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Facts About Radiation

Radiation is energy that comes from a source and travels through space. When this energy passes into the body, either by penetrating skin or being swallowed or inhaled, it may be harmful.

Whether the radiation is ionizing or non-ionizing will influence the health risks.

Ionizing radiation

Sign: caution ionizing radiation

Ionizing radiation is the high-energy radiation that causes most of the concerns about radiation exposure during military service.

Ionizing radiation contains enough energy to remove an electron (ionize) from an atom or molecule and to damage DNA in cells.

Sources of ionizing radiation during military service include:

  • Nuclear weapons handling and detonation
  • Radioactive material
  • Calibration and measurement sources
  • X-rays

Non-ionizing radiation

Non-iodizing radiation is low-energy radiation that includes radiation from sources such as sunlight, microwaves, radio frequencies, radar and sonar.


Learn more about activities that may have involved radiation exposure during military service.

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