Ananya Pandey | Jamnalal Bajaj School Of Legal Studies Banasthali Vidyapith | 12th October 2019
Radiation is an indispensable and integral part of human life in present. From Archaeology to agriculture, from Academics to medicine radioactivity has its widespread use. Bur if it is not handled prudently then it can cause serious injuries and troubles. This research paper aims at focusing radiation and radiation related injuries in detail. How the injuries takes place, types and sources and its affects covering major injuries caused by this. The paper will throw a light on some medico legal points of radiation Injuries. The paper will further analyse major nuclear accidents that have occurred so far along with the reasons of such accidents. The paper will conclude with some suggestions related to safety measures for the nuclear reactors for lesser demolitions in future, along with the measures taken by the government for safety from radiation injuries.
Radioactivity has been a part of mother earth. There can be no hyperbole if I say that we are surrounded with radiations ,from our atmosphere to floors and walls of our schools infact in the crust of our earth radioactive material is present, not only this but our own bones and muscles contains some amount of natural radioactive material. Earlier the earth was filled with only natural sources of ionising radiations only, but in the nick of time with the advancement of technologies man becomes more upgraded and engendered the development. Man is exposed to radiations throughout his life be it artificial or manmade, and this becomes an integral part of man’s life. To aid and comfort the human kind today radiations is used in academics, medicine and industries and along with these in agriculture, archaeology (carbon-dating), geology etc. But apart from the welfares radiations mostly ionising radiations became detrimental to the human life in many cases. The occurrence of radiation injuries is not known as the cases are underreported and scattered, but the radiation injuries have become a matter of great public concern.
To know about the radiation injuries we need to know first what are radiation and injuries caused by it so moving to what are radiation injuries. The injuries effectuated due to ionising radiations emitted by either natural or man made sources such as x rays, sun other and other diagnostic machines and other radioactive elements that causes several problems to human body such as tissue damage, reduction of red blood cells, acute illness, damage to the digestive tract and many a times if over exposed the gentic defects in the offsprings.
Majorly three type of radiation injuries occur at large, external injuries, contamination by radioactive materials and acculturation of radioactive materials in human body.
When an external radiation source penetrates inside the body, whole or a part of it penetrates the body, whole or part of it, external radiation is said to occur. When the part of the body or body is being exposed, such external radiation can either be absorbed by the body or it can pass completely through.
Some examples of the same can be – X ray.
Contamination occurs when the radioactive elements get mixed in the environment in any form be it solid, liquid or gaseous thereby contaminating the environment and people both internally and externally.
Incorporation being the third type of radioactive injury is the injury caused by the uptake of radioactive materials by the human body-tissues, cells, bones etc. Incorporation can be said to be the distribution of the radioactive materials throughout the body. It cannot happen unless contamination is done.
However out of these types of radioactive injuries most of them are caused by the ionising radiation and out of all the ionising radiations most common of them are –
Alpha radiation -These types of radiations are effused by atoms such as – uranium and radium. These can be stopped by the sheet of paper through the epidermal layer of the skin, but can be engulfed by breathing, drinking, eating and can biological damage such as tissue rupture.
Beta radiation – consisting neutrons they posses higher degree of penetration then alpha rays and can pass through one or two centimetres of water. But can be stopped by few mm thick aluminium sheet.
Gama rays – These are the electromagnetic radiations similar to x rays, lights and radio waves. They contains higher penetrating power can go deep down our body and can pass through it as well. But can be stopped by thick walls of concrete or lead.
Neutrons – These are uncharged particles that do not emit radiation directly but when mixed with some atom they can cause emission of alpha, beta, gama, x rays which produces ionization. They can be stopped by thick masses of concrete, water and paraffin.
Cosmic rays – Cosmic rays are highly fast mixture of heavy particles having different energies containing high penetrating power being of galatic or solar origin (mostly are excluded form van allen radiation belt)
Sources of Radiation
There are usually 3 main sources of radiation –natural, nuclear, radioactive.
Natural sources in turn are majorly of 2 types – cosmic and terrestrial in origin. Some examples of the same –elements of radium, thorium series in granite rocks and sands zn naturally occurring potassium -40 that eventuate naturally in coastal areas of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, along with minute traces of C-14 Atom present in food, air and water.
Nuclear sources can be Nuclear reactors, Uranium mills mines and radiation through associated radon and its daughter products are prime nuclear sources. However these radiations can be hazardous and even fatal. Uranium a type of nuclear source through its radiation can cause cancer that is noticed among uranium mines. Elements like plutonium are hazardous because they emit alpha particles which can be a menace for human life. Nuclear reactor produces other type of radiations in the form of solids, liquids, and gases such as Tritium, Krypton 85, Xenon 131, and small amount of several isotopes of Iodine etc, neutron flux etc.
Talking about injuries these usually depends upon the dosage that is how much a body absorbs to such emissions. Higher the dose more severe the early effects will be. On an average, the exposure caused due to natural sources amounts to 2.4 msv per year. For workers exposed mainly due to radiation the maximum permissible dose to the gonads, tissues and forming organs and eyes is 3 rem for any period of 13 weeks consecutively. For an year the dose is 5 rads for radiation workers and 10 % of the same to the other population. For fetus radiation in 1st 28 days of its life if it is even 40 rads can cause stern abnormalities. Whereas it can be absolutely fatal when exposed to 1000 rads of radiation, however 600 rads can cause 50 % of mortality but several malformation in he body. Blood changes may occur due to subjection of about 50-100 rads exposure.
Effects of Radiation on Human Body
Radiation Injuries pose a significant threat to human life and human body. Many serious injuries and deformities are also caused due to injuries caused by radiation exposure that cannot be cured for lifetime as well. Nausea, vomiting and diorrhea are some of the symptoms of radiation absorption at high doses. At times radiation exposure can lead to early mortality due to drastic bone marrow depletion, and in many cases permanent impairment of the lung function is also seen when large doses of radioactivity is enhaled. Many a times due to ingestion of large amount of radionuclides irradiation of gastrointestinal happens which becomes the main reason for early mortality in many cases.
Talking about the cases of nuclear accidents the irradiation of bone marrow causes fatal results. Other speculative problems may include impairment of fertility, damages to the skin, cataracts, all occurring at much lower dose levels.
There can be some other somatic and genetic effects. The pivotal late somatic effects being cancer that may spread over decade, and also various hereditary disease can be caused. Nevertheless the harms are not only physical but psychological as well that may encompass significant health problems.
Taking all these things into account there are several injuries in which immediate medical opinion is needed.
In these types of injuries the skin becomes vulnerable due to external radiation exposure that may result mainly due to radiotherapy, or even due to minor exposure due to Xrays and gamma rays. Dose rate plays an important role here.
This is another type of condition that occurs usually within 2-3 hours of radiation exposure. In this type of injuries a sensation of warmth is felt in the affected area following severe pain and in many cases even fire like sensations are felt.
Coming to another type of injuries which are fixed erythema that is caused due to exposure at moderate degrees resulting in momentary reddening of the skin. However there is not further progress in such type of injuries.
As the name suggests such type of injuries are causes damage to the organs present in the subcutaneous tissues. Due to penetrating electromagnetic radiation the displacement of energy occurs at depth and all the vital organs present in the subcutaneous tissues like – nerve endings, sweat glands, hair follicles, may get damaged causing tissue necrosis and also other tissues and internal structure of many organ gets affected.
Epilation is termed as loss of hair after an exposure to radiation when the dose exceeds 3-4 Gy. If the radiation dose is below 7 gy there are chances for the hair regrowth but in case the exposure is more than 7 Gy the hair follicles get destroyed completely and epilation in most of the cases becomes permanent.
Medico Legal Points
The Radiation Protection Rules, 1971 restricts employing the persons below the age of 14 years of age. Poisoning usually happens in Industrial applications like workers engaged in extracting the radioactive substances from the mines.
A book by WHO book Nuclear Power: Accidental Releases –Principles of Public Health Action should be referred while dealing with unprecedented situations or events in nuclear plants having the ability of releasing radioactive materials in the environment in profusion of the authorised limit.
Some of the major radiation accidents in the world
Most of the radiation injuries in the world are caused by the nuclear accidents. Some noteworthy and substantial accidents of the world are-
Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
On August 6 1945 during the world war 2 US army dropped 2 atomic bombs on Japan in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The atomic bombing was so severe that it demolished and burnt around 70% of the buildings and approximately more then 14000 people were recorded dead. However among the survivors there was an increased rate of cancer and other chronic disease and the offsprings born were also seen to be born with deformalities. The radiation is however still present in Hiroshima and Nagasaki however it has no effect on human body now.
Chernobyl disaster is world’s most minacious nuclear disaster ever. It happened on April 26 1948 because of a sudden rush of powers during a test of reactor systems that caused an explosion which in turn destroyed unit 4 of the reactor. Due to such mishap massive amount of radiation is escaped that spread around the Soviet Union and Europe. The number of people that were needed to be relocated were more than 222000.
The death caused due to the accident is still uncertain. From the official records of the Soviet Union is around 30 the real amount however is considered to be 1000 approx. the uncertainty in counting the number of deaths is caused mainly due to the reason that many people didn’t die as an immediate result of the explosion. However the disaster caused a huge economic loss to the areas affected and also it caused psychological embroil in the lives of many.
due to the Chernobyl accident many perilious radiation effects were caused. Out of 600 workers 134 due to high radiation exposure(0.18-16gy) suffered from radiation sickness and and of them 28 died in the first three months. The Chernobyl accident also caused a widespread contamination of the radioactive materials in the area of Belarus, Russian Federation, and Ukraine.
Chernobyl accident was a huge disaster that has caused immense damage to the lives of the victims.
Another colossal nuclear disaster that happened on March 11, 2011 due to an earthquake that struck eastern Japan causing a serious accident in Fukushima Dai –Ichi nuclear power plant.
due to the earthquake the external power of the reactors were cut off and Tusunami caused the cooling reactor of the nuclear plant to stop by reaching a level more than twice as high the plant was designed to endure. This lead to a huge hydrogen explosion that caused serious damage to the other three reactors. A large number of radiation was released that defiled the area surrounding the plant causing nearly half a million people to evict their residents.
Apart from these major nuclear accidents there are some other nuclear accidents that were disastrous and caused huge destruction.
There are some major nuclear accidents in India as well. Some of the crucial accidents till date are-
1989 Tarapur Accident
The accident happened in 10th of September 1989 in the largest power plant of India located in Maharashtra. The radioactive iodine was leaked that caused this accident.
2002 Kalpakkam accident
There was a leak of radioactive sodium by the fast breeder reactor causing the damage to the valves and systems that caused the action.
2010 Mayapuri Incident
This is one of the biggest accident that happened in a scrap market in Delhi. A research Institution negligently disposed a gamma unit containing Cobalt 60 pencils that caused violation of national regulations for radiation protection and safety of radioactive sources. The unit was sold off to the scrap dealers who in turn disassembled the unit. This resulted in one of the biggest radiation accident that has ever occurred in India causing the radiation Injuries to 7 and death of one.
Since the passage of time there has been a number of Incidents that have happened, and many more may occur if proper measures are not taken. There are number of reasons for nuclear accidents some radical ones are-
Human negligence plays a key role in many of the nuclear accidents that causes cataclysm. The famous three miles incidence was caused due to human negligence and the famous Mayapuri incidence in India as already discussed in the paper earlier are some of the germane examples of the same. Proper diligence must be there while handling any kind of radiation or radiation unit
Many a time it is beyond the human power control the nuclear energy. This becomes another crucial factor for the nuclear accidents. The most pre eminent stage at which the control is of utmost importance is the production stage if the energy is not handled then energy will unloose causing destruction.
Coolant failures are also one of the prime reasons for failures in nuclear reactors they are needed for proper electricity generation and for temperature control. The Fikushima disaster happened due to this failure only.
Not upgrading protective technology-
Older technologies may not be sufficient and befitting in long term or may even be a failure in dangerous times so there is a need to update the technology time to time to ensure the proper working and better safety. Chernobyl accident is an apt example for the same. So as to ensure safety in the nuclear reactors to minimise the accidents certain steps can be taken. Since the passage of time there has been a number of nuclear accidents and they can be more in future if proper caginess is not performed. Some important measures such as new technologies should be used old technologies should be substituted with the new ones because they may not be very lucrative in the course of time so they should be supplanted accordingly. Also radiation levels should be checked in proper passage of time for ensuring better safety, for this new technologies should be adopted for the nuclear reactors. Lack of skilled workers can also be a problem which can be solved by employing skilled workers this can reduce the number of negligent acts that can pose a serious threat in future. There must be efficacious energy supporting system to prevent any coolant failure.
Measures to Ensure safety from Radiation Injuries.
Radiation Protection Rules,1971 and Radiation Surveillance Procedures for Medical Application of Radiation, 1989.
As per the aforementioned rule without the prior authorization of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) radioactive substances cannot be used. It I also made obligatory for every employer to maintain a complete and up to date medical record of every radiation worker and also a prior examination of workers must also be done before commencing the radiation works and also at regular intervals of period not exceeding 12 months.Rule 40 of the act states that for every sealed and unsealed source of radiation used by medical institutions in a manner so that the radioactive substance remains on or inside the body shall be provided with
- Individual rooms for carrying out such treatment.
- Separate wards for especial or exclusive treatment for such patients.
- Rule 53 of the Radioactive Protection Rules ,1971 states that the disposal or autopsy of the body containing radioactive materials should be done complying the rules made by the competent authority.
It is also included in the rule that for handling of radioactive materials the hospitals are required to get the liscense from competent authority prior to the initiation of giving radiation therapy to its patients.
- Radiation Surveillance Procedures for Medical Application of Radiation, 1989 gives rules regarding the working conditions ensured by every employer in a medical radiation installation and radioactive effluvium disposal procedures.
Civil Liability of Nuclear Damage Bill
On August 30th 2010 the Lok Sabha ratified a bill for Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage and the same bill was sanctioned and passed by the Rajya Sabha on 30th August 2010. The president gave his assent for the bill on 21stSeptember 2010 .Talking about the objectives and reason for the introduction of the bill 2 main reasons can be drawn. Very firstly due to the steps taken under this regard the nuclear energy sector can be said to be of a paramount importance to the energy mix of the country. Reference can be drawn from the Indo –US Nuclear deal which the then PM ensconsed during United Progressive Alliance-1 despite of widespread opposition. Secondly the government whereby analysing the damage caused by any nuclear accident studied an argued that the geographic scope of the damage may or may not have some trans-boundary effects in the country’s neighbouring our nation. The bill also clinches a liability on a supplier or his employer if any of their act results into any nuclear accident, adding the act includes supplying equipments of materials with patent or latent defects or shoddy services of Rs 15000 crores. It is further contemplated in the act that there shall be a Claims Commissioner for determining the liability with government of India covering the entire risk occurring out of such nuclear disaster to person and property of its citizen.
With the evolution of time humans have utilised the radioactive substances very wisely and with the extension of technology found new ways to use the radiation in the best possible way to an extent that at present time there is scarcely any filed where there is no use of radiation. But since every cloud has a silver lining and once the energy is unshackled it will become very difficult to stop the same and the same can become ruination. The government has also taken expedient steps to ensure the safety from radiation injuries especially workers working in mines extracting and using the radioactive substances as they are most prone to such type of injuries. Since the radiation is very delicate thing there should be enough safety measures taken to protect any kind of misfortune. Nuclear reactors must be safely built and if proper caution is take and all the steps are followed prudently and vigilantly then only the radioactive riches will boost the country’s energy mesh.
Using predictive models from engineering and public health, designers will plan safer, healthier cities that could allow us to survive natural disasters, pandemics, and even a radiation calamity that drives us underground. -Annalee Newitz.
 Modi –Text book on Medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology by Lexis Nexis.
 An officer appointed by the Government Of India by notification.