Radioactive Contamination

Radiological contamination
- unintended or undesirable radioactivity
- unspecified hazard magnitude

Radioactive substances on surfaces, or within solids, liquids or gases (including the human body), where their presence is unintended or undesirable, or the process giving rise to their presence in such places.1

Hazards

Radiant energy
- natural world = no "zero radiation"
— cosmic rays
— living creature contains carbon-14
— most creature (including humans) contain potassium-40
- tiny levels of radiation

Related to people and the environment

Contamination events
- All potential pathways of internal exposure should be considered.
- When encountering radioactive materials, use personal protective equipment.
- Avoid eating contaminated plants and animals or drinking contaminated water or milk from exposed animals.

Things to consider:
- nature of the radioactive contaminant
- level of contamination
- the extent of the spread of contamination

Means of contamination:
— ingestion
— inhalation
— absorption
— injection

Radioactive material exposure
- accidents
- deliberate

Low level hazards
- pose little risk (life-threatening when in long exposure)
- can be detected (radiation instrumentation)

isotopes
- short half-life isotopes
— allow material to naturally decay
- longer half-life isotopes
— cleaned up
— properly disposed

High level hazards
- pose major risks to people and the environment
- potential lethal radiation level (external and internal)
- biological effects dependent on the absorbed dose.

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