The mushroom cloud from a nuclear weapon test in 1952. The explosions of nuclear weapons emit large amounts of dangerous radiation.
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Photo courtesy of National Nuclear Security Administration/Nevada Site Office.
Radiation Hazards to Humans
Radiation can be harmful to humans. Radiation can harm people directly by damaging their cells. The cells might stop functioning, or they might be unable to reproduce. Radiation can also cause cells to reproduce in an out-of-control fashion, causing cancer. It also causes radiation sickness, an ailment with various symptoms depending on the type of radiation a person was exposed to and on the size of the dose received. Radiation sickness can be fatal when high doses of radiation are involved.
Radiation can also interfere with human reproduction. It can cause sterility, making reproduction impossible. It can also cause mutations in developing embryos, which are usually detrimental or even fatal.
Astronauts must be especially careful about radiation, since radiation exposure is a constant danger in space.
We are constantly exposed to small doses of radiation from various natural sources as well as from human-caused sources such as medical and dental X-rays. Small doses of radiation are generally not especially harmful; our bodies have developed defenses that repair most damage from small doses of radiation.
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