Friday, June 10, 2011

Radioactive Fallout’s Seven Deadliest

Even though the likelihood of atomic warfare is now exceedingly slim, do we still have to be wary of the seven deadliest elements in radioactive fallout?

By: Ringo Bones

Unfortunately, the threat to our health and well-being posed by radioactive fallout in atomic warfare and the one produced by a nuclear fission power plant accident are virtually identical. The recent Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster caused by the tragic March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami that hit the north-eastern portion of Japan – which is now had been inevitably compared to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident of April 26, 1986 – has virtually the same threat to our health and well-being posed by multi-megaton MIRVs that “might” be used in an all-out nuclear exchange.

The seven deadliest elements produced by atomic warfare and a nuclear fission power plant accident are as follows:

1)Strontium-89 - has a half-life of 53 days and is similar in effects to strontium-90.

2)Strontium-90 – has a half-life of 28 years. Absorbed in the skeleton, can injure bone and cause anemia. Emits beta particles and may also be absorbed by plants and transferred to humans in food.

3)Iodine-131 – has a half-life of 8.1 days and it primarily affects the thyroid.

4)Cesium-137 – has a half-life of 27 years. Easily absorbed by the body through the biosphere. Emits gamma rays and is a bone-seeker but it’s not as dangerous as strontium-90.

5)Barium-140 – has a half-life of 12.8 days and is similar to strontium-90 in its effects.

6)Cesium-144 – has a half-life of 282 days and has similar effects to cesium-137.

7)Plutonium-239 – primary component of nuclear weapons and a nuclear power plant’s fuel. Has a half-life of 24,000 years. Can injure the bone and cause anemia. Not as dangerous as the other elements listed because of its long half-life.

Strontium: Calcium’s Evil Alter-Ego?

Even though it got a bad reputation as an evil twin of calcium due to its presence in atomic fallout, does strontium really deserve the reputation as calcium’s evil alter-ego?

By: Ringo Bones

Given that 2011 has been declared as the UN’s International Year of Chemistry what better time to reevaluate some of the reputations that the members of the “Periodic Kingdom” seem to have unfairly deserved for the past hundred years or so. Aside from giving fireworks their rich red color, strontium seemingly got a bad rap during the 20th Century’s “Atomic Age” as the evil alter-ego of life-supporting calcium even though both belong to the Alkaline Earth Metal family of the Periodic Table.

Discovered in 1790, the name strontium is derived from Strontian, Scotland. Though much, much rarer than calcium, radioactive strontium-90 is present in significant amounts in atomic fallout – it is absorbed by bone tissue in place of calcium and enough of it destroys bone marrow and can cause cancer by emitting beta particles. But is strontium’s bad rap as the evil alter-ego of calcium really warranted?

Recent advances in medical science has just found a new use for strontium’s strange chemistry – namely as a treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis. Strontium ranelate – a chemical compound of stable non-radioactive form of strontium and ranelic acid – is now regularly used to treat postmenopausal osteoporosis to reduce the risk of vertebral and hip fractures. Because calcium containing drugs and foods reduce strontium bioavailability by as much as 60 to 70%, strontium containing drugs that treat postmenopausal osteoporosis should be taken two hours apart from calcium-containing drugs and foods. Even though the radioactive isotope of strontium, strontium-90, can cause bone cancer, the non-radioactive stable strontium isotopes simultaneously increase bone formation and reduces bone resorption.