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Q & A: Beta Particles in the Body

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Most recent answer: 10/22/2007
Q:
How does beta radiation penetrate biological material?
- James ’Little Monkie’ Jacobs (age 17)
Aquinas College, UK
A:
Let's start with the beta particle. A beta particle is just an electron that gets shot out of the nucleus of an atom during radioactive decay. It can sometimes trave a few meters through the air, but has a hard time penetrating very far into your body. However, beta radiation can penetrate human skin to the "germinal layer," where new skin cells are produced. If beta-emitting contaminants are allowed to remain on the skin for a prolonged period of time, they may cause skin injury.

(published on 10/22/2007)

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