Radiation, ionizing

A form of radiation, which includes alpha particles, beta particles, gamma rays, x-rays, neutrons,
high-speed electrons, and high-speed protons. Compared to nonionizing radiation, such as found in ultraviolet light or microwaves, ionizing radiation is considerably more energetic. When ionizing radiation passes through material such as air, water, or living tissue, it deposits enough energy to break molecular bonds and displace (or remove) electrons. This electron displacement may lead to changes in living cells. Given this ability, ionizing radiation has a number of beneficial uses, including treating cancer or sterilizing medical equipment. However, ionizing radiation is potentially harmful if not used correctly, and high doses may result in severe skin or tissue damage. It is for this reason that the NRC strictly regulates commercial and institutional uses of the various types of ionizing radiation.

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Friday, January 20, 2023