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The Effects of Radiation in Food Consumption of Humans

| By Cydney Walker
The Effects of Radiation in Food Consumption of Humans
Increased exposure to radioactive material can have damaging effects on your health. Photo Credit Radiation flag image by Stasys Eidiejus from Fotolia.com

Radiation has known negative effects on your body. Radiation naturally occurs in the environment and food supply, through radioactive materials such as rocks, soil and air. Common sources of exposure include nuclear accidents, nuclear bomb testing, x-rays from medical offices and therapies for cancer, the food supply, the sun and cigarette smoking.

Food Handling and Cooking Methods

Microwave ovens are the primary source of radiation for your food. According to chiropractic physician Dr. J. D. Decuypere, microwaving your food can produce unique radiolytic products that can alter the nutritional composition of foods. Irradiation of food to preserve or prolong shelf life is another means of radiation exposure. The dose used for fruits and vegetables, red meat, poultry and spices is considered low and safe for human consumption by the Food and Drug Administration, but the Organic Consumers Association feels any exposure can have unpredictable effects. Decuypere says that irradiation to kill harmful bacteria, such as E. coli, can cause mutations of the bacteria, causing resistance to irradiation and becoming more dangerous to your health.

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Radioactive Fallout

Radioactive fallout comes from radioactive materials accidentally released into the atmosphere, such as from nuclear power plant accidents. Prevailing winds and water fall can contain radioactive waste and isotopes, leading to the deposit of these materials in places far from the accident. The radiation is then deposited and absorbed by vegetation and grains used to feed animals for human consumption, as well as fruits, vegetables and grain products used to feed humans, according to Decuypere. Consuming radioactive materials can cause damage to your body. The European Food Safety Authority, or EFSA, states that the more soluble uranium is, the greater danger to the body upon exposure from food and water. Half-life of uranium in the body can last as long as 360 days, which means you still have uranium in your body long after your exposure to it.

Effects on Your Body

The World Health Organization states that absorption of uranium from foods is low, with 98 percent being excreted from your body unabsorbed and eliminated through feces. Uranium may accumulate in your nervous system, but according to WHO, firm conclusions can't be drawn as the results are conflicting on the damage done to nerves from radiation exposure. The United States Environmental Protection Agency states that ingested uranium from food and water can lead to kidney damage and cancer. This isn't due to the radioactivity of uranium but rather the toxic nature of the metal itself. Also, uranium found in your urine can still be traced inside your body for months after ingestion or exposure.

Protecting Yourself

According to the EPA, most people aren't exposed to levels high enough to cause damage, including people living near weapons-testing facilities or other industrial facilities, although exposure is greater. Decuypere advises limiting your intake of meats and dairy products. Look for foods that have irradiation symbols and avoid buying them. Know the country of origin for your produce and grain products. Avoid purchasing foods from areas that have increased uranium exposure from recent fallout events. Increase your intake of iodine-rich foods. Iodine is absorbed by your thyroid gland. By ingesting iodine-rich foods, you can block the effects of uranium exposure. Talk to local growers, and ask if they are planting crops in iodine-rich soil and purchase their produce.

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References

author image Cydney Walker
Cydney Walker is a registered dietitian and personal trainer who began writing about nutrition and exercise during her dietetic internship in 2000. She has been featured in "Voices" and by the National Medical Association for her HIV research. She earned her master's degree in human sciences from Texas A&M University in Kingsville.
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