Health effects of radiation

The health effects from radiation depend on the type of radiation, the intensity of the radiation and the amount of time you are exposed.

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Ionizing radiation

Acute (severe or intense) exposure happens when there is exposure to high doses of ionizing radiation over a very short period. Acute exposure can cause short-term health effects that can appear over hours, days or weeks and can include:

Chronic exposures happens when there is an exposure to low doses of radiation over years.

Chronic exposures, single low dose exposures and acute exposures can cause long-term health effects which don't appear until many years after the exposure. The most common long-term effect of chronic radiation exposure is an increased risk of cancer.

Non-ionizing radiation

Health effects can occur from exposure to non-ionizing radiation if the intensity of the exposure is high enough.

Extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields (EMF) can cause stimulation of peripheral nerves, which produces a tingling sensation. It can also cause stimulation of the muscles and nerves within the central nervous system.

Radiofrequency EMF can cause tissue heating at higher frequencies and stimulation of peripheral nerves at lower frequencies.

Light (optical) radiation can have different health effects depending on the frequency:

Noise (acoustical radiation)

Noise can cause a number of health effects depending on the sound level and how long you are exposed. It can cause:

Chronic exposure to noise may also increase the risk of stress-related diseases.

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