Revision Notes

5.2.5 Safety Precautions

The Dangers

  • When radiation passes close to atoms the radiation can knock out electrons, ionising the atom


Ionisation, IGCSE & GCSE Physics revision notes

When radiation passes close to an atom it can knock electrons out of the atom, giving the atom a charge


  • Ionisation can cause chemical changes in materials
  • If these chemical changes occur in living cells it can damage the cell and:
    • Cause mutations
    • Cause a cell to become cancerous
    • Kill the cell



Radioactivity danger sign, IGCSE & GCSE Physics revision notesRadioactivity warning sign


  • The risks associated with handling radioactive sources can be minimised by following a few simple procedures:
    • Store the sources in lead-lined boxes and keep at a distance from people
    • Minimise the amount of time you handle sources for and return them to their boxes as soon as you have finished using them
    • During use, keep yourself (and other people) as far from the sources as feasible. When handling the sources do so at arm’s length, using a pair of tongs

(Note: When using tongs, gloves and safety specs are usually unnecessary when handling radioactive materials, unless there is a risk of the material leaking on to things)


Author: Jenna

Jenna studied at Cardiff University before training to become a science teacher at the University of Bath specialising in Biology (although she loves teaching all three sciences at GCSE level!). Teaching is her passion, and with 10 years experience teaching across a wide range of specifications – from GCSE and A Level Biology in the UK to IGCSE and IB Biology internationally – she knows what is required to pass those Biology exams.

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