“From Uranium in the Soil, to Bananas”

by Michael Mullaney on March 30, 2011

During breakfast or on your commute today, you may have heard Rensselaer’s very own Peter Caracappa on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Peter, our campus radiation safety officer and assistant professor of nuclear engineering, spoke to Renée Montagne and Steve Inskeep on the topic of radiation. It’s a great three-minute segment, click below to listen:  

http://www.rpi.edu/news/caracappa.mp3

Among the points Caracappa covered is the difference between ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation. The former, associated with X-rays and what’s currently happening in Fukushima, has the ability to provoke changes in materials - and to cause cancer. Non-ionizing radiation, including light, radio waves, and microwaves, is much less dangerous.

For those keeping score, Peter also was quoted last week in a Wall Street Journal story about potential radiation contamination in Japan’s food supply:

Peter Caracappa, a clinical professor of nuclear engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., says every dose of ingested radiation is associated with some degree of cancer risk. Estimated cancer risk from radiation is assumed to be 4% per sievert, he said. With iodine-131, if one were to reach the oral ingestion limit set by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission of 50 millisieverts, there would be an estimated total increase in cancer risk of 0.2%.

More on the Japan crisis from The Approach: