Understand the effects of radiation exposure on human health

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Russian bombings in the region of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, in the Ukrainian city of Enerhodar, put the world on alert on Thursday night (3). Concern has centered on the threat of a new nuclear disaster in the face of a four-hour fire in a training building outside the main reactor complex.

This Friday (4), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), linked to the United Nations (UN), reported that the plant’s reactors were not damaged and that there was no leakage of radioactive material after the attack.

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The information calmed the spirits of a world that still remembers the permanent damage caused by the Chernobyl accident, the most serious nuclear catastrophe in history, which occurred in April 1986.

In this Friday’s edition of the Medical Correspondentfrom Novo Dia, neurosurgeon Fernando Gomes explained how radiation can be used in medicine and how exposure to high levels of radioactivity can harm the human body.

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“Radiation can interfere with the cell’s genetic material. If I have a very large exposure to radiation, much more than the body can tolerate, I will clearly have an impact on health”, says Gomes.

Changes in human genetic material by the effects of radiation can lead to the development of serious diseases such as cancer, in addition to impacts on reproductive cells that reflect on future generations. For pregnant women, the risks are even greater, such as abortion and damage to the baby’s development, with changes that can lead to malformations.

Among the immediate impacts are hair loss, difficulties in the functioning of the digestive system and breathing capacity. “In the medium and long term, we can have more sensitive changes, such as the advent of types of cancer, such as lung cancer and in blood cells, and so on,” he explains.

case in Brazil

In September 1987, the improper handling of an abandoned radiotherapy device in Goiânia, where the Goiano Institute of Radiotherapy operated, caused an accident that involved hundreds of people.

The case, which became known as accident with cesium-137, spread several fragments of the substance into the environment, in the form of a bright blue powder. Because it contains lead, the source was sold to a junkyard and transferred to two other deposits. Fragments of the material were also distributed to relatives and friends, causing contamination in several places.

Persons who have had contact with the radioactive material directly on the skin, by inhalation, ingestion, or absorption by penetration through skin lesions and irradiation, have experienced nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, and burn-like skin lesions. Some sought medical assistance at local hospitals. The material was then identified as radioactive by the Health Surveillance Division of the State Department of Health.

According to the government of Goiás, 112,800 people were monitored, of which 249 had significant internal or external contamination. Four people died from contact with the radioactive material, due to complications from the Acute Radiation Syndrome (SAR), with two deaths from hemorrhage and the other two from generalized infection.

How radiation is used in medicine

In addition to being used in the production of electrical energy, as in nuclear power plants, radiation is also an important instrument for medicine.

One of the most traditional ways of using the tool for the benefit of health is in performing x-ray exams. Imaging tests, also called radiography, use low doses of radiation to reveal possible changes in bone and organ structure, as well as inflammation and infection.

Neurosurgeon Fernando Gomes explains that the levels of radiation used in medicine are much lower than those of a nuclear plant and have strict safety protocols for patients and professionals involved.

Source: CNN Brasil

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