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Ionizing Radiation

Ionizing Radiation

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There are many different types of radiation, including visible light, ultraviolet rays, infrared from a heat lamp, microwaves, radio wave, and ionizing radiation. There are two broad types of radiation, non-ionizing and ionizing. Non-ionizing radiation has lower energy such as in radio waves, infrared light and microwaves. Ionizing radiation has extremely high energy.

Radiation is said to be ionizing if it has sufficient energy to displace one or more of the electrons that are part of an atom. Examples of ionizing radiation are x-rays, which are generated by machines, and gamma rays, which are emitted by radioactive materials. Other examples include alpha and beta rays, which also are emitted from radioactive materials, and neutrons which are emitted during the splitting (fission) of atoms in a nuclear reactor.

Depending on the level of exposure, ionizing radiation may pose a health risk. It may cause changes in the chemical balance of cells, some of which can cause cancer. Exposure to large amounts of radiation may cause acute gastrointestinal symptoms, bleeding, loss of bodily fluids, skin changes and electrolyte imbalance. Extremely high levels of acute radiation exposure may result in death.

Some Veterans may have been exposed to radiation during military service from nuclear weapons testing or other radiation activities.  VA recognizes certain cancers and other diseases related to radiation exposure. VA Public Health provides more detail information on this.

If you have ionizing radiation health concerns, you may contact your Environmental Coordinator at your local VAMC to request an Ionizing Radiation Registry examination.

You also may contact your branch of service to get a service record documenting any occupational radiation exposure that you may have received while in the military.  Learn more about how to find out if you have been exposed.

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