Why does radiation destroy DNA and white blood cells?


Why does radiation destroy DNA and white blood cells?

In: Chemistry

Radiation destroys any chemical, radiation doesn’t discriminate specifically with DNA.

But all chemicals in the body are either from you eating/breathing something or are built based on instructions in DNA. Beside those instructions, everything is replaceable, if those instructions are ruined, well only then you have a problem.

Ionizing radiation have enough speed and mass in its particle that when it hits any molecule it spontaneously causes a chemical reaction to take place. This can alter the DNA molecules which either destroys it or turns it into a more dangerous variant. It can also alter a lot of other types of molecules important for cells to work and can therefore kills cells directly. Note however that most forms of radiation is harmless and it is only the ionizing radiation that have enough destructive powers to do such damage.

It’s like taking something very delicate, precise and complex, like an expensive clock, and smashing it with a hammer. *Ionizing* radiation by definition has a lot of energy and quite literally punches our molecules so hard they break.

It happens more easily with our molecules than something like a rock because our DNA and cells are extremely complex. There are millions of ways for them to fail, and it only takes a tiny part of them to fail to render the entire molecule useless.

Ionizing radiation (high energy ultraviolet, xrays, gamma rays, and nuclear particle radiation) has enough energy to remove electrons from atoms. This causes chemical reactions. The chemical reactions can damage human cells and DNA or cause mutations.

Note that *non-ionizing radiation* like radio, microwave, infrared, and visible is not capable of doing this.

Radiation doesn’t just destroy DNA it can destroy any molecule in your body. But your DNA is pretty huge so it is hit more times. When radio hits a molecule it can split it which means your DNA would become damaged. Your cells will try to repair the damage but sometimes it’s too much then the cell enters damage control mode and kill itself (so it won’t become cancer or get stuck with bad proteins). Some cells rely on the DNA a bit more (during division the whole DNA has to be cloned so) like those that rapidly divide (immune cells for example or stem cells). And because they kill themselves due to damage your immune system will get weaker.