If we talk in terms of penetration; Gamma Radiation holds the top spot. It is the most penetrative of all energies known to man. This property of gamma rays is used in treating cancer through radiation, exploration of new resources, medical equipment sterilization etc. However, the same attribute of gamma rays makes them a hazard to the human health as well.

Since gamma radiation is ionizing in nature, it has ample amount of energy, even in low doses, to cause breakage of essential bonds or connections in genetic material and cellular components. It is because of this; exposure to gamma radiation can cause significant health effects, which if, collects over time, can be fatal. Though our body can repair any kind of damage if the damage is allowed to collect overtime or a person got exposed accidentally to high doses of radiation; the damage can be irreparable. 

People who are at a risk of exposure to gamma radiation such as firefighters, military, police & EOD personnel, persons working in nuclear industry and astronauts wear radiation shielding equipment while on duty. These radiation shields protect them from the adverse health effects of consistent exposure to gamma radiation. 

Effects of Exposure to Gamma Radiation

  • Burns

The first external effect observed, depending upon the intensity of exposure, is skin burns which are highly painful and hard to treat. 

  • Radiation Sickness

Radiation sickness can be mild or severe depending upon the intensity of the gamma radiation and the duration as well as consistency of the exposure. 

While small doses of gamma radiation are capable to kill any type of body cell; the ones who are most prone are those which develop fast like skin cells, hair cells as well as cells present in the digestive tract. A person might experience nausea and vomiting immediately after a mild exposure which generally advances into severe fatigue in later days. 

Exposure to larger doses of gamma radiation is generally fatal in most cases. Symptoms include severe diarrhea, extreme headache, improper and slow healing of wounds and even organ failure which results in death. The most common cause of deaths due to exposure to radiation is bone marrow failure. Bone marrow is highly vulnerable to gamma radiation and since it is responsible for the production of red as well as white blood cells; its failure means death. 

  • Cancers

Persons who recover after being exposed to gamma radiation, are susceptible to develop cancer, anytime in their later life as the genetic material of some cells might still be damaged. These damaged cells, when they divide can result in a cancerous growth in the entire body. 

Moreover, in the case of a pregnant woman, these genetically damaged cells can cause birth defects in the newborn. 

Recovery from exposure to gamma radiation can never be said as 100%. The presence of genetically mutated and damaged cells can have adverse consequences, even for the upcoming generation of that person making protection from the adverse effects of exposure to gamma radiation highly vital and life-sustaining. 

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