Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Radiation: Yesterday & Today

This month, we've taken a closer look at radiation and radioactivity. From its earliest discovery, radiation has been a bit of a mystery. 

I ran across the definition, history, uses, and medical impacts of radiation online at the Britannica website. It is very thorough and informative. Check it out.

Did you know that in 1896, Henri Becquerel announced the discovery of radioactivity to the Academy of Sciences in Paris? Thomas Edison's assistant died from a radiation-induced tumor as a result of too much x-ray exposure? And that during World War I, radium paint (a radium/phosphor mixture) was used on military aircraft instruments so they would glow in the dark and make night flying easier for pilots?

It wasn't until 1959 that the Federal Radiation Council was established and responsible for: 
  1. "Advising the President of the United States on radiological issues that affected public health;
  2. Providing guidance to all federal agencies in setting radiation protection standards; and
  3. Working with the States on radiation issues."
In 1970, Congress created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Radiation protection fell under the EPA's Radiation Protection Division, which is responsible for protecting the public and environment from too much exposure to radiation. Good to know. Go science!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Radiation and Dental Health

The May Science cafe topic is about radiation exposure. It got me thinking about how we sometimes make amazing discoveries without knowing the big picture. That's why scientists do basic science research. All life is intimately connected to everything else. So when we do things like split atoms or give a medication for one thing, we need to keep digging to see how other parts of the big blue ball (Earth) are affected.

This applies to radiation as well. X-rays are important to see what is happening inside our bodies from injury or disease. However, too much radiation exposure causes more harm than its worth. For example, dental x-rays are important when you have a big problem, but I have "great teeth" according to my dentist. So I resist the yearly dental x-rays and opt for every 2-2 1/2 years. I don't want the extra radiation no matter how small the dose. (I grew up in Nevada, I probably have my share and more.)

In fact, the American Dental Association guidelines state "adults, who have regular check-ups and are free of signs/symptoms of oral disease, are at a low risk for dental caries. Nevertheless, consideration should be given to the fact that caries risk can vary over time as risk factors change. Advancing age and changes in diet, medical history and periodontal status may increase the risk for dental caries. 
A radiographic examination consisting of posterior bite wings is recommended at 
intervals of 24 to 36 months."

So, if you want to glow a little less brightly and your dental health is great, just tell the hygienist you'll pass on the yearly x-rays. (I NEVER miss those cutting plastic bite wings!) She may or may not frown and look at you like you're a health nut, but it's worth it. Go science! 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Science Friday

As most of you know, I'm all science, all the time! However, it is fun to check out science all around such as Science Friday

This week the headlines include Particle Fever and the Large Hadron Collider, science goes to the movies and Transcendence, Why we Find Things Funny, and Foraging Do's and Don'ts

I'll be curling up with my iPad to see these and more this evening. Join me! TGIF...er... TGISF!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Early Radiation Knowledge

Most of us never think about radiation effects except when we need to have a dental or chest x-ray to rule out disease. Also, the sun's radiation affects us daily but we don't pay it much attention until we are faced with a nasty burn. (Not a smart course of action.)

But what about the early days of science and medicine when x-rays were newly discovered? I came across this General Electric 1940s film on German physicist, Wilhelm Röntgen's discovery of x-rays. This educational "infomercial" is interesting AND scary when you think of how little they knew. 

Compare that to today's use of medical physics in CT, MRI, and other imaging methods. Progress has been made and medical science has come a long way. Something to think about. Go science!