Friday, April 08, 2011

Radiation Levels Explained: An exposure infographic

A Scientific American guest blog shows Radiation Levels Explained: An exposure infographic.

"There’s been a lot of confusion and concern about radiation in the past few weeks. As part of the Building a Better Explainer project at NYU’s Studio 20, we decided to create a visual explainer of radiation levels, inspired by some recent presentations over at XKCD and Information is Beautiful.

Rather than use a lot of tiny boxes or a logarithmic scale, we placed all the numbers on a vertical linear scale (it’s pretty long, just keep on scrolling down). Our hope was to transform something you can't see, smell, taste or feel into something a bit more tangible."

I like it. I think I'd reorganize the items at the top a little so that say 3000, 3600 and 3650 were all next to each other, but that's minor. The thing I did learn was that "smoking 1.5 packs a day for a year" exposes you to 36,000 micro-sieverts, or 10 times the normal yearly background dose. Cigarettes are radioactive. Huh.


Karl said...

My first thought about radiation does from smoking was that they were using some sort of equivalence rating to show comparable risk, but no, there are actual isotopes in tobacco which are inhaled in the smoke and get stuck in the lungs ( The dose appears to be a concentration of environmental contaminants over time which makes it hard compare to a single does such as an x-ray. They do explicitly state this in the caveats.

Howard said...

So it's like bananas that K which naturally includes a small percentage of radioactive isotopes of K. My first thought was oh, this is how smoking causes lung cancer, then I figured the 36,000 dose was too low since it takes 500,000 to increase your cancer risk just 1/250. But that article says " Radioactivity may be one of the key factors in lung cancer among [cigarette] smokers."

Then again, this makes it clear that radiation is probably just one of many carcinogens, "Secondhand smoke contains over 4,000 chemical compounds, including 69 known carcinogens such as formaldehyde, lead, arsenic, benzene, and radioactive polonium 210."