The discovery of chemical element radioactivity by Antoine Becquerel in 1896 generated a strong interest to this area in scientific world.

Ernest Rutherford in Montreal in 1899 and Paul Villar in Paris in 1900, working in parallel, divided all radiation sources into three types depending on the impact on magnetic field particles and penetrating ability.

The rays that showed the minimum deviation were named alpha rays.

Due to further experiments, it was found that alpha radiation is characterized by low penetrating ability. Its main source is radioactive isotopes, which produce alpha particles (helium nuclei) during decay.

Where alpha radiation occurs?

  1. During radioactive decay of natural radionuclides (isotopes contained in natural radioactive series of uranium, thorium, actinouranium, neptunium, separate long-lived isotopes), in which helium nuclei are emitted.
  2. When helium nuclei together with cosmic radiation get on the Earth.
  3. When performing experiments in radioisotope laboratories and on accelerators of charged particles.
  4. When using nuclear fuel cycle facilities including nuclear reactors, mines, hydrometallurgical plants and other radiation sources used for scientific and research purposes.

Due to low penetrating ability, alpha radiation cannot penetrate the human skin. It becomes dangerous mainly when it enters the body with air, food and water, through wounds. In future, it may cause leukemia, cancer, hereditary diseases, etc. If the source of alpha particles is an accelerator and their energy reaches dozens of MeV, the threat of external exposure still exists.

The features of radiation biological effect:

  1. A person does not feel radiation impact on the body.
  2. Skin injury, sickness typical for radiation disease does not appear immediately, but after a while.
  3. Dose summing is hidden.

Alpha particles may be detected by special radiation control devices: dosimeters, radiometers, spectrometers specifically designed for this radiation type.

How to protect yourself against alpha radiation?

Against external radiation: skin is a great natural protection; special clothes (overalls, facial masks, helmets, special-purpose shoes, rubber gloves, eye shields made of Plexiglas.

In order to remove alpha radionuclides accumulated in the body it is necessary to eat products that sorb and remove them from the body. These are products containing vitamins B and C. Quail eggs are used to treat small exposure doses.

Alpha therapy

The knowledge gained by scientists allowed developing medical alpha therapy. The spectrum of possible procedures includes: radon baths, drinking radon water, inhalation of air with a radon component.

Doctors believe that the use of alpha particles in therapy is more efficient than beta radiation. Significantly less alpha therapy procedures are required to destruct cancer cells. At the same time, this therapy has an antiphlogistic, analgesic and soothing effect, therefore it is intended for patients with skin, gynecological, cardiovascular diseases, as well as concerns of the locomotor apparatus.

Uatom.org Editorial Board