[ RadSafe ] x-rays or whatever

Hansen, Richard HansenRG at nv.doe.gov
Wed Oct 20 20:11:11 CDT 2010

As a developer of training courses for emergency responders, here is my
two cents worth on this topic.

We use the term "x-rays" in our training materials, rather than "x
radiation" because most people are already familiar with the medical and
dental x-ray radiographs. To use "x radiation" might be confusing to

However, for other types of radiation, we intentionally refer to "alpha
radiation, beta radiation, gamma radiation, and neutron radiation"
instead of "alpha particles, beta particles, gamma-rays, and neutron

Many students initially think that radiation particles such as beta or
alpha particles behave like particles of dust or droplets of liquids,
leading them to mistakenly think some of the following.
Someone inhales alpha particles to become internally contaminated. 
(Wrong. He can inhale plutonium or other alpha-emitting radioactive
Beta particles penetrate protective suites and contaminate the person's
skin (wrong). 
You are safe from beta particles and neutron particles if you stand
upwind of the radioactive materials.
Another mistaken idea is that you cannot be contaminated by gamma
(gamma-emitters) because gamma rays are wave, and therefore you do not
need protective respirators for any gamma-emitting sources (wrong). 

These ideas come from their experiences with chemical hazards and the
students not differentiating between radioactive material and radiation.
For most emergency response tasks, the personnel deal with radioactive
material and the radiation from it without needing to think about the
particle or wave nature of radiation itself.

This is not just an issue with students. The misconceptions about alpha,
beta, and neutron radiation (being particulate hazards like dust) and
gamma radiation have been incorporated into U.S. national standards on
personal protective equipment (PPE) for emergency responders at
Chemical, Biological, Radiological, or Nuclear (CBRN) materials
incidents. See the standard for National Fire Protection Association
NFPA 1994, Class 4 CBRN Protective Ensemble. This standard treats alpha,
beta, and neutron radiation as particulate hazards even says it does not
apply if gamma-rays or x-rays are present at the incident. The PPE
standard should be focused on radioactive material and protecting
responders from internal and external contamination from the radioactive
materials regardless of the type of radiation those materials emit.

So the words you use do matter. I encourage you, when talking to
emergency responders, to use the terms "alpha radiation, beta radiation,
gamma radiation, and neutron radiation" instead of "alpha particles,
beta particles, gamma-rays, and neutron particles." You can use
"x-rays," "x rays," or "x radiation" as you see fit though.

Just my opinions, not those of DHS, DOE, or NSTec.

Best regards,
Rick Hansen
Senior Scientist
Counter Terrorism Operations Support Program
National Security Technologies, LLC, for the U.S. Dept of Energy
hansenrg at nv.doe.gov
Message: 2
Date: Tue, 19 Oct 2010 17:31:48 -0500
From: "Perle, Sandy" <SPerle at mirion.com>
Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] x-rays or whatever
To: "'radsafe at health.phys.iit.edu'" <radsafe at health.phys.iit.edu>
<5326C9CB0E90714DA70EE1AD39296DFE05D1AC8EA3 at MIRION-EXCH-HQ.mirion.local>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"


Excellent statements. It's all about what do they need to know and how
fast. What is really important to them is what instrumentation they will
have to assess a situation, how do they know what is acceptable and what
is not, and when the data is such, who do they have to contact. In the
end, they have to only recognize they are in a situation, how to
establish a protective barrier and separate individuals from the area,
and then wait for the experts to arrive.

As always, the KISS philosophy should rule, "Keep It Simple Stupid."

Thanks for posting your comments!


Sander C. Perle
Mirion Technologies
Dosimetry Services Division
2652 McGaw Avenue
Irvine, CA 92614

+1 (949) 296-2306 (Office)
+1 (949) 296-1130 (Fax)

Mirion Technologies: http://www.mirion.com/

-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu
[mailto:radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu] On Behalf Of conrad i
Sent: Tuesday, October 19, 2010 6:24 PM
To: radsafe at health.phys.iit.edu
Subject: [ RadSafe ] x-rays or whatever

  My two cents worth.

I have been to a lot of training courses for non-technical responders.

HPs, in my opinion tend to get wrapped around the axle, so to speak,
about precise terms.

I get annoyed when a CHP lectures to emergency responders, radiation
workers, etc. about, for example, the difference between a rad and
Roentgen, because the students don't care, don't need to know, and, most
importantly won't remember.

The regulators don't care generally, and for most industrial and
emergency responders purposes, a distinction without a difference.

So likewise, xray, x-ray, photon, x-radiation, etc., it does not matter
in 'industrial' training.

Its like arguing over radiological health, radiation health, or health

Conrad I. Sherman, CHP
4163 Etcheverry Hall
Berkeley, California 94720-1730
Mobile: (415) 336-7802

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