Frequently asked questions

On this page you can find some common questions. If your answer is not on this page, then take contact with us.

What is the consequence of radiation exposure for the individual and the society?

The increased life time risk of developing cancer is one effect that is most commonly associated with radiation. The documentation of such an increased risk has resulted in well controlled dose limits when dealing with radiation for example for employees in nuclear power plants. The dramatic consequences of the exposure to high radiation doses are illustrated in the aftermath of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing (Second World War) or of accidents involving nuclear power plants such as at Chernobyl in 1986. Birth defects and an increased incidence of leukemia have been demonstrated in such cases. Most dangerous is intake of radioactive material such as radioactive Iodine by drinking, eating or breathing since it remains in the body. Iodine is absorbed in the thyroid where it turns into a radiation source therefore augmenting the damage to the organism. Absorption is less when the glands are saturated with Iodine. This is the reason why extra Iodine is given when there is a realistic threat that persons could be exposed to radioactive Iodine such as after nuclear plant accidents.

Radiation is used to treat persons and pets with cancer. This is called Radiotherapy. Radiation is very effective in killing cells including tumor cells. By accurately focusing the radiation beams on the tumor mass the exposure of the surrounding normal tissue is minimized. However, some normal tissue in the close proximity of the radiation field might be exposed to radiation to some degree and this could cause damage. In order to prevent such damage the estimated dose to the normal tissue defines the limit of the dose that can be given during radiotherapy. Nevertheless, some toxicity can be observed after radiotherapy which includes skin lesions at the site of radiation or late effect in lung, intestine and other organs.

What levels of radiation dose is dangerous for the human body or has an impact on the health?

This question cannot be answered with certainty. In population wide studies it has been deduced that increased life time risk of health problems such as cancer start at relative low radiation doses. This has resulted in the institution of strict regulations regarding the handling or offloading of radioactive material. Exposures to very high doses of radiation, however, can cause early effects e.g. radiation sickness and can be lethal. Unfortunately, workers that have assisted during the nuclear power plant accident in Chernobyl in 1986 or at the recent accident in Fukushima in Japan have been exposed to such high levels and have experienced such problems.

Meltdown?

The term “meltdown” is generally associated with a severe accident in a nuclear power plant. It refers to a nuclear reactor malfunction (i.e. a core melt accident) that results in core damage from overheating. A core melt accident occurs when the heat generated by a nuclear reactor exceeds the heat removed by the cooling system. If this heat exceeds the melting point of the fuel elements it can result in damage so fuel elements melt. A “meltdown” is considered to be a serious event because of the potential for release of radioactive material into the environment caused by breaks in the reactor walls or contamination of the cooling water. A meltdown can result in the release of radioactive material into the environment. This can lead to the contamination of ground water turning it unusable for years. Explosions can result in the airborne contamination with radioactive material. This increases radiation levels locally as documented after the accident in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986.

What is the NVRB society?

The Dutch radiobiology society aims to support radiobiology related research by providing a platform for information exchange and discussion. The members of the society meet twice a year. At such occasions they share and present their current research efforts. In addition, joint meetings with sister societies are organized such as the Dutch Society of Radiotherapy and Oncology (NVRO) or the Dutch Society of Toxicology (NVT). The NVRO mainly focuses on the medical aspects of radiation in radiotherapy. Toxicology comprises the studies on effects to toxic substances. With the organization of such scientific meetings the NVRB aims to stimulate discussion and interaction in radiobiology related research in the Netherlands. In addition to these objectives the NVRB intends to support in particular young scientist for example by providing travel grants to international scientific meetings and granting young investigator awards.

The society comprises members of different and very diverse research groups in The Netherlands. The research topics range from studies in cellular processes that govern DNA damage repair and response to analysis of radiation damage to heart and long, prediction of radiotherapy outcome or attempts to specifically sensitize tumors to radiation in order to improve radiotherapy.