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Dont mean to beat a dead horse

  1. Jun 16, 2008 #1
    I know this is ridiculous and I appreciate everyone's comments thus far. I think this is helping me get my hands around my irrational fear of radioactive substances. I was just wondering if anyone here worries about possible accidental contact/contamination by these radioactive materials not in a work setting. For example, when strolling through the park, is it very unlikely or even possible to encounter something radioactive and become contamintaed? It woyuld be so much easier if you could see contamination........Anyway, part of my self-therapy is to only worry about things the average human being worries about-so any opinions on this matter would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 16, 2008 #2
    While strolling through a park?


    Think of germs.

    Read up on germs.

    Antibiotic-resistant germs.


    Think about it. Focus.

    Eventually radioactive elements will seem like a walk ...in the park.

  4. Jun 16, 2008 #3
    No. Never.
  5. Jun 16, 2008 #4
    What do you mean become "contaimiated"? I don't think you understand radioactivity.

    Radioactive substances emit radiation, which are waves similar to light or x-rays. The three most common forms of radiation are known as alpha, beta, and gamma. Now you are exposed to this stuff over the year, as this radiation occurs naturally. The problem occurs when you are exposed to too much at once. At excess levels, radiation can damage your skin cells and cause death. You do not become "contaiminated". It either passes through you or it damages your cells.

    Dangerous things that are radioactive are kept safely away, so you won't run into them at a park. You must let the radioactive reactions finish up so that they stop emitting the waves. This can take many years, and such materials are usually stored far far away.

    You should worry more about HIV than a spec of gamma.
  6. Jun 16, 2008 #5


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    Only if the park is in the middle of a superfund cleanup site, and since that's not usually a place they put parks, nope, don't worry. I don't even worry that much in a work setting. I'm cautious in a work setting, and am aware there is an exposure risk, but I don't worry because we take all the necessary precautions that need to be taken to prevent exposure.
  7. Jun 16, 2008 #6
    If you want to get rid of your fear of something, I would suggest you get a rational understanding of it. And, if possible, find somewhere where you can play with radioactive materials.

    I've been to a nuclear reactor lab where everyone wheres radiation tags and you walk through a radiation type metal detector. Heres the thing, you cant tell - what-so-ever, about the radation all around you. The metal isnt hot, theres no smell, you dont feel sick, etc. You just look at your tag and go, 'ah, Ive been exposed to this much radiation so far, its time to leave now'. (But our tags never changed, we only wore them because if they did change then there was something wrong and you had to leave the room). But normally you could stay in there all day and not have any problems.

    I've also held electrostatic ionizers in my hand that were used for an airplane stabilization system. Those had a little tag on them that said "warning: this is radioactive". Eh, big deal. Im not going to swallow it.
  8. Jun 16, 2008 #7
    Hell, they drive containers full of waste through MAIN STREET of my town from down in SE NM up to Idaho...
  9. Jun 17, 2008 #8


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    I was a bit worried when I worked with Cs-137 for Compton Scattering, but I seem to be alright; haven't gotten my radiation badge yet (the tags Cyrus was talking about that) but I doubt I was exposed, even though that Cs chunk ripped the geiger counter up.
  10. Jun 17, 2008 #9

    Chi Meson

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    Even if it is something incredibly "hot," like 1930's uranium-red Fiestaware (http://www.orau.org/ptp/collection/consumer products/fiesta.htm) , if you stand about two yards away from it, you are receiving little more than "background radiation."

    Anything more dangerous, I'd have to ask "why are you standing in a nuclear waste site?"

    Regarding being "contaminated"; you'd need to either inhale radioactive dust, or get this dust all over your skin. After such an event it is hard to stand two yards away from it. So a lump of "yellowcake" in the park would be dangerous if you pulverized it and sprinkled it over your food. Otherwise, pick it up, take it to authorities, and wash your hands.
  11. Jun 17, 2008 #10


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    Just note that you received, on average 360 mrem per year just from natural background radiation. In other words, the human body has evolved accepting at least that much radiation. This is before considering other additions on top of that, such as flying in an airplane, going through airport security, getting x-rays, etc.

    So accidentally being exposed to radiation sources while walking through a park is not exactly something that has a significant probability of exposure.

  12. Jun 17, 2008 #11
    You get exposed to radiation if you sleep with another person in the same bed as well. There was a great exhibit at OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) a few years ago that had this calculator for your radiation. Perchance, Ivan, Tsu or Om (or any other Oregonian or Norwesterner) did you you see it?
  13. Jun 17, 2008 #12


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    Especially if that person is really HOT...!
  14. Jun 17, 2008 #13
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