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Radiation Effects on the Environment

Radiation Effects on the Environment
At low levels, radiation can be beneficial to the environment. Photo Credit nature image by Dmitriy Aydreev from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

There are many forms of radiation. Some forms of radiation are found in the natural environment and others are due to modern technology. Whether natural or man-made, radiation can be both harmful and beneficial to the environment. The sun, for example can have positive and negative effects on plant and animal life. At low levels, radiation can be beneficial to the environment. On the other hand ionized radiation such as x-rays, gamma rays, alpha and beta particles can be particularly harmful in excessive amounts.

Plant Growth

Natural radiation is often beneficial to plant growth. It is necessary for many plants to receive some form of non-ionizing radiation. Radiation that produces light in order for photosynthesis to occur is a positive effect that radiation has on plant life. However, according to the Environmental Literacy Council, ionized radiation that occurs from nuclear material may result in weakening of seeds and frequent mutations. For instance, a nuclear plant, called Chernobyl in Russia leaked in 1986 that caused excessive amounts of radiation pollution in that region. A huge cloud of radiation was formed which resulted in a massive amount of destroyed plant life; particularly pine trees in that area. High doses of radiation can be devastating to the environment.

Animal and Humans

The effect of radiation in the environment can be dangerous and fatal to humans and animals. The damage it causes depends on the level of radiation and the resiliency of the organism. Radiation causes molecules to lose electrons thus destroying it. Killing certain enzymes in the body can simply make you sick. However, once radiation damages DNA the body may not be able to repair itself. This can increase the chances of both animals and humans developing cancer. According to the US Department of Energy, after two nuclear explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, survivors experience higher cases of cancer and child deformities. The nuclear explosions are examples of high levels of radiation. However, low doses of radiation can kill germs and decrease the number of food poisoning cases.

Marine Life

The effects that radiation has on marine life can be dangerous. High levels of UV or ultraviolet radiation can cause a reduction in reproduction capabilities. It can also disrupt the timing that plants flower, which can result in changes in pollination patterns. According to NASA, it can also reduce the amount of food and oxygen that plankton produces. Plankton can respond to excessive amount of UV-B or Ultraviolet-B light by sinking deeper into the water. This decreases the amount of visible light required for photosynthesis, which reduces growth and reproduction. An increased amount of UV-B can also increase the amount of ozone produced at the lower atmosphere. While some plants can use this extra layer as a protective shield, other plants are highly sensitive to photochemical smog.

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