Moscow, Factories, Airplanes: 5 Common Places with Higher Radiation than in Chernobyl

When you hear the word "radiation," the first thing that probably comes to mind is the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant sarcophagus, a man wearing a gas mask and carrying an AK-47, and the Soviet high-rises of Pripyat. We have the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. videogame to thank for this. But in reality, besides Chernobyl, Fukushima, and the Mayak Production Association the 1957 explosion of which released more than 100 tons of radioactive waste into the atmosphere, radiation is present everywhere in the form of cosmic ionizing radiation the human body can't even feel. Thankfully, the ozone layer and Earth's magnetic field mitigate the negative impact of radiation to a harmless level, which is why it isn't hazardous.

However, there are other places with unacceptably high levels of background radiation harmful to anyone who ends up in the exposure area. And the worst thing is, they don't even realize it. These places can be found in any big city, and you might be doing more harm than good by being there. We picked out a group of such sites together with the Intersoft Eurasia team and hope it will help you be more careful in the future.

The Moscow Metro and ground floors of high-rise buildings

This is far from a tribute to the cool post-apocalyptic universe of Dmitry Glukhovsky. The fact of the matter is the ground and rock layers below the Moscow Metro and any other metropolitan railways are infiltrated with radon, a radioactive gas with radon isotopes in its core. It accumulates underground everywhere on the planet and is a natural source of radiation. When the Earth's crust cracks, this odorless and colorless gas seeps out to the surface. This is why staying for too long in a metro is hazardous due precisely to radioactive exposure through our respiratory tracts.

Radon is one of the heaviest gases. If not removed, it will accumulate and have a growing negative impact on the human body. For the same reason, it's not advised to spend too much time in the basements and ground floors of buildings and houses usually occupied by small stores and bars.

 A radiation dosimeter with an alpha detector can be used to determine the growing radiation level coming from radon. Today, radiation dosimeters are no longer the large, cumbersome boxes made of bakelite and metal of old but compact pocket-sized gadgets. Intersoft Eurasia offers a smart radiation detector which can be connected through the headphone jack to any smartphone and used to measure radiation levels no matter where you are. To start taking measurements, download the free DO-RA.pro app in the App Store or Google Play, install the detector, and you're ready to go!

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Cat litter and where it's stored

Kitty litter can easily give you an excessive dose of radiation and sometimes dramatically increase background radiation in an apartment. This is due to its main ingredient is bentonite clay. It does wonders absorbing excretions but also emits significant radiation just like any other clay because of its thorium and uranium content. This substrate is hazardous for all living organisms and is best kept in small amounts in apartments, just one or two bags, ideally stored on the balcony. Before purchasing litter for your pet, you should always check the radiation level with a pocket dosimeter.

As for the pet stores, hypermarkets, and depots selling pet supplies, there are literally tons of litter. If you visit these places regularly, you should be very cautious and take care of your health. If you don't want to be exposed to radiation when you're not even aware of it, try the convenient DO-RA.Q compact dosimeter. It's easily connected to any smartphone or tablet and, via the DO-RA.pro app, gives you a clear readout of the radiation level and, more precisely, the dose rate in microsievert per hour.

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Store shelves with potassium fertilizers

 

Potassium is a chemical element with a long life span, so it's not hazardous in low concentrations. However, when such potassium fertilizer products and goods such as potassium chloride are stored in bags weighing fifty kilograms each in large volumes in warehouses, farms, factories or retail spaces, their radioactive impact can be detrimental to human health.

In home and garden stores, pallets with potassium fertilizers are usually kept somewhere in the middle of the sales floor. Most people don't even recognize this as a hazard, they just walk on by and receive a dose of radiation. If you find this hard to believe, you can use a dosimeter to measure the background radiation in any supermarket offering potassium fertilizers.

 The DO-RA.badge ionizing radiation sensor with a silicon-based detector looks like a credit card and connects remotely to any smartphone with Bluetooth support. This convenient gadget can be used to measure background radiation discreetly and without worrying about strangers shooting you judgmental looks.

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Flea markets

Antique items produced using hazardous radioactive materials are usually not hazardous (although there are some exceptions) if they're not grouped together. However, this is often not the case at flea markets, and the radioactive impact they have on humans is unacceptably large.

For instance, the tinted glass breastpins so highly valued by many collectors used to be manufactured like this: the glass was tinted after exposure to gamma rays of radioactive cobalt-60. The glass absorbed about 1,000,000 rad and acquired a light-brown tint. This unusual new approach was also used to color ceramics and produce new types of paints and jewellery.

According to modern safety requirements, one such breastpin exceeds permissible values by a factor of one hundred and more due to secondary radiation.

Flea markets are also home to large numbers of old watches, both military and civilian, as well as various measuring instruments previously used in electric power plants, factories, boiler stations, and high-security facilities.

They are hazardous due to the fact that until the late 1960s, the digits and other elements were applied on dial pieces and hands using radium salts, which glowed in the dark as a result of fluorescence. Such instruments emit a lot of background radiation, as its radium half-life is a paltry 1,620 years. Plus their fluorescent elements can peel off, find their way onto the skin or into your body, and radioactive dust can also be inhaled, which poses a serious health risk.

For users concerned about their health but not willing to delve into radiation-related details, Intersoft Eurasia develops a special line of DO-RA gadgets to stay informed about your surroundings. They are convenient to carry around, for example, on a key ring. On your next visit to your dear old grandmother, try holding the DO-RA fob against her cupboard if she has one. Then you'll know immediately if your family member is in danger.

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Airplanes

 

At the end of the 20th century, it wasn't relevant to ask what dose of cosmic ionizing radiation people received because air corridors were located at an altitude of 6 to 8 kilometers. But today, modern planes climb to even higher altitudes of 9 to 13 kilometers. Background radiation in an airplane cabin can exceed the environmental standard officially established in the NRB-99 radiation safety standard by a factor of 25 to 100, depending on the flight direction and time of the day. During these flights, airline passengers and flight personnel are exposed to cosmic ionizing radiation.

This can have an adverse cumulative impact on people who travel regularly and crew members. NRB-99 also specifies the potential risks of diseases affecting various human organs and systems when the dose is exceeded over a specified time period. For the same reason and based on the ICAO technical flight regulations, flying hours of aviation personnel are strictly limited to no more than 240 hours per quarter or 800 hours per calendar year.

To monitor the impact of ionizing radiation on your body caused by frequent flights, you need the right device. Luckily, Intersoft Eurasia has just what you're looking for.

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