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Radiation and health

  1. May 13, 2012 #1
    Hello All,
    Can anyone explain why free radicals caused by ionizing radiation can be so dangerous to our health? In addition, does there seem to be any plausible way to counteract or at least prevent this damage?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 13, 2012 #2

    Free radicals are highly reactive species. That is because they contain at least one unpaired electron in their valence shells and hence try to take electrons with opposite spin from different molecules in the cell. And while the free radical satisfies itself by taking electrons from a different molecule it has produced a new free radical. Therefore once a free radical is formed it enters a self-propagating chain reaction, and this could last for thousands of exchanges until something called termination happens. This can cause some serious cellular damage, ranging from interfering with respiration in the mitochondria to protein damage.

    Antioxidants counter this free radical damage in cells. They can donate electrons to the free radical but don't turn into one themselves because they can be pretty stable without them as well.
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