Radiation and its Impact on Health in the Workplace

Radiation is the emission of energy in the form of electromagnetic waves. Usually, radiation is categorized as either ionizing or non-ionizing. Sources of ionizing radiation include radioactive material that emit α, β, or γ radiation. Examples of radioactive materials include uranium. This paper seeks to provide rationale of the three health risks to people working in uranium mines, discuss whether nuclear energy is the best solution to reducing global warming and any additional emerging occupational hazards I foresee with respect to radiation.

Uranium occurs in nature and its ore is riddled with other radioactive materials like thorium, radium, lead, bismuth and polonium. During extraction of these precious mineral (uranium), the element remaining in the ore is ground to smithereens and dumped on the surface of the earth. As these materials are buried under tons of earth, they are of zero threat to humanity until conversion to a Pandora box (Faa et al., 2017). Companies like BHP Belton are planning to dump over 70 million tons per year of the uranium tailings with to open one of the biggest uranium mining plant in the world situated in the sweltering heat of the Australian desert. These materials are then blown by wind and when inhaled by the miners or the people living around the mine fields, they are subjected to risk of developing lung cancer. When inhaled, the spec of the radioactive material lands on the lung and causes the cell around the affected area to die and the other cells on the periphery to that volume survive causing them to mutate and cause cancer. Moreover, exposure to radioactive elements causes cell mutations as radiations break the double strand of DNA and when transmitted to the children, it tampers with the genetic information resulting in deformation in newborns (Faa et al., 2017). Radiations are more-deadly to fetus and newborns as their cells are actively dividing and therefore more vulnerable to diseases like leukemia.

Arguably, global warming is on the rise. Global warming is the average rise in atmospheric temperature. The chief cause of this phenomena is the increased emission of greenhouse gasses, specifically carbon dioxide denoted by the symbol (CO2). Most electricity generating technologies incorporate the use of CO2 emitting products like coal among other fossil fuels (Baek, 2015). However, the use of nuclear power to generate electricity sounds as a game changer in the energy production sector, as it does not emit the dreaded CO2. There being an upside to this form of energy, there is also the downside of it. According to research conducted by the International Energy Agency (EIA), use of nuclear energy as a substitute for other energy production forms, does not completely solve the problem but only works to bringing the desired change by a meagre 10%.

Furthermore, nuclear plants have been put on the map by their numerous accidents, in essence, the Chernobyl accident in Ukraine, wind scale in the UK and the three-mile island in the United states of America just to mention but a few. Bearing these facts in mind, it will only be logical to ascertain that nuclear power is not the best solution to global warming but the real solution is to improve efficiency on energy use as per statistics by the EIA. It clearly indicated that this would realize an 80% leap towards the goal of keeping the rate of global warming in check.

Adding salt to injury, there are also other additional health hazards other than radiation hazards which include hearing problems as a result of long exposure to loud sounds in the minefields. A good example to this is are the dynamites. It occurs when busting a rock containing the precious minerals or the noise generated by the earth moving equipment and the drilling machines at the mines.

References

Baek, J. (2015). A panel cointegration analysis of CO2 emissions, nuclear energy and income in major nuclear generating countries. Applied Energy, 145, 133-138.

Faa, A., Gerosa, C., Fanni, D., Floris, G., Eyken, P. V., Lachowicz, J. I., & Nurchi, V. M. (2017). Depleted Uranium and Human Health. Current medicinal chemistry.

WAKE UP” by David Bradbury.  7th January, 2018. Retrieved from:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3shJ8I66Yyk.

November 2, 2018

Radiation and its Impact on Health in the Workplace

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