How much radiation is how much radiation?

Here\’s a fun little calculation.

So, according to the latest from Tokyo, drinking the radiation poisoned milk from the Fukushima plant there might give you, if you drank it for the entire year, the same radiation dosage as a CT scan:

Edano said the amount of radiation detected in the milk was the equivalent to one CT scan – the series of X-rays used for medical tests – if consumed continually for a year.

OK. So, how much radiation is that?

Although CT scans were the biggest source of radiation, other offenders included X-rays and mammograms. The results of the study, presented in May at the annual conference of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, were disturbing: the average patient had received 45 millisieverts (mSv) of radiation.

Note, we\’re comparing a year of drinking the milk with one CT scan. So, divide by the number of hours in the year to give us an hourly rate*.

So, 45/8760 is 0.005 millisievert per hour.

One more thing:

Meanwhile, some Britons in the country have begun their journey back to the UK to escape from radiation fears,

Mmm. So, how much radiation are you going to get on a long haul flight?

The average effective dose rate of all flights of Xinjiang Airlines from 1997 to 1999 was 0.238 mrem (millirem) per hour.

Millirems to millisieverts means 0.00238 millisieverts per hour.

So flying back will give you 50% of the radiation that drinking the milk would give you.

Seems easier just not to drink the milk really: especially as the milk will have concentrated the radiation from the surrounding environment. Meaning that whatever the dose in the milk the ambient dose will be much lower.

Meaning, in reality, that taking a flight to avoid the radiation will give you more radiation than you\’d get if you didn\’t flee.

Per hour, at least.

* Yes, I know that radiation calculations, dosages, rems and sieverts, are more complicated than this, just trying to get to the right sort of orders of magnitude here.

9 thoughts on “How much radiation is how much radiation?”

  1. And if you believe some of the ideas floating around, a little bit of radiation actually does you good. So staying in Japan and getting a little bit might actually prolong your life.

  2. And, don’t let us forget, those who leave Japan forever and choose to go to live in Denver : well! Death by cosmic rays.

  3. Different radioactive emitters have different effects on the human body, so radiation dosage is by no means the whole story. The highest background natural radiation- way above “safe” dose rates- in the UK is found in the Granite City of Aberdeen – which is also renowned for the long-levity of its inhabitants.

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