RADIATION, PEOPLE AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Radiation is a fact of life. We live in a world in which radiation is naturally present everywhere. Light and heat from nuclear reactions in the Sun are essential to our existence. Radioactive materials occur naturally throughout the environment, and our bodies contain radioactive materials such as carbon-14, potassium-40 and polonium-210 quite naturally. All life on Earth has evolved in the presence of this radiation.Since the discovery of X rays and radioactivity more than 100 years ago, we have found ways of producing radiation and radioactive materials artificially. The first use of X rays was in medical diagnosis, within six months of their discovery in 1895. So a benefit from the use of radiation was established very early on, but equally some of the potential dangers of radiation became apparent in the doctors and surgeons who unwittingly overexposed themselves to X rays in the early 1900s. Since then, many different applications of radiation and radioactive materials have been developed.We can classify radiation according to the effects it produces on matter, into ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation includes cosmic rays, X rays and the radiation from radioactive materials. Non-ionizing radiation includes ultraviolet light, radiant heat, radio waves and microwaves.This book deals with ionizing radiation, a term, which for simplicity, is often shortened to just radiation. It has been prepared by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in co-operation with the National Radiological Protection Board (United Kingdom) as a broad overview of the subject of ionizing radiation, its effects and uses, as well as the measures in place to use it safely.As the United Nations agency for nuclear science and its peaceful applications, the IAEA offers a broad spectrum of expertise and programmes to foster the safe use of radiation internationally. It has a statutory responsibility for the development of safety standards that are applicable to managing the wide variety of applications that use radiation. It provides assistance to its Member States on the application of those standards through technical co-operation projects such as training courses and advisory services. It also facilitates information exchange through conferences, and publications, such as this one.