If you have ever worked in a laboratory that produces isotopes or worked in a nuclear facility and handled any radioactive material, you know that scientists always go through a strenuous process when determining if a sample is truly contaminated. This is not only for the safety of those who are working with the materials but for the safety of the environment as well. This is why it is so important to be familiar with the different methods that are used for this testing – and how each one differs from the others. In this article, I will discuss some commonly used methods of nuclear medicine testing.
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Iodine isotopes are one of the most commonly used forms of nuclear medicine testing. They are also called the “hard” ions. Iodine can be combined with neutrons to produce one of four new isotopes – U-process, I Nidol, I-Proton, and P-process. These four new isotopes have the ability to combine with an element that has already been in existence for a long time, without causing a change in the compound itself (called a “self-interaction”). When this happens, the compound can become unstable and can result in the mutation of the DNA.
The two different ways that neutrons can interact with the DNA, is by colliding with one another, or by penetrating the membrane. Neutrons that have been paired with an atom can give off gamma rays. The gamma rays can penetrate through the membrane. Once they are inside the cell, they can either bump into the nucleus or travel out by escaping through the broken cellular wall. This is how the production of a product called neutrons is able to occur within the body. It is also how the release of free neutrons that we feel after a nuclear explosion occurs.
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Iodine isotopes have been tested for their ability to stop cancerous cells from growing. It has been discovered that patients with thyroid cancer who took iodine supplements, relative to healthy controls, were less likely to be alive after a year of treatment. By contrast, those who took regular doses of iodine had a survival rate that was not significantly different from those in the control group. Thus, this study provided proof that iodine works. However, it is still unclear as to how this happens.
Some people believe that nuclear weapons build up in soil near military bases. They theorize that depleted uranium (DUF) is being used as a fuel additive or the weapons are simply sitting there as inert waste. However, this could not be further from the truth. No matter how much radiation is released from a nuclear explosion, the soil near any nuclear weapons will still receive it.
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The abundance of isotopes in the environment can also be a problem if humans fail to take care of the waste that is left behind. One such waste product is depleted uranium. Once humans dig it up and dispose of it, the uranium will begin to emit radiation. If there are no safe containers to store it in, the contamination will be distributed around and could possibly contaminate other areas of the world. The abundance of isotopes in the environment may also be caused by efforts to clean up from nuclear weapons.
The abundance of isotopes in the environment can also be a problem for those living in a contaminated area. In such an environment, they could become contaminated themselves, causing sickness and disease. It is not uncommon for local farmers to become ill from consuming food from contaminated fields. The same is true for laborers in the mining and processing areas.
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The abundance of isotopes in the environment is a reality. Humans are constantly creating new elements and there is always more of these isotopes lying around than there are people breathing air. The challenge then is to try and keep the concentration of these isotopes below what would be safe for us to inhale or ingest.
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