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Centers for disease control and prevention - Radiation protection terms
Category: Sciences > Radiation
Date & country: 27/04/2012, US
Words: 153


Pitchblende
a brown to black mineral that has a distinctive luster. It consists mainly of urananite (UO2), but also contains radium (Ra). It is the main source of uranium (U) ore.

Plume
the material spreading from a particular source and traveling through environmental media, such as air or ground water. For example, a plume could describe the dispersal of particles, gases, vapors, and aerosols in the atmosphere, or the movement of contamination through an aquifer (For example, dilution, mixing, or adsorption onto soil).

Plutonium (Pu)
a heavy, man-made, radioactive metallic element. The most important isotope is Pu-239, which has a half-life of 24,000 years. Pu-239 can be used in reactor fuel and is the primary isotope in weapons. One kilogram is equivalent to about 22 million kilowatt-hours of heat energy. The complete detonation of a kilogram of plutonium produces an explosion equal to about 20,000 tons of chemical explosive. All isotopes of plutonium are readily absorbed by the bones and can be lethal depending on the dose and exposure time.

Polonium (Po)
a radioactive chemical element and a product of radium (Ra) decay. Polonium is found in uranium (U) ores.

Prenatal radiation exposure
radiation exposure to an embryo or fetus while it is still in its mother

Protective Action Guide (PAG)
a guide that tells state and local authorities at what projected dose they should take action to protect people from exposure to unplanned releases of radioactive material into the environment.

Proton
a small atomic particle, typically found within an atom's nucleus, that possesses a positive electrical charge. Even though protons and neutrons are about 2,000 times heavier than electrons, they are tiny. The number of protons is unique for each chemical element. See also nucleon.

Quality factor (Q)
the factor by which the absorbed dose (rad or gray) is multiplied to obtain a quantity that expresses, on a common scale for all ionizing radiation, the biological damage (rem) to an exposed person. It is used because some types of radiation, such as alpha particles, are more biologically damaging internally than other types. For more information, see

Rad (radiation absorbed dose)
a basic unit of absorbed radiation dose. It is a measure of the amount of energy absorbed by the body. The rad is the traditional unit of absorbed dose. It is being replaced by the unit gray (Gy), which is equivalent to 100 rad. One rad equals the dose delivered to an object of 100 ergs of energy per gram of material. For more information, see

Radiation
energy moving in the form of particles or waves. Familiar radiations are heat, light, radio waves, and microwaves. Ionizing radiation is a very high-energy form of electromagnetic radiation.

Radiation sickness
See also acute radiation syndrome (ARS), or the CDC fact sheet

Radiation warning symbol
a symbol prescribed by the Code of Federal Regulations. It is a magenta or black trefoil on a yellow background. It must be displayed where certain quantities of radioactive materials are present or where certain doses of radiation could be received.

Radioactive contamination
the deposition of unwanted radioactive material on the surfaces of structures, areas, objects, or people. It can be airborne, external, or internal. See also contamination, decontamination.

Radioactive decay
the spontaneous disintegration of the nucleus of an atom.

Radioactive half-life
the time required for a quantity of a radioisotope to decay by half. For example, because the half-life of iodine-131 (I-131) is 8 days, a sample of I-131 that has 10 mCi of activity on January 1, will have 5 mCi of activity 8 days later, on January 9. See also

Radioactive material
material that contains unstable (radioactive) atoms that give off radiation as they decay.

Radioactivity
the process of spontaneous transformation of the nucleus, generally with the emission of alpha or beta particles often accompanied by gamma rays. This process is referred to as decay or disintegration of an atom.

Radioassay
a test to determine the amounts of radioactive materials through the detection of ionizing radiation. Radioassays will detect transuranic nuclides, uranium, fission and activation products, naturally occurring radioactive material, and medical isotopes.

Radiogenic
health effects caused by exposure to ionizing radiation.

Radiography
1) medical

Radioisotope (radioactive isotope)
isotopes of an element that have an unstable nucleus. Radioactive isotopes are commonly used in science, industry, and medicine. The nucleus eventually reaches a stable number of protons and neutrons through one or more radioactive decays. Approximately 3,700 natural and artificial radioisotopes have been identified.

Radiological dispersal device (RDD)
a device that disperses radioactive material by conventional explosive or other mechanical means, such as a spray. See also dirty bomb.

Radiological or radiologic
related to radioactive materials or radiation. The radiological sciences focus on the measurement and effects of radiation.

Radionuclide
an unstable and therefore radioactive form of a nuclide.

Radium (Ra)
a naturally occurring radioactive metal. Radium is a radionuclide formed by the decay of uranium (U) and thorium (Th) in the environment. It occurs at low levels in virtually all rock, soil, water, plants, and animals. Radon (Rn) is a decay product of radium.

Radon (Rn)
a naturally occurring radioactive gas found in soils, rock, and water throughout the United States. Radon causes lung cancer and is a threat to health because it tends to collect in homes, sometimes to very high concentrations. As a result, radon is the largest source of exposure to people from naturally occurring radiation.

Rem (roentgen equivalent, man)
a unit of equivalent dose. Not all radiation has the same biological effect, even for the same amount of absorbed dose. Rem relates the absorbed dose in human tissue to the effective biological damage of the radiation. It is determined by multiplying the number of rads by the quality factor, a number reflecting the potential damage caused by the particular type of radiation. The rem is the traditional unit of equivalent dose, but it is being replaced by the sievert (Sv), which is equal to 100 rem. For more information, see

Risk
the probability of injury, disease, or death under specific circumstances and time periods. Risk can be expressed as a value that ranges from 0% (no injury or harm will occur) to 100% (harm or injury will definitely occur). Risk can be influenced by several factors

Risk assessment
an evaluation of the risk to human health or the environment by hazards. Risk assessments can look at either existing hazards or potential hazards.

Roentgen (R)
a unit of exposure to x-rays or gamma rays. One roentgen is the amount of gamma or x-rays needed to produce ions carrying 1 electrostatic unit of electrical charge in 1 cubic centimeter of dry air under standard conditions.

S.I. units
the Systeme Internationale (or International System) of units and measurements. This system of units officially came into being in October 1960 and has been adopted by nearly all countries, although the amount of actual usage varies considerably. For more information, see

Sensitivity
ability of an analytical method to detect small concentrations of radioactive material.

Shielding
the material between a radiation source and a potentially exposed person that reduces exposure.

Sievert (Sv)
a unit used to derive a quantity called dose equivalent. This relates the absorbed dose in human tissue to the effective biological damage of the radiation. Not all radiation has the same biological effect, even for the same amount of absorbed dose. Dose equivalent is often expressed as millionths of a sievert, or micro-sieverts (

Somatic effects
effects of radiation that are limited to the exposed person, as distinguished from genetic effects, which may also affect subsequent generations. See also teratogenic effects.

Stable nucleus
the nucleus of an atom in which the forces among its particles are balanced. See also unstable nucleus.

Stochastic effect
effect that occurs on a random basis independent of the size of dose. The effect typically has no threshold and is based on probabilities, with the chances of seeing the effect increasing with dose. If it occurs, the severity of a stochastic effect is independent of the dose received. Cancer is a stochastic effect. See also non-stochastic effect, deterministic effect.

Strontium (Sr)
a silvery, soft metal that rapidly turns yellow in air. Sr-90 is one of the radioactive fission materials created within a nuclear reactor during its operation. Stronium-90 emits beta particles during radioactive decay.

Surface burst
a nuclear weapon explosion that is close enough to the ground for the radius of the fireball to vaporize surface material. Fallout from a surface burst contains very high levels of radioactivity. See also air burst. For more information, see Chapter 2 of CDC

Tailings
waste rock from mining operations that contains concentrations of mineral ore that are too low to make typical extraction methods economical.

Teratogenic effect
birth defects that are not passed on to future generations, caused by exposure to a toxin as a fetus. See also genetic effects, somatic effects.

Terrestrial radiation
radiation emitted by naturally occurring radioactive materials, such as uranium (U), thorium (Th), and radon (Rn) in the earth.

Thermonuclear device
a

Thorium (Th)
a naturally occurring radioactive metal found in small amounts in soil, rocks, water, plants, and animals. The most common isotopes of thorium are thorium-232 (Th-232), thorium-230 (Th-230), and thorium-238 (Th-238).

Transuranic
pertaining to elements with atomic numbers higher than uranium (92). For example, plutonium (Pu) and americium (Am) are transuranics.

Tritium
(chemical symbol H-3) a radioactive isotope of the element hydrogen (chemical symbol H). See also deuterium.

UNSCEAR
United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. See also http

Unstable nucleus
a nucleus that contains an uneven number of protons and neutrons and seeks to reach equilibrium between them through radioactive decay (i.e., the nucleus of a radioactive atom). See also stable nucleus.

Uranium (U)
a naturally occurring radioactive element whose principal isotopes are uranium-238 (U-238) and uranium-235 (U-235). Natural uranium is a hard, silvery-white, shiny metallic ore that contains a minute amount of uranium-234 (U-234).

Uranium mill tailings
naturally radioactive residue from the processing of uranium ore. Although the milling process recovers about 95% of the uranium, the residues, or tailings, contain several isotopes of naturally occurring radioactive material, including uranium (U), thorium (Th), radium (Ra), polonium (Po), and radon (Rn).

Whole body count
the measure and analysis of the radiation being emitted from a person

Whole body exposure
an exposure of the body to radiation, in which the entire body, rather than an isolated part, is irradiated by an external source.

X-ray
electromagnetic radiation caused by deflection of electrons from their original paths, or inner orbital electrons that change their orbital levels around the atomic nucleus. X-rays, like gamma rays can travel long distances through air and most other materials. Like gamma rays, x-rays require more shielding to reduce their intensity than do beta or alpha particles. X-rays and gamma rays differ primarily in their origin