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Som anden ioniserende stråling kan radioaktivitet skade eller dræbe levende organismer ved tilstrækkeligt høje doser. Sammenhængene kan være komplekse og afhænger i høj grad af, hvilke former for radioaktivitet, der er tale om, samt hvordan og hvor længe organismen er i kontakt med radioaktiviteten.
 
Radioaktivitet i skadelige doser har flere forskellige konsekvenser på biologiske organismer og kan vise sig på mange måder. Det spænder lige fra kvalme og ildebefindende, til hårtab, brandsår, nerveskader til, [[mutation]]er i afkom, [[kræft]] og [[død]]. Fælles for dem alle er dog, at den radioaktive stråling slår kroppens [[celle (biologi)|celler]] i stykker.
 
Radioaktivitet fra [[radioaktivt nedfald]] har vist sig skadeligt ved selv lave koncentrationer af flere årsager og vil typisk medføre [[kræft]]. Det lader også til at gøre børn mindre intelligente.<ref>[http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/11/041121220635.htm Swedish Research Council (2004, November 22). Chernobyl Disaster Caused Cancer Cases In Sweden. ScienceDaily] Citat: "...There is a statistically established correlation between the degree of fallout and an observed rise in the number of cancer cases. The increase involves all types of cancer in the aggregate...It is remarkable that an increase in cancer morbidity could have occurred after such a relatively short time following the accident..."</ref><ref>[http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070530080956.htm Linköping University (2007, May 30). Increase In Cancer In Sweden Can Be Traced To Chernobyl. ScienceDaily] Citat: "...The cancer risk increased with rising fallout intensity: up to a 20-percent increase in the highest of six categories. This means that 3.8 percent of the cancer cases up to 1999 can be ascribed to the fallout...The increase in Tondel’s studies came a remarkably short time after the disaster, since it is usually assumed that it takes decades for cancer to develop...The conclusion is that there is scientific support for a connection between the radioactive fallout and the increase in the number of cancer cases...."</ref><ref>[http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/10/011026075752.htm Federation Of European Cancer Societies (2001, October 26). Cutting The Cost Of Fall-Out From Chernobyl 15 Years After The World's Worst Nuclear Accident. ScienceDaily] Citat: "...Nearly 2000 cases of thyroid cancer have been linked to the world's worst nuclear accident which occurred in Ukrainian city 15 years ago – and the number is still rising...That increase has continued and new cases are still being seen in those who were children at the time of the accident"..."</ref><ref>[http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2007/08/17/Chernobyl-fallout-hurt-Swedish-infants/UPI-10881187324668/ Aug. 17, 2007, upi.com: Chernobyl fallout hurt Swedish infants] Citat: "...The report by researchers from Stockholm University and New York’s Columbia University found that children born in the eight municipalities experiencing the highest levels of radiation were 3.6 percent less likely than others to qualify for high school, The Local said Thursday. The researchers said it appears prenatal exposure to radiation levels previously considered safe was actually damaging to cognitive ability..."</ref>
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