Shop Windows to the Universe

Arches National Park Geology Tour provides an extensive, visually rich description of the geology of Arches, by Deborah Ragland, Ph.D. See our DVD collection.
Radiation can damage the DNA in the cells of living things. Damaged DNA can make the cell stop working or unable to reproduce. It can also cause the cell to grow out of control, causing cancer.
Click on image for full size
Source unknown.

Radiation Hazards to Living Creatures

Radiation can be harmful to living creatures. Radiation can harm living things 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.

Radiation can also interfere with the reproduction of living things. It can cause sterility, making reproduction impossible. It can also cause mutations in offspring, which are usually detrimental or even fatal.

Animals (including humans) tend to be more susceptible to the harmful effects of radiation than plants. Some types of microbes are tolerant of high doses of radiation that would easily kill multicelled organisms.

Natural sources of radiation play a role in the long-term evolution of species. Some (a very, very tiny fraction) mutations caused by radiation turn out to be beneficial. They give certain organisms a better chance to survive. Sometimes mutations caused by radiation produce a more successful and better-adapted new species.

Last modified July 14, 2009 by Randy Russell.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

The Spring 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist, focuses on the ocean, including articles on polar research, coral reefs, ocean acidification, and climate. Includes a gorgeous full color poster!

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Radiation

Radiation comes in two basic types: electromagnetic radiation transmitted by photons, and particle radiation consisting of electrons, protons, alpha particles, and so forth. Electromagnetic radiation,...more

How can radiation damage a living cell?

High frequency radiation or fast moving particles plow into a living cell with enough energy to knock electrons free from molecules that make up the cell. These molecules with missing electrons are called...more

Kingdom Plantae

Though not the largest kingdom, with a mere 300,000 species catalogued, many might argue that the Kingdom Plantae just may be the most important group of living organisms. In the process known as "photosynthesis",...more

Extremophiles

Some environments are inhospitable to most "normal" living creatures. However, these extreme environments are not necessarily lifeless. Certain types of organisms, known collectively as "extremophiles",...more

Extreme Environments - Acid, Radiation, and More!

This page describes extreme environments that are acidic or alkaline, are exposed to high levels of radiation, are under tremendous pressure, or are hostile to "normal" life in a number of other unusual...more

Evidence of Evolution

This Windows to the Universe Exploratour examines the scientific evidence of biological evolution. Take the tour to travel through 10 web pages about the scientific theory that explains how and why living...more

Radiation Dangers to Astronauts

Astronauts are exposed to many different types of dangerous radiation in space. Space agencies, like NASA, must carefully monitor the radiation exposure of astronauts to make sure they remain safe and...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA