You may still have questions about radiation and your potential for exposure. Some of the most commonly asked questions are answered below.
Question: Will ionizing radiation hurt my chances for having children?
Answer: Ionizing radiation can affect the DNA of a chromosome, as previously discussed. Because most mutations are recessive, chance mutations would only present themselves if the genes from both parents have the same mutation at the same location on a given pair of chromosome.
However unlikely, the effect is cumulative for females, as the eggs are developed at birth and never replace themselves. This is yet another reason to keep exposures as low as possible.
Question: Will ionizing radiation affect my pregnancy?
Answer: A developing fetus is highly susceptible to ionizing radiation, especially in the first trimester. It is critical that women who suspect that they may be pregnant get a blood test as soon as possible in order to be placed in a fetal protection program.
The program requires the workplace to be evaluated for possible factors that may adversely affect pregnancy. Based on the workplace factors, work restriction, or modifications, may be required. Women who require an x-ray are asked, and often tested, to ensure they are not pregnant.
Question: How do I know if I've been overexposed?
Answer: An overexposure is difficult to detect without instrumentation. Most people suspect they are exposed only after they realize the mistake may have been made: a unit left open, a safety device defeated, inadequate area signs, and so on. All suspected over-exposures must be reported and then investigated.
Question: Where can I go for more information?
Answer: Your supervisor, radiation safety officer, or bioenvironmental engineer can provide answers. They have workplace information and documentation about the radiation exposure potential. For example, AFI 40-201, "Managing Radioactive Materials in the U.S. Air Force," gives excellent guidance on how we manage our radioactive materials.
Some operations that require radioactive materials have specific technical orders governing proper usage and handling. Others are restrictive materials and require a radioactive material permit.
The governing regulation for all radiation exposures is 10 CFR 20. This can also provide many answers.