Radiation facts and myths

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by rfisher, Mar 14, 2011.

  1. PUNKPRINCESS

    PUNKPRINCESS New Member

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    I'm not going to watch the Ann Coulter video but I would imagine she is referring to the concept of "radiation hormesis". I don't know much about the evidence for it, just that it competes with the prevailing no-threshold model for the potential harm of any dose of radiation. There is an article on Wikipedia on radiation hormesis, which I won't look down on unless others want to offer better sources to get some background info on it. :p

    I find the concept of hormesis in general quite fascinating. We had a brief mention of it in one of my classes, and it refers to the possible phenomenon that exposure to low stress or harm can actually produce some benefit. My professor told us (according to my notes) that in Hiroshima's close vicinities, there was a high incidence of tumors and general all-cause mortality rates (if you weren't killed right away), but a little further out, the life expectancy of the population was actually higher than that of populations even further away from the site. One proposed mechanism is that the body's protective measures are being stimulated by short-term exposure. Now, my prof emphasized it's the ACUTE radiation exposure that has been linked, although the Wikipedia article on radiation hormesis specifies that it's the chronic exposure.

    Exercise, as a kind of physiological stress, can be considered another example of hormesis. I don't know whether it deserves to be classified as acute or chronic, however. Daily exercise is what confers major benefits, not isolated strenuous workouts once every couple months, but it's not the same kind of stress as career-related ongoing stress from a job over decades, which is usually considered bad. I would lean towards classifying exercise as regularly scheduled acute stress.

    Low daily intake of alcohol has been considered possibly beneficial for cardiovascular health, although we all know that alcohol in general is a toxic substance to the body and binge drinking is terrible for you!

    Broccoli and related greens like brussels sprouts, kale, etc. contain a substance (is it sulforaphane, or indole-3-carbinol, I don't remember, or maybe it's both) that is actually a kind of plant toxin, but it's been posited as an anti-cancer/anti-tumorigenic substance because of perhaps how the body reacts.

    Lots of other substances, like cigarette smoke or coffee, induce increased levels of liver enzymes which promote more efficient detoxification. I'm definitely not telling anyone to start smoking (or to intentionally expose themselves to higher levels of radiation), but it's kinda cool that it happens. In one observational study, regular coffee drinkers were associated with having lower rates of liver cancer.

    Really neat stuff. :)
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  2. rjblue

    rjblue Re-registered User

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    I read an article about hormesis and pesticides a few years ago in Discover magazine. It is a quite fascinating subject. Arsenic in water is a good example. People who drink water with a higher than allowed ppm live longer than people with the allowed amounts, but at even higher levels it has very toxic effects. Many of the pesticides will extend lab animals lifespans if given in slightly toxic amounts, but clearly poisoning people to make them healthier is not going to become a popular practice.
  3. PUNKPRINCESS

    PUNKPRINCESS New Member

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    That's really interesting. Never heard that about arsenic, before.

    Edit: While we're on the subject of pesticides and "poisons" that can make people healthier...warfarin/coumadin was a rat poison (it's used for preventing strokes/blood clots in vulnerable people.) :D
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2011
  4. nubka

    nubka Well-Known Member

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    If you are looking for an expert in the field of brain atrophy due to watching grandchildren full-time for the past 8 years, then I'm your person, lol! :D
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  5. skatepixie

    skatepixie Well-Known Member

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    Arsenic was used as medicine for quite a while, and used to be used as a performance enhancing drug in race horses. An overdose is thought to have killed Phar Lap, though.
  6. FigureSpins

    FigureSpins New Member

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    Arsenic was used as a "beauty treatment" back in the 1800's - it turns cheeks rosy without rouge.
  7. Prancer

    Prancer The "specialness" that is Staff Member

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    I thought it made your skin white and it was consumption (tuberculosis) that had the effect of creating a becoming blush.
  8. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    xkcd's Randall Munroe is awesome and provides an awesome chart showing you the amounts of radiation you get from various things:

    http://xkcd.com/radiation/

    I had no idea a banana was radioactive! :lol:
  9. FigureSpins

    FigureSpins New Member

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    Used externally, it did bleach the skin, but consuming small doses of arsenic gave a "blooming" complexion. (Before death set in.)
  10. nubka

    nubka Well-Known Member

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    Wow, that was really informative and fascinating, too - thanks for posting it!