirely different fashion. The keys to survival in reality may be hiding underground, but not all of us have the privilege of having underground bunkers and stores of food for a long nuclear winter. If one were to survive the initial blasts, you might find yourself fighting for survival like in the Fallout games — let’s hope this never happens.
Featured photo credit: uıɐɾ ʞ ʇɐɯɐs via flickr.com