10 Radioactive Substance Uses – Definition – Hazard

Radioactive… When you pay attention to this word, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Song title? Or… chemicals? For those who answer 1 or 2, that’s all correct, really. But we will discuss the latter, definitely, that is radioactive chemicals.

As we know, an atom is made up of atomic nucleus (protons and neutrons) and its circulating electrons. In the formation of chemical bonds in common chemical reactions, electrons in the atomic skin are involved. As for the reaction of which core is involved is called the core reaction.

Some core reactions occur spontaneously, where an unstable core spontaneously emits energy to achieve stability. The core reaction by an unstable element emits radiation and the involved elements are called radioactive elements.

What is Radioactive Chemical? 

So, what is a radioactive chemical? One of the 9 classifications of chemicals of which ability to emit radioactive rays with activity types of more than 0.002 microcurie/gram is called radioactive chemicals. A substance is marked as a radioactive material by its use of trefoil symbol.

The discovery of radioactivity began in 1895 when WC Röntgen experimented with cathode ray tube and discovered X-rays. It inspired Henry Becquerel, the inventor of radioactive that made research with uranium rocks in 1896. Then, in 1898, Marie Curie and Pierre Curie discovered two elements other than the more active uranium, as called Polonium and radium.

In addition to these elements, there were still many elements of unstable isotope, especially those with atomic number (> 83). The elements with atomic number above 83 are naturally radioactive and known as radioactive isotope or radioisotope. As the development of science and technology, radioisotopes can be made from stable isotope.

Alpha, beta, and gamma rays are also radioactive particles. Radioactive has the nature of penetrating through the gap with high speed, such as alpha rays that have the light speed. Radioactive materials exist to penetrate into body cells, such as beta rays that can penetrate human skin. Also read about the negative impacts of biotechnology in agriculture.

Radioactive Function in Daily Life 

The use of radioactive chemicals is generally divided into 2, i.e. as tracer and source of radiation.

1. Tracer

Here are the radioactive substance uses in various fields:

  • Medicine: The most common use as a tracer in medicine is to diagnose or detect disease. Any of you who have suffered a fall or been injured might have to do x-ray images. Actually it is also an application of radioactive, as radiation from radioactive can blacken the film. Some other examples are;
  • Technetium 99 (Tc-99): absorbed by damaged tissue of heart, liver, lungs
  • NaCl isotope 24 (Na-24): detects circulatory disorders by observing the emitted gamma rays
  • Iodine 131 (I-131): absorbed by thyroid, liver, brain part, and stronger dose can be used for thyroid gland cancer therapy.
  • Hydrology: The use of NaCl solution with isotope of Sodium 24 (Na-24) can be used in analyzing the flow rate of river water. The compound is sprinkled at the upstream, and then the downstream detector will measure its travel time. One again, sodium in the form of NaCO3, can be used to investigate the leakage of underground water pipes. As for tritium (H-3) and C-14 are useful to determine the life of ground water.
  • Archaeological: Carbon 14 (C-14): identify the fossil age 

2. Source of Radiation

Here are the radioactive substance uses in daily life:

  • Medicine

Sterilization of medical devices can be done by conventional sterilization techniques and radiation sterilization using Cerium 137 (Ce-137). Radiation can be done for sterilization as radiation in certain doses can kill organisms. This technique is also better-quality in terms of its perfection to kill organisms in addition to ensure its sterility until the packaging is opened. Also read: Radioactive Isotopes Used in Medicine

Radiation of radioactive material itself can actually damage the body’s cells if it enters the human body. The good news is that cancer cells or tumors are more easily damaged than normal cells. Therefore, cancer or tumors therapy with radiation might be good solution to do. Cobalt 60 (Co-60) is one of the commonly used radioisotopes.

  • Agriculture

Used to eradicate pests (spreading the spayed males by radiation to reduce pest populations), produce superior seeds with the chosen varieties as needed and radiate seeds with certain doses prior to implantation and preserve plants. Gamma-ray radiation in the fungus will kill microorganisms that result in decomposition.

Inhibition of shoots on potatoes and onions can also be done with radiation. These ways allow for longer food storage without decaying. Also read about the growth internal factors. Also read: List of Banned Agricultural Chemicals

  • Industry

In an industry, the product is not certainly generated in small quantities, is it? Production in just one day will definitely far exceed 10 products, in general. Indeed it is not efficient to have checking and controlling product quality manually one at a time. In the metal industry, for instance, quality checking goes through x-ray process. Through x-rays, it can be evident if the distribution of metal is evenly disseminated with no cavity. Similar to its ability to preserve food, radiation can also be used in preserving materials such as wood. Also read:  Jobs in Pharmaceutical Industry

Radioactive Hazards

Just like a life with good and bad side, radioactive with a myriad of benefits also has its own hazard or side effects. Radioactive exposure can occur in various ways such as radioactive waste contamination released into ground water, radiation-related work, CT-scan or X-ray imaging, radiation from nuclear plants, even radioisotopes emitted by damaged light bulbs.

1. Health Impact

  • Shorten age: High dose radiation can be lethal. A dose of 400 brakes has caused deaths in half of the population that received radiation for 60 days.
  • Results in various genetic abnormalities and mutations: Radioactive rays can result in the breaking of important chemical bonds (DNA bonds and chromosomes). Changes in the DNA structure leads to genetic and cancer abnormalities. Various diseases include genetic damage (infertility, defects), cancer and tumors, leukemia (uncontrolled white blood (Leukocyte) cell division), bone cancer by Sr-90.
  • Causes skin damage, blood-forming cells and nervous system
  • Cataracts
  • Symptoms such as dizziness, loss of appetite, diarrhea, fever, weight loss.
  • Also read: 20 Harmful Effects of Environmental Chemicals to Human Health

2. Environmental Impacts

Radioactive waste getting into the environment and affecting plants can lead to growth disorders, genetic mutations, even plant deaths. If people constantly consume this sort of plant, it can cause various health problems. In addition, these contaminated plants will settle along the food web. Here is the Effects of Environmental Chemicals and Metals on Reproductive System

3. Impact on Material

  • Ionization: Radiation particles hit orbital electrons of the atoms through which positive ions and electrons are formed.
  • Excitation: Radiation does not lead to electrons to be released but only excited, meaning when excited electrons return to the ground level, thus it will be accompanied by energy release.
  • Chemical bonds break: The energy produced by radiation is able to break chemical bonds such as the Double Helix DNA structure. 

Radioactive Chemical Storage

Despite these hazards and benefits, these radioactive chemicals are still needed in many areas. Therefore, we need to understand the correct way of storage that it will not harm ourselves or the environment.

  • Never mix them with other harmful materials
  • Packaging shall follow the established requirements and maintained
  • In areas with equipment to protect radiation
  • Record amount and limit of the storage allowance
  • Put on warning on packaging (Caution radioactive materials)

Thus it is an explanation of radioactive chemicals. May it be useful for you!