Radiation is transmitted or emitted energy in the form of waves or particles. Radiation includes electro-magnetic radiation such as radio waves, x-rays, alpha and beta rays in addition to acoustic radiation such as ultrasound and seismic waves. Radiation could refer to either the energy, waves, or particles which are being radiated.
Radiation shielding is both an inherent by-product of many technologies that we depend upon, and also a great threat to human health and safety. While radiation exposure is in some ways inevitable, we are exposed to radiation every time we step outside in the form of UV rays, radiation can nevertheless pose significant health risks. Ionizing radiation can damage the chemical bonds between molecules and even damage the DNA of the affected cells. Moreover, exposure to ionizing radiation is known to increase the risks for cancer. Radiation causes micro damage to the living tissue that result in skin burns. Continuous high level exposure to radiation can lead to radiation sickness which includes cell damage. Even low level exposures can cause damage if the time of the exposure is significant. Beyond the health risks posed to humans, radiation can also have detrimental effects on the environment.
Various methods are used to protect individuals and the environment from the harmful effects of radiation, otherwise known as Radiation Shielding. Radiation shielding is the preparation or discipline of utilizing methods and materialsto protect the living forms on earth from the dangerous effects of radiation. Some materials are better suited than others to act as a ‘shielding’ material, whereby the radiation is either mitigated or absorbed by the material, thereby lessening or preventing some of the dangerous rays from transmitting. Effective radiation shielding materials are generally those with high densities, with lead being the most commonly used shielding material to date.
Today, we utilize many important technologies which produce radiation, such as nuclear power plants, medical x-ray procedures, and many more. In such cases, it is extremely important to utilize effective radiation shielding materials so as to still be able to use the necessary technologies while minimizing the damaging effects of the transmitted radiation.
It is absolutely essential to utilizereliable materials for shielding so as to avoid these damaging effects of ionizing radiation. It is crucial to note that not all the materials are capable for shielding. Hence, it becomes very necessary to use a consistent and effectual material for the shielding. The effectiveness of the materials used in shielding depends upon the thickness of the materials used. The alpha, beta and gamma radiation can be stopped by the varying the thickness of the materials used.
Density is another aspect which greatly affects a materials’ shielding effectiveness. Because of its high density, and because it is a relatively abundant and cheap material, lead has been used as the radiation shielding material of choice because it is particularly good at absorbing damaging rays. With that said, lead is associated with its own health risks, and as a result there is growing demand for lead-free shielding materials.