Examples of Radiation in Daily Life

, Staff Writer
Updated May 26, 2021
infrared light therapy facial treatment radiation example
    infrared light therapy facial treatment radiation example
    guvendemir / E+ / Getty
    Used under Getty Images license

The term radiation refers to the energy that travels through space or matter in the form of energetic waves or particles. When radiation occurs, the waves move out in all directions from the producer of the energy. Dive into radiation examples and the types of radiation.

Examples of Everyday Radiation

While you might only think of radiation when you are getting an x-ray at the hospital, radiation is all around you. Radiation can be ionizing, which means it has the capacity to modify the ions of an atom, or non-ionizing, which means it does not possess that ability. See examples of both types of radiation to better understand this topic.

Non-ionizing Radiation

Non-ionizing radiation has enough energy to heat substances but not enough to ionize molecules. See examples of non-ionizing radiation, including radiation heat transfer examples. Radiation heat transfer is where heat from radiation transfers from one item to another, like heat from a stove burner.

  • Visible light
  • Infrared light
  • Microwaves
  • Low-frequency waves
  • Radio waves
  • Waves produced by mobile phones
  • A campfire's heat
  • Thermal radiation
  • Extremely low-frequency waves (3-30 Hz)
  • Very low-frequency waves (3-30 kHz)
  • Power lines
  • Strong magnets
  • MRI
  • LEDs
  • Lasers
  • Light bulbs
  • Light from the sun
  • Remote controls
  • Cordless phones
  • Radio-frequency radiation such as televisions, FM and AM radio
  • Shortwave and CBs
  • Computer screens
  • Infrared lamps used to maintain food temperature in restaurants

Ionizing Radiation

When it comes to ionizing radiation examples, these are the ones that actually ionize molecules and particles. Therefore, you have to be very careful when it comes to exposure to these types of radiation.

  • Ultraviolet light
  • X-rays
  • Gamma-rays
  • Radioactive decay's particles
  • Cosmic rays
  • Alpha rays
  • Beta rays
  • Medical imaging equipment
  • Sterilization of medical tools
  • Nuclear power production
  • Metal mining can result in exposure to ionizing radiation
  • Coal mining and power production from coal
  • Nuclear weapons
  • Galactic Cosmic Radiation (to which astronauts are exposed)
  • Solar Particle Event radiation (to which astronauts may be exposed)
  • Natural background radiation
  • Radiation therapy for specific forms of cancer
  • Radon
  • CT scans
  • Nuclear medical scans
  • Airport security scanners (in extremely high usage)

Understanding Radiation

Out of the two types of radiation (ionizing and non-ionizing), ionizing is most harmful to living things; though, there can be harmful types of non-ionizing radiation as well. Explore the types of ionizing radiation, its effects and how to measure it.

Types of Ionizing Radiation

There are four types of ionizing radiation classified by scientists based on how hard it is to stop the waves or particles.

  • Alpha radiation is the easiest to stop, as it can be stopped by paper.
  • Beta radiation is a bit more difficult to stop and requires metal to stop it, though the metal can be thin.
  • Gamma radiation is most powerful and dangerous and can only be stopped by many feet of earth, water of great depth or metal of intense thickness.
  • X-rays are similar to gamma radiation and commonly used in medicine. X-rays have less penetrating power.

Radiation's Effect on Humans

Effects of ionizing radiation on humans include cancer, sickness of varying types, death, and mutation. These are a result of the change in DNA that ionizing radiation can cause. Those exposed to lower radiation levels (such as non-ionizing) are unlikely to develop any adverse effects.

Measuring Radiation

Ionizing radiation is created by a reaction of a nuclear form that is either natural or artificial. It is often hard to measure since it is invisible and can usually only be measured at very high concentrations. A Geiger counter is an example of a tool for measuring ionizing radiation.

Radiation Examples in Our World

Radiation is an everyday phenomenon that is all around you. From the stove you cook on to imaging at the hospital, radiation is an important aspect of our lives. However, it can be extremely dangerous. Learn more about radiation by checking out examples of radiant energy.