Almost all radiation burns come from man made radioactive elements, which emit alpha, beta and gamma radiation. To learn more about the dangers of these types of radiation, go to;
Radiation burns are caused by exposure to high levels of radiation. Levels high enough to cause burn are generally lethal if received as a whole-body dose, whereas they may be treatable if received as a shallow or local dose.
WHAT IS BETA RADIATION?
BETA RADIATION BURNS
“Beta burns” are shallow surface burns
, usually of skin
and less often of lungs
or gastrointestinal tract
, caused by beta particles
, typically from hot particles
or dissolved radionuclides
that came to direct contact with or close proximity to the body. They can appear similar to sunburn
. Unlike gamma rays
, beta emissions are stopped much more effectively by materials and therefore deposit all their energy in only a shallow layer of tissue, causing more intense but more localized damage. On cellular level, the changes in skin are similar to radiodermatitis
High doses of radiation can cause rapid browning of skin, known as “nuclear tan”.
HOT PARTICLES ON SKIN
The dose is influenced by relatively low penetration of beta emissions through materials. The cornified keratine
layer of epidermis
has enough stopping power to absorb beta radiation with energies lower than 70 keV. Further protection is provided by clothing, especially shoes
. The dose is further reduced by limited retention of radioactive particles on skin; a 1 millimeter particle is typically released in 2 hours, while a 50 micrometer particle usually does not adhere for more than 7 hours.
Beta emissions are also severely attenuated by air; their range generally does not exceed 6 feet (1.8 m) and intensity rapidly diminishes with distance.
BETA RADIATION BURNS ON EYES
The eye lens seems to be the most sensitive organ to beta radiation, even in doses far below maximum permissible dose. Safety goggles are recommended to attenuate strong beta
BETA RADIATION BURNS ON PLANTS
Beta burns can occur also to plants
PREVENTION OF EXTERIOR BETA BURNS
Careful washing of exposed body surface, removing the radioactive particles, may provide significant dose reduction. Exchanging or at least brushing off clothes also provides a degree of protection.
BETA BURN TIME LAG FOR FIRST SYMPTOMS
If the exposure to beta radiation is intense, the beta burns may first manifest in 24–48 hours by itching and/or burning sensation that last for one or two days, sometimes accompanied by hyperaemia
. After 1–3 weeks burn symptoms appear; erythema
, increased skin pigmentation
(dark colored patches and raised areas), followed by epilation
and skin lesions
. Erythema occurs after 5–15 Gy
, dry desquamation after 17 Gy, and bullousepidermitis
after 72 Gy.
Chronic radiation keratosis
may develop after higher doses. Primary erythema lasting more than 72 hours is an indication of injury severe enough to cause chronic radiation dermatitis. Edema of dermal papillae
, if present within 48 hours since the exposition, is followed by transepidermal necrosis
. After higher doses, the malpighian layer
cells die within 24 hours; lower doses may take 10–14 days to show dead cells.
INHALATION OF BETA RADIATION – BURNS LUNGS AND NASAL REGION
FIRST DEGREE BETA RADIATION BURNS
In first degree beta burns the damage is largely limited to epidermis
. Dry or wet desquamation
occurs; dry scabs
are formed, then heal rapidly, leaving a depigmented area surrounded with irregular area of increased pigmentation. The skin pigmentation returns to normal within several weeks.
SECOND DEGREE BETA RADIATION BURNS
Second degree beta burns lead to formation of blisters
THIRD AND FOURTH DEGREE BETA RADIATION BURNS
Third and fourth degree beta burns result in deeper, wet ulcerated
lesions, which heal with routine medical care after covering themselves with dry scab. In case of heavy tissue damage, ulcerated necrotic dermatitis
may occur. Pigmentation may return to normal within several months after wound healing.
Lost hair begins regrowing in 9 weeks and is completely restored in about half a year.
KELOIDS AFTER BETA RADIATION BURNS
DOSE DEPENDENT EFFECTS OF BETA RADIATION ON SKIN
The acute dose-dependent effects of beta radiation on skin are as follows:
2–6 Gy transient erythema 2–24 h
3–5 Gy dry desquamation in 3–6 weeks
3–4 Gy temporary epilation in 3 weeks
10–15 Gy erythema 18–20 days
15–20 Gy moist desquamation
25 Gy ulceration with slow healing
30–50 Gy blistering, necrosis in 3 weeks
100 Gy blistering, necrosis in 1–3 weeks
A study of radiation induced skin injuries
has been performed by the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) based on results from 1994,
followed by an advisory to minimize further fluoroscopy-induced injuries.
The problem of radiation injuries due to fluoroscopy has been further investigated in review articles in 2000,
RADIOACTIVE FALLOUT AFTER NUCLEAR ACCIDENTS
BETA RADIATION BURNS ON ANIMALS
After the Trinity test
, the fallout caused localized burns on the backs of cattle
in the area downwind.
The fallout had the appearance of small flaky dust particles. The cattle showed temporary burns, bleeding, and loss of hair. Dogs were also affected; in addition to localized burns on their backs, they also had burned paws, likely from the particles lodged between their toes as hoofed animals did not show problems with feet.
About 350–600 cattle were affected by superficial burns and localized temporary loss of dorsal hair; the army later bought 75 most affected cows as the discolored regrown hair lowered their market value.
The cows were shipped to Los Alamos and Oak Ridge, where they were observed. They healed, now sporting large patches of white fur; some looked like being scalded.
The Upshot-Knothole Harry
test at the Frenchman Flat
site released a large amount of fallout. A significant amount of sheep died after grazing
on contaminated areas. The AEC
however had a policy to compensate farmers only for animals showing external beta burns, so many claims were denied. Other tests on the Nevada Test Site also caused fallout and corresponding beta burns to sheep, horses and cattle.
During the Operation Upshot-Knothole
, sheep as far as 50 miles (80 km) from the test site suffered beta burns to their backs and nostrils.
BETA BURNS FROM NUCLEAR TESTS
The fallout produced by the Castle Bravo
test was unexpectedly strong. A white snow-like dust, nicknamed by the scientists “Bikini snow” and consisting of contaminated crushed calcined coral
, fell for about 12 hours upon the Rongelap Atoll
, depositing layer of up to 2 cm. Residents suffered beta burns, mostly on the backs of their necks and on their feet,
and were resettled after three days.
After 24–48 hours their skin was itching and burning; in a day or two the sensations subsided, to be followed after 2–3 weeks by epilation and ulcers. Darker-colored patches and raised areas appeared on their skin, blistering was uncommon. Ulcers formed dry scabs and healed. Deeper lesions, painful, weeping and ulcerated, formed on more contaminated residents; the majority healed with simple treatment. In general, the beta burns healed with some cutaneous scarring
and depigmentation. Individuals who bathed and washed the fallout particles from their skin did not develop skin lesions.
The fishing ship Daigo Fukuryu Maru
was affected by the fallout as well; the crew suffered skin doses between 1.7–6.0 Gy, with beta burns manifesting as severe skin lesions, erythema, erosions
, sometimes necrosis, and skin atrophy
. 23 U.S. radar servicemen of the 28-member weather station on Rongerik
were affected, experiencing discrete 1-4 mm skin lesions which healed quickly, and ridging of fingernails
several months later.
Sixteen crew members of the aircraft carrier USS Bairoko
received beta burns and there was an increased cancer
During the Zebra test of the Operation Sandstone
in 1948 three men suffered beta burns on their hands when removing sample collection filters from drones
flying through the mushroom cloud
; their estimated skin surface dose was 28 to 149 Gy and their disfigured hands required skin grafts
. Fourth man shown weaker burns after the earlier Yoke test.
NUCLEAR ACCIDENTS AND BETA RADIATION BURNS
Beta burns were a serious medical issue for some victims of the Chernobyl disaster
; from 115 patients treated in Moscow, 30% had burns covering 10–50% of body surface, 11% were affected on 50–100% of skin; the massive exposure
was often caused by clothes drenched with radioactive water. Some firefighters suffered beta burns of lungs
region after inhalation of massive amounts of radioactive smoke
Out of 28 deaths, 16 had skin injuries listed among the causes. The beta activity was extremely high, with beta/gamma ratio reaching 10–30 and beta energy high enough to damage basal layer
of the skin, resulting in large area portals for infections
, exacerbated by damage to bone marrow
and weakened immune system
Some patients received skin dose of 400–500 Gy. The infections caused more than half of the acute deaths. Several died of fourth degree beta burns between 9–28 days after dose of 6–16 Gy. Seven died after dose of 4–6 Gy and third degree beta burns in 4–6 weeks. One died later from second degree beta burns and dose 1-4 Gy.
The survivors have atrophic
skin which is telangiectactic
and with underlying fibrosis
The burns may manifest at different times at different body areas. The Chernobyl liquidators burns first appeared on wrists, face, neck and feet, followed by chest and back, then by knees, hips and buttocks.
INDUSTRIAL RADIATION CAUSED BETA BURNS
Radiation therapy sources can cause beta burns during exposure
of the patients. The sources can be also lost and mishandled, as in the Goiânia accident
, during which several people suffered external beta burns and more serious gamma burns, and several died. Numerous accidents also occur during radiotherapy due to equipment failures, operator errors, or wrong dosage.
There are three specific types of radiodermatitis: acute radiodermatitis, chronic radiodermatitis, and eosinophilic, polymorphic, and pruritic eruption associated with radiotherapy.
:39–40 Radiation therapy can also cause radiation cancer
With interventional fluoroscopy, because of the high skin doses
that can be generated in the course of the intervention, some procedures have resulted in early (less than two months after exposure) and/or late (two months or more after exposure) skin reactions, including necrosis in some cases.
Radiation dermatitis, in the form of intense erythema
of the skin, may be observed in radiation ports.
As many as 95% of patients treated with radiation therapy for cancer will experience a skin reaction. Some reactions are immediate, while others may be later (e.g., months after treatment
ACUTE RADIATION DERMATITIS
Acute radiodermatitis occurs when an “erythema dose” of ionizing radiation is given to the skin, after which visible erythema appears up to 24 hours after.
:39 Radiation dermatitis generally manifests within a few weeks after the start of radiotherapy.
:143 Acute radiodermatitis, while presenting as red patches, may sometimes also present with desquamation
Erythema may occur at a dose of 2 Gy radiation or greater.
CHRONIC RADIATION DERMATITIS
Chronic radiodermatitis occurs with chronic exposure to “sub-erythema” doses of ionizing radiation over a prolonged period, producing varying degrees of damage to the skin and its underlying parts after a variable latent period of several months to several decades.
:40 In the past this type of radiation reaction occurred most frequently in radiologists and radiographic technologists who were constantly exposed to ionizing radiation.
:40Restated, chronic radiodermatitis, squamous and basal cell carcinomas may develop months to years after radiation exposure.
Clinically, chronic radiodermatitis presents as atrophic indurated plaques, often whitish or yellowish, with telangiectasia, sometimes with hyperkeratosis
Eosinophilic, polymorphic, and pruritic eruption associated with radiotherapy is a skin condition that occurs most often in women receiving cobalt radiotherapy for internal cancer.
Radiation-induced erythema multiforme
may occur when phenytoin
is given prophylactically to neurosurgical patients who are receiving whole-brain therapy and systemic steroids.
Radiation acne is a cutaneous condition characterized by comedo-like papules
occurring at sites of previous exposure to therapeutic ionizing radiation, skin lesions that begin to appear as the acute phase of radiation dermatitis begins to resolve.
RADIATION RECALL REACTIONS
Radiation recall reactions occur months to years after radiation treatment, a reaction that follows recent administration of a chemotherapeutic agent and occurs with the prior radiation port, characterized by features of radiation dermatitis. Restated, radiation recall dermatitis is an inflammatory skin reaction that occurs in a previously irradiated body part following drug administration. There does not appear to be a minimum dose, nor an established radiotherapy dose relationship
X RAY RADIATION BURNS
High exposure to X-rays
during diagnostic medical imaging
can also result in radiation burns. As the ionizing radiation interacts with cells
within the body—damaging them—the body responds to this damage, typically resulting in erythema
—that is, redness around the damaged area.
RADIATION INDUCED CANCER
Radiation burns are often associated with radiation-induced cancer
due to the ability of ionizing radiation to interact with and damage DNA
, occasionally inducing a cell to become cancerous.
can be improperly used to create surface and internal burning. Depending on the photon energy
, gamma radiation
can cause very deep gamma burns, with 60Co
internal burns are common. Beta burns tend to be shallow as beta particles
are not able to penetrate deep into the person; these burns can be similar to sunburn.
RADIO TRANSMITTER BURNS
Radiation burns can also occur with high power radio transmitters
at any frequency where the body absorbs radio frequency energy and converts it to heat.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission
(FCC) considers 50 watts to be the lowest power above which radio stations must evaluate emission safety.
Frequencies considered especially dangerous occur where the human body can become resonant
, at 35 MHz, 70 MHz, 80-100 MHz, 400 MHz, and 1 GHz.
Exposure to microwaves
of too high intensity can cause microwave burns
Via anne December 15, 2013 “
The medical profession is obviously addicted to using beta emitters: “There are many beta emitters. You can find fact sheets for several of them at the Radionuclides page:
• iodine-129 and -131
“Does the way a person is exposed to beta particles matter?
“Yes. Direct exposure to beta particles is a hazard, because emissions from strong sources can redden or even burn the skin. However, emissions from inhaled or ingested beta particle emitters are the greatest concern. Beta particles released directly to living tissue can cause damage at the molecular level, which can disrupt cell function. Because they are much smaller and have less charge than alpha particles, beta particles generally travel further into tissues. As a result, the cellular damage is more dispersed….”
MORE NEWS STORIES ABOUT BETA RADIATION BURNS
Mainichi: Fukushima nuke plant workers blasted with beta radiation
Another Fukushima worker exposed to high level of radiation — Radioactive material attached to jaw, neck — Severe internal exposure likely