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Name: Joe Kemna
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Question:
I am trying to find information on radiation. I need the effects on humans, the damage it causes to the environment, and any extra information you might have on the subject.

Thank you for your time.



Replies:
Your library should be a good place to start, but first you need to narrow your question a bit. "Radiation" means radio waves, heat, light (including the ultraviolet light that causes suntan and sunburn), and what's called "ionizing radiation." By far the major source of the first three is the Sun, while the last I believe comes principally from cosmic rays and various naturally radioactive elements like uranium and radon. The most significant manmade sources of exposure would --- I think --- be household wiring and appliances (radio), engines and heating devices (heat), lamps (light), and X-ray machines, flying at high altitude in airplanes, and living in well-insulated homes built over radon sources (ionizing radiation). Heat, light and ionizing radiation play vital roles in the ecology of the Earth. Radio, light (in particular "tanning" ultraviolet), and ionizing radiation have all been widely assumed at different times to be particularly good or particularly bad for human health. Some recent issues of public concern have been the effect of radio waves from electric transmission lines, the effect on skin cancer incidence from tanning and sunburns, the depletion of the ultraviolet-light-produced ozone in the upper atmosphere by chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), "global warming" from the increased absorption of heat radiation from the surface by atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane, and the effect of a long exposure to low levels of ionizing radiation as for example the people of Eastern Europe are experiencing from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident.

Christopher Grayce



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