Onions, cow dung reduce radiation impact

(This is an article published in Times of India)

Rajiv Mani, TNN Mar 27, 2011, 10.19pm IST

ALLAHABAD: The threat of nulcear radiation in Japan has raised widespread concerns across the world. India too, which has many nuclear plants, needs to be worried, specially for its population living near the nuke plants.

TOI spoke to associate professor in physics department, KN Uttam, about the nuclear radiation and ways to prevent it. He said some traditional Indian practices can help in minimising the effects of Gamma rays, the most harmful rays emitted in nuclear radiation.

“Traditional methods like keeping onions in pockets and applying a layer of Cow Dung on the outside walls of houses absorb the harmful gamma rays,” Uttam said. “Cow dung, in fact, can absorb all the three rays — alpha, beta and gamma. Among these, alpha rays cannot penetrate the layers of cloths whereas beta falls after hitting the same but the Gamma rays penetrate the body tissue and is the most harmful,” he added. If the outer walls of houses are coated with thick layers of cow dung, it will absorb the gamma rays and in turn people would be safe, said Uttam who has worked in the ministry of science and technology and MHRD.

Similarly, research has shown that onions too absorb the Gamma rays. Besides, Indian practices based on herbal methods, including applying gram flour (besan) and mustard oil on the human skin, too minimise the effects of radiation, Uttam said.

“The leafy vegetables like spinach, basil, fenugreek leaves (methi ka saag), mustard leaves (sarson ka saag) etc., too have radiation but it’s negligible and hence not harmful,” he said.

These leafs have Sodium 23 and 24 along with Potassium which is infact essential for body growth. These isotopes has a short life as Potassium 42 half life time is 12 hours (after which the quantity of the same comes to half) whereas that of Sodium 22 is 2.5 years. Similarly, there are different Beta emitters like Sodium 22 and 24 Potassium 45, Iron 59 but are non-hazardous. There are many naturally occurring isotopes which are non-hazardous as they do not cross the natural limit, said Uttam.

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