Beta Radiation

Beta Radiation

Physical Origin

Beta radiation takes the form of either an electron or a positron (a particle with the size and mass of an electron, but with a positive charge) being emitted from an atom.

Image 7 - Beta decay

Size, speed and range

Beta particles are about 7000 times smaller than alpha particles. Their small size and mass allow them to travel further and faster (close to the speed of light) and can, therefore, penetrate clothing and skin. Beta particles typically travel several dozen centimeters in the air. Their range in tissue is longer than alpha particles (0.8-5 mm).

Their small size and mass allow them to travel further and faster (close to the speed of light) and can therefore penetrate clothing and skin. Beta particles typically travel several dozen centimeters in the air. Their range in tissue is longer than alpha particles (0.8-5 mm).

Effect on cell

Beta particles are lethal to cancer cells, though this effect is less destructive to the cell DNA than that of alpha particles, but more than that of gamma rays. Beta particles have a low LET and deposit less energy on targeted areas. Its long range compromises cell integrity, leading not only to the destruction of targeted cancerous cells but also to the killing of normal bystander cells potentially producing higher toxicity.

Image 8 - Size comparison between alpha and beta particles

Shielding

Beta particles can only be stopped after traveling through about at least 30 cm of air or by a thin layer of glass or metal. For this reason, additional covering,is necessary to protect against beta-emitters.

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