Radioactive Chemicals List – Functions, Hazards, and Storage

Radioactive. What was the first thing you imagine in your mind when hearing this word? Song tile? Or even Chemistry? whether you answer it with the first or second answer, you are correct. But on this article, we will cover only the topic for the second answer. It is Radioactive chemistry and here we will learn about the radioactive chemicals list.

As we all know, an atom is consisted of an atomic core (proton and neutron) and electron surround it. In the making of a chemical bond, in a normal chemical reaction, electron in the atomic layer is involved. On the other hand, the reaction where the atomic core is involved is called the atomic nuclear reaction.

The atomic nuclear reaction happens spontaneously where the core that isn’t stable spontaneously emits energy to reach its stability. Nuclear reaction by a non-stable element emits radiation and the involved element is called radioactive.

So, what is a radioactive chemical material? One of the nine chemicals material classification is chemical material that has an ability to emits radioactive rays with more than 0,002 microcurie/gram is called the radioactive chemical material. A substance is marked radioactive using the trefoil symbol.

The discovery of radioactive initiated in the year 1895 when W.C. Röntgen experimented using cathode ray tube and founded the X-ray. This discovery inspired Henry Becquerel, the inventor of radioactive who made a research with the help of Uranium in 1896. Later in 1898, Marie Curie and Pierre Curie found two other element excluding uranium that are more active called Polonium and radium. Aside from those elements, there are more element that has unstable isotopes, especially element with atomic number more than 83. Elements with atomic number more than 83 naturally have a radioactive trait and known as radioactive isotope or radioisotope. Along with the advancement of science and technology, radioisotope can be made from stable isotope. Also read: Radioactive Isotopes Used in Medicine

Alpha, beta, and gamma rays are also part of radioactive particles. Radioactive has a characteristic to able to go through a gap in a high speed, just like alpha ray which has the speed of light. There are some radioactive materials which can penetrate human cells, e.g. beta rays which able to penetrate human skin.

Radioactive function

The use of radioactive chemicals, in general, divided into two, as a tracer and as a radiation source.

1. Tracer

  • Medical field: The general usage as a tracer in the medical field is to diagnose or detect disease. Maybe, some of you ever happened to be falling or injured then got an X-ray photo. This thing is an example of radioactive usage. Because radiation of a radioactive can blacken a film. Other examples are:
  • Technetium 99 (Tc-99): absorbs damaged tissue in the heart, liver, and lungs.
  • NaCl isotope 24 (Na-24): detects the interference of blood low by observing the emitted gamma rays.
  • Iodine 131 (I-131): absorbs by thyroid, liver, brains. With more dosage, it can be used as Thyroid gland cancer therapy.
  • Hydrology field: the usage of NaCl solution with Natrium 24 (Na-24) isotope can be used to learn the speed of river flow. That compound is sown in the upstream, then detector in the downstream will measure the time. Over and over, natrium in the form of NaCO3can be used to investigate underground water pipe leakage. On the other hand, tritium (H-3) and C-14 can be used to determine the age of soil water.
  • Archeology field: Carbon 14 (C-14): Determine fossil age 

2. Radiation source

  • Medical field

Medical kit sterilization can be done with the conventional sterilization technique and radiation sterilization using Cerium 137 (Ce-137). Radiation can be done to sterilize because the radiation in a certain dosage can kill microorganism. This technique is more advanced in terms of perfection on killing microorganism besides guaranteed sterilization. Also read: Helium Uses in Medicine

Radiation of radioactive material itself is damaging body cells if it enters through human body. The good news is, cancer cells or tumor is easier to damage than normal cells. Because of that, cancer or tumor therapy by using radiation is possible. Cobalt 60 (Co-60) is one of the radioisotope that is generally used. 

  • Agriculture field

Used to eradicate pest (by spreading sterilized male pest with radiation to reduce pest population), resulting quality seeds with varieties that can be chosen according to the needs. Other uses are radiating seeds with certain dosage before being planted and to preserve plants. Gamma rays radiation on a fungi results in killing microorganism that cause decaying. Potato and onion sprout inhibition can be done by radiation. Also read: Effects of Agricultural Chemicals on Human Health

  • Industrial field

In an industry, the products that are being produce is not produced in a small number, right? Production that is done in one day can be confirmed to be more than 10 products, in general. Of course, this is not efficient if the quality control is done manually. In an industry where the products are made of metals, the quality control is used using a process called roentgen. Through a roentgen result, it can be observed whether the distribution is already even and has no hollow parts. Radiation can also be used in preserving materials such as woods.

Hazards of Radioactive

Just like life that has a good and bad side, radioactive that has tons of benefits also has its own side effects. Radioactive exposure could happen through many ways such as radioactive waste pollution, CT-scan procedure, nuclear power plant radiation, even radioisotope emitted by a broken bulb.

1. Health impact

  • Shorten lifespan: High dosage of radiation can be deadly. Dosage of 400 rem can cause death to half population that receives the radiation for 60 days.
  • Causing genetic mutation: Radioactive rays can cause dissolution of important chemical bonds (DNA and chromosomes). The changing of DNA structure caused genetic mutation and cancer. Diseases that could happen are cancer, tumor, leukemia, and bone cancer by Sr-90.
  • Cause damage in the skin, blood former cells, and nerve system.
  • Cataract
  • Symptoms such as dizziness, lack of appetite, diarrhea, fever, and body weight reduction. Also read: Oxidizing Material Effects for Health and Environment.

2. Environment impact

Radioactive waste that enters the environment and touch plants can cause genetic mutation or even death to plants. If this plant is consumed by human constantly, it can cause serious health problems. Moreover, plants that are contaminated remains along the food chain. Also read: Effects of Environmental Chemicals to Human Health

3. Material impact

  • Ionization: Radiation particles collide with orbital electron from the atom it passes through, which results in the forming of positive ion and ionized electron.
  • Excitation: Radiation does not cause electron to be released (only excited) where when the electrons is excited back to the basic level, it will be followed by the energy release.
  • Dissolution of chemical bonds: Energy produced by the radiation can cause the dissolution of chemical bond like the double helix DNA structure bond. 

Radioactive Chemicals Storage

Even though it has benefits and can cause danger, this radioactive chemical material will be needed in every field of study. Therefore, we need to understand how to store radioactive in a proper way so that it caused no harms to ourselves or even the environment.

  • Don’t mix it with other dangerous materials
  • Packing accordingly to the standard operational procedure
  • Keep it in a container that has tools to protect from radiation
  • Take a note on the totals and the limit of allowed storage
  • Write a caution (Caution radioactive materials)

Thereby explanation about radioactive chemicals list. Hopefully it’s useful.