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Radiation and


Learning Objectives
·to review the main points of
·to practise exam questions
and Life
In all aspects of 21st Century Science you
need to be able to discuss the Risks and
Benefits taking certain courses of action or
using certain procedures.

P2 'Radiation and Life' considers the risks and

benefits to us of using all the different types of
electromagnetic radiation.

Mobile Phones - these produce

microwave radiation which may cause
cancer as do the transmission masts. Most
of us are prepared to use them - presumably
we all think the benefits outweigh the risks!
X Rays

Used to diagnose broken bones etc. so

we can repair them. Again there are risks
involved and staff using them regularly
take precautions.
In this case the ALARA principle is used:
Exposure to X Rays is kept
As Low As Reasonably Achievable
Different types of
Electromagnetic Radiation
least energetic Most
photons energetic
p153 in text
The photons in microwave radiation have
relatively low energy

Microwave radiation is used for heating up the

water,fat and sugar inside food. This is because
the energy is absorbed by them ie they vibrate
more so have more heat energy.
Comparing Risks

Over 3000 people die on the roads each

year but some people think road travel is
safer than train... only a few people die on
the railway each year

Perceived risk is what people think is


Actual risk is borne out by facts.

The Precautionary Principle

If the costs (risks) of some activity turn out to be

greater than any benefit then it makes sense to
restrict the activity (or stop it!)

'Better safe than sorry'

Correlation and Cause

Global Warming
There is a correlation between the amount of
CO in the atmosphere and the average global

temperature.....this does not mean it is the

cause of global warming. Some scientists
believe other factors have caused the average
global temperature to increase over the last
140 years
X Rays

In the 1950's 2 doctors discovered a

correlation between x ray exposure of
mothers during pregnancy and cancer in their

X ray photons can ionize molecules in your

body and cause cancer. This is more than a
correlation. X rays can in a few cases cause

There is a correlation between exposure to

sunlight( a factor) and eye cateracts.
Doctors do not say sunlight will cause
There are other factors involved eg age and