Achey, Phillip M. College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.
Last reviewed:September 2018
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- Ionizing radiation
- Physical stage
- Chemical stage
- Biological stage
- Nonionizing radiation
- Ultraviolet radiation
- Extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
The study of the action of ionizing and nonionizing radiation on biological systems. Radiation biology, which is also termed radiobiology, investigates the scientific principles, mechanisms, and effects of the interaction of ionizing and nonionizing radiation with living matter (Fig. 1). Ionizing radiation includes highly energetic electromagnetic radiation (x-rays, gamma rays, or cosmic rays) and particulate radiation (alpha particles, beta particles, neutrons, or heavy charged ions). Nonionizing radiation includes ultraviolet (UV) radiation, microwaves, and extremely low frequency (ELF) electromagnetic radiation. Ionizing radiation and nonionizing radiation have different modes of action on biological material: ionizing radiation is sufficiently energetic to cause ionizations, whereas nonionizing radiation causes molecular excitations. In both cases, the result is that chemical bonds of molecules may be altered, causing mutations, cell death, or other biological changes. See also: Electromagnetic radiation; Radiation; Radiation injury (biology)
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