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Radiation Sickness

  1. Dec 2, 2009 #1

    Does death by radiation painful? Is there any difference in R.S. caused by gamma rays and alpha rays?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 2, 2009 #2


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    The short answer is: yes. They don't die from radiation directly, they die from organ failure which happens as a result of organ tissue death. The specific symptoms may be wide-ranging, but they'll probably include things like emphysema, as the lung tissue dies, dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea (which messes up your electrolytes, which messes up your muscles and eventually your heart).

    Here's a report of a radiation death in 1945:
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2009
  4. Dec 2, 2009 #3
    Thank you for this information... After reading the whole thing (withdrawing the idea after suspecting super criticality). Does this mean he escaped a quick death and died a painful death?
  5. Dec 2, 2009 #4


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    26 days of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and sloughing skin. It sure reads like a slow, painful death...
  6. Dec 2, 2009 #5
    A couple of things to note:

    Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS) requires the following:
    -Large dose of penetrating radiation
    -Over a short period
    -All or majority of the body must be exposed

    Typically, we think that an exposure of 4-5 Sv (1 Sv = 100 rem) with no medical intervention will result in a Lethal Dose to 50% of the population. Note the the Sievert (Sv) is a unit of Dose Equivalent which is supposed to represent, in some way, the more damaging effects of certain types of radiation.

    Typically, ARS causes death by damaging the bone marrow (sometimes called blood forming organs) which results in the internal bleeding and infections which kills the person.

    Here are some links to information about Acute Radiation Syndrome:
  7. Dec 2, 2009 #6


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    With gammas, you're typically going to get a whole-body dose. With external exposure to alphas, pretty much all it can do is burn your skin, corneas, etc. Internal exposure to alphas is different -- that's what happened in the recent assassination of the Russian guy in London.
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