Answer to Question #10453 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Environmental and Background Radiation — General

The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:

Q

Is there any evidence or research about what would happen if all radiation was gone? I know radiation is put off by many natural resources, but has any research been done to see if we could live without any at all? Also, what side effects would come from such a lack of radiation? If there is no research that you know of, and you would not mind, I am curious to know your own opinion on the matter. In short, could we live if 100 percent of radiation was gone, or what would the side effects be from such a lack?

A

The short answer to your question is that no research has been done on the effects of a total absence of radiation. The reason is because it is impossible to do this research. There isn’t a spot anywhere on Earth (or nearby) without background radiation. It comes from natural uranium and thorium (and their decay products) in the Earth’s crust, from a naturally radioactive form of potassium (which we all need to survive), from cosmic radiation, and many other sources. Humans and all life on the planet have evolved in a naturally radioactive environment. The level of radiation in our environment has been very slowly decreasing as the Earth ages and the natural radioactive elements in the Earth’s crust slowly decay away. So the radiation we are exposed to today is somewhat less than it was when our very distant ancestors left the oceans and crawled out on dry land.

While it is impossible to totally remove background radiation, it is possible to look at the effects of a much lower background than we all normally experience. This has been done in laboratories far underground to shield the experiments from cosmic radiation. These kinds of experiments have been done with bacteria and other organisms, and they almost always show that organisms don’t fare very well in a greatly reduced radiation background. This is what I would expect, since we have evolved in higher radiation backgrounds, and we are presumably adapted to that environment.

Brant Ulsh, PhD, CHP

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