The following are some of the fields that apply and use radioisotopes;
a)Medicine: –Treatment of cancer to kill malignant tumors through radiotherapy.
–Sterilizing hospital /surgical instruments /equipments by exposing them to gamma radiation.
If a plant or animal is fed with radioisotope, the metabolic processes of the plant/animal is better understood by tracing the route of the radioisotope.
c) Food preservation:
X-rays are used to kill bacteria in tinned food to last for a long time.
To study mechanisms of a chemical reaction, one reactant is replaced in its structure by a radioisotope e.g.
During esterification the ‘O’ joining the ester was discovered comes from the alkanol and not alkanoic acid.
During photosynthesis the ‘O’ released was discovered comes from water.
e) Dating rocks/fossils:
The quantity of 14C in living things (plants/animals) is constant.
When they die the fixed mass of 14C is trapped in the cells and continues to decay/disintegrate.
The half-life period of 14C is 5600 years .
Comparing the mass of 14C in living and dead cells, the age of the dead can be determined.
F: DANGERS OF RADIOCTIVITY.
All rays emitted by radioactive isotopes have ionizing effect of changing the genetic make up of living cells.
Exposure to theses radiations causes chromosomal and /or genetic mutation in living cells.
Living things should therefore not be exposed for a long time to radioactive substances.
One of the main uses of radioactive isotopes is in generation of large cheap electricity in nuclear reactors.
Those who work in these reactors must wear protective devises made of thick glass or lead sheet.
Accidental leakages of radiations usually occur
In 1986 the Nuclear reactor at Chernobyl in Russia had a major explosion that emitted poisonous nuclear material that caused immediate environmental disaster
In 2011, an earthquake in Japan caused a nuclear reactor to leak and release poisonous radioactive waste into the Indian Ocean.
The immediate and long term effects of exposure to these poisonous radioactive waste on human being is of major concern to all environmentalists.