Friday, 15 February 2013

Danger of radioactive substances

The dangers of radioactivity and radiation were not immediately recognized. Acute effects of radiation were first observed in the use of X-rays when electrical engineer and physicist Nikola Tesla intentionally subjected his fingers to X-rays in 1896.[3] He published his observations concerning the burns that developed, though he attributed them to ozone rather than to X-rays. His injuries later healed.

The genetic effects of radiation, including the effect of cancer risk, were recognized much later. In 1927, Hermann Joseph Muller published research showing genetic effects, and in 1946 was awarded the Nobel prize for his findings.

Before the biological effects of radiation were known, many physicians and corporations began marketing radioactive substances as patent medicine in the form of glow-in-the-dark pigments. Examples were radium enema treatments, and radium-containing waters to be drunk as tonics. Marie Curie protested this sort of treatment, warning that the effects of radiation on the human body were not well understood. 

Curie later died from aplastic anemia, likely caused by exposure to ionizing radiation. By the 1930s, after a number of cases of bone necrosis and death of enthusiasts, radium-containing medicinal products had been largely removed from the market (radioactive quackery).