Have you heard of the banana equivalent dose (BED)?
It’s the dose of radiation from bananas that can be compared to other sources of radiation to make the figures more understandable. So rather than use scientific terms such as microcurie, milirem, Bq you can use bananas. A bit like comparing the amount of water coming out of a dam in terms of elephants per second but a bit more realistic.
So instead of saying that the annual dose of radiation from living within 50 miles of a nuclear power station is 0.03 millirem you can say that it is equivalent to 1.64 bananas. That is the equivalent of eating 2 bananas in one year. And who does that? Unless you don’t like bananas you will probably be eating around 20lb of bananas each year. So it’s more dangerous to eat bananas than live near a nuclear power station.
But what about living near a coal fired station. It’s not nuclear and all the “smoke” you see from the cooling towers is only steam and they are supposed to filter out all the bad stuff from the actual smoke. So it should be safer. Well actually its not. Living within 50 miles of a power station your annual radiation dose is 5.45 BEDs. Yep, its higher because of all the naturally occurring radiation in coal.
In fact there is a lot of naturally occurring radiation all around. Granite is one major source. Even potatoes can emit radiation. So chopping up potatoes on a granite worktop probably means that you have had a higher radiation dose than someone working inside a nuclear power station. So I wouldn’t worry too much about the electromagnetic radiation from mobile phone masts or the radiation from a power station. If you tried to avoid them you would get the dose in some other way.
Just to make things even more confusing and twisted there is a theory that small amounts of continual radiation is actually good for you. On the similar basis that it’s healthy to have some bugs around you and not to live in too clean an environment as it helps your body learn and immunise itself. There is even one theory that lung cancer is not so much from the particles as from the radiation from the tobacco plant.