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Background

Radio active elements is the name for atomic elements with unstable nucleus. This nucleus can undergo different processes, each of them probably having different health effects.

Problem

I can't find studies or enough information about the effect of radioactivity (radiation coming from unstable nuclei) in low amount/short exposure either in general or for each type of process. Probably this information is just not easy to get. I'm only trusting this source so far.

More Context

I'm in italy and close to the island of Ischia, there is radioactive water (thermal water, and maybe linked to the natural life of a volcano). People use it, and it seems to be that short time exposure may not be harmful.

Any ideas?

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  • Check out research on exposure to natural background radiation. We are exposed to radiation everywhere, so determining the level of a given exposure is important to put it in context. Also, whether the radiation from radioactive decay comes from outside the body or inside the body (e.g. eating or drinking) can make a big difference on effects. – Armand Jun 7 at 12:59
  • Denver CO has one of the highest background radiation levels because of the granite rock and high elevation; there are likely some satistical studies available . – blacksmith37 Jun 7 at 15:32
  • Welcome to MedicalSciences.SE. Which form of radiation are you particularly interested in? Alpha, beta, gamma or x-rays? – Chris Rogers Jun 8 at 13:20
  • @ChrisRogers From the mention of Ischia I assume it's Alpha radiation from the Radon in the water, soil, air etc. – motosubatsu Jun 8 at 13:42
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Nobody knows.

There are three main models for the effects of low-dose radiation. The mainstream model, and the most conservative of the three, is the linear no-threshold model. It assumes that high-dose effects can be linearly extrapolated clear down to zero (that is, zero dose has zero effect, any non-zero dose carries a non-zero level of risk).

The most controversial model is the hormesis model. It posits that very small doses of radiation are actually beneficial, by activating cellular repair mechanisms that would otherwise be idle, with the effects of the repair mechanisms outweighing any radiation damage.

In between are various threshold models, which assume that there's a threshold below which radiation has no health effect. Threshold models are widely accepted in chemical toxicology, so it's not unreasonable to extend the idea to radiation.

In any case, the effects of low-dose radiation are very small, and particularly in the case of cancer, are masked by other effects.

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    It's also possible that different models are true for different types of radiation and modes of exposure. – Ryan_L Jun 7 at 20:33

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