Doesn’t anybody understand radiation?

FedEx lost and found a cylinder of Ge-68, (Germanium-68). Sandra Munoz was the FedEx spokesperson dealing with the media. She said:

“As long as no one tries to open the cylinder, there’s no exposure…the exposure from this rod, you’d have to be in close contact with it for 1,000 hours to get a skin blister.”

Boy, there’s a world of stupid in that wacky statement.  I can’t blame the poor Public Relations parrot.  No doubt some supposed radiation expert prepped her.

That “expert” is a moron.

My field is radiation protection. We differentiate between acute and chronic exposures, as do most others dealing with hazardous materials and energies. And “Skin blister” is not a familiar radiological term.  Perhaps she meant “beta burn”; an acute dose of hundreds of rads of β radiation causes reddening and blistering of the skin. 

Except that apparently Ge-68 decays by beta capture.  An electron is pulled into the nucleus and transmutes a proton into a neutron.  So no beta radiation is emitted, only a gamma photon.  Gamma radiation can certainly visibly damage the skin, but if it does I wouldn’t worry about skin blisters.

I’d worry about all the cooked flesh from there down into the bone marrow.

But those are from “acute” exposures.  A large amount of radiation in a very short period of time.  So, “1000 hours of exposure” to get a skin blister?  Good lord.  Maybe their profession requires P.R. folks not to think about what they’re saying.

There is no dose rate than can raise skin blisters in 1000 hours.  Such a thing does not exist.    

Imagine getting sunburnt.  Suppose one hour of full sunlight can give you a burn.  Now divide that intensity by 1,000.  This means you need continuous exposure for 41 straight days to absorb enough dose for a sunburn.

So when will you be burnt?  Never.  Unless you require a month and a half to recover from mild sunburn.  Do you?  New skin regenerates and old skin sloughs off on a continual basis.  The exposure rate must exceed the repair rate for an acute effect to appear.  Otherwise effects like skin blisters simply aren’t possible. 

In the radiation industries, we almost never have to deal with acute risks.

About wormme

I've accepted that all of you are socially superior to me. But no pretending that any of you are rational.
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5 Responses to Doesn’t anybody understand radiation?

  1. Ha! I’d have never realized how dumb that statement was. You remind me of my husband when he sees military uniforms and salutes in TV and movies.

    And ew! about cooked bone marrow. Gamma radiation bad.

    • wormme says:

      “Fire bad!” Uncontrolled fire is bad, a roaring fireplace in winter can be quite good. It’s the same with radiation. It’s quite good for a number of purposes. Radiography, food sterilization, etc.

  2. D.J. says:

    Isn’t it what made Bruce Banner in to what he is today?

    Or you could go the, “Oh, don’t worry about the radiation…it’s only infra-delta bands…” (Because gamma is ‘lower’ than delta, don’t you see….)

    • wormme says:

      In 25 years, I’ve picked up about 8,000 millirem of occupational radiation dose. Which is very close to my exposure from all naturally occurring sources. I’ve yet to “hulk out”, darn it. And I’ve tried to get radioactive spiders to bite me, while fleeing a potentially radioactive skunk.

      BTW, a flight attendant in the northern lattitudes, working for 25 years like me, could pick up ~18,000 extra millirem. There’s no evidence of them hulking out. Fortunately, there’s also no observable increase in cancer rates.

  3. Pingback: Incalcuable danger. | World's Only Rational Man

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