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Irradiation is the process by which an item is exposed to radiation. The exposure can be intentional, sometimes to serve a specific purpose, or it can be accidental. In common usage the term refers specifically to ionizing radiation, and to a level of radiation that will serve that specific purpose, rather than radiation exposure to normal levels of background radiation or abnormal levels of radiation due to accidental exposure. This term also applies to 'non-ionizing radiation as microwaves or to low frequency (50/60 Hz power supply), high frequency (as cellular phones, radio and TV transmissions).

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Sterilization

If administered at appropriate levels, all of these forms of radiation can be used to sterilize objects, a technique used in the production of medical instruments and disposables, such as syringes as well as in the disinfestation and sterilization of food. Small doses of ionizing radiation (electron beam processing, X-rays and gamma rays)[1] may be used to kill bacteria in food, or other organic material, including blood. Irradiation also includes (by the principle) microwave heating. Food irradiation, while effective, is seldom used due to public relations problems.[2]

Medicine

It is also used in Diagnostic Imaging and cancer therapy.

Industrial chemistry

Irradiation can furthermore be used in cross-linking of plastics or to improve material qualities of semi-precious stones. Due to its efficiency, electron beam processing is often used in the irradiation treatment of polymer-based products to improve the mechanical, thermal, and chemical properties, and often adding unique properties. Cross-linked polyethylene pipe (PEX), high-temperature products such as tubing and gaskets, wire and cable jacket curing, curing of composite materials, and crosslinking of tires are a few examples.

Security

During the 2001 anthrax attacks, the US Postal Service irradiated mail to protect members of the US government and other possible targets. This can be of some concern to people, including artists; according to the ART in Embassies programme "incoming mail is irradiated, and the process destroys slides, transparencies and disks."[1]

Agriculture

After its discovery by Lewis Stadler at the University of Missouri, irradiation of seed and plant germplasm has resulted in creating many of the most widely grown strains of food crops worldwide. The process, which consists of striking plant seeds or germplasm by radiation in the form of X-rays, UV waves, heavy-ion beams, gamma rays, essentially "mixes" the genes already existing in genome. The UN has been active in this through the International Atomic Energy Agency. Irradiation is also employed to prevent sprouting of certain cereals, onions, potatoes and garlic.[3]. Appropriate irradiation doses] are also used to produce sterile insects to be used in the sterile insect technique.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) recognizes irradiation as an important technology to protect consumers. Fresh meat and poultry including whole or cut up birds, skinless poultry, pork chops, roasts, stew meat, liver, hamburgers, ground meat, and ground poultry are approved for irradiation. [4]

Assassination

Gheorghiu-Dej died of lung cancer in Bucharest on March 19, 1965. Some claim that he was intentionally irradiated during a visit to Moscow, due to his political stance.

In 1999, an article in Der Spiegel alleged that the East German MfS (aka Stasi) intentionally irradiated political prisoners with high-dose radiation, possibly to provoke cancer in them.[5][6]

References

  1. ^ "Food Standards Agency - Irradiated food". http://www.food.gov.uk/safereating/rad_in_food/irradfoodqa/. Retrieved 2008-01-26.  
  2. ^ "Spinach and Peanuts, With a Dash of Radiation" article by Andrew Marin in The New York Times February 1, 2009
  3. ^ Bly, J.H.; Electron Beam Processing. Yardley, PA: International Information Associates, 1988.
  4. ^ "http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Irradiation_and_Food_Safety/index.asp" Retrieved Jan. 5, 2010
  5. ^ STASI: In Kopfhöhe ausgerichtet. Article by Peter Wensierski in Der Spiegel 20/1999, May 17, 1999
  6. ^ Tödliche Strahlung. Die Staatssicherheit der DDR steht im Verdacht, Regimegegner radioaktiv verseucht zu haben. Article by Paul Leonhard in Junge Freiheit April 14, 2000

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