A charged particle (with a mass equal to 1/1837 that of a proton) that is emitted from the nucleus of a radioactive element during radioactive decay (or disintegration) of an unstable atom. A negatively charged beta particle is identical to an electron, while a positively charged beta particle is called a positron. Large amounts of beta radiation may cause skin burns, and beta emitters are harmful if they enter the body. Beta particles may be stopped by thin sheets of metal or plastic. For additional detail, see Radiation Basics.
Page Last Reviewed/Updated Tuesday, March 09, 2021