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Acute vs. Chronic Exposure

Radiation exposure might be short-term or long-lasting. First, think of a medical x-ray exposure where the time of exposure is short—the machine is on and off within a very short period of time. Or think about radioactive materials that naturally occur in our soils; they present us with small amounts of radiation exposure that occur over our lifetime. Depending on the source, time of an exposure can vary—in some cases, the time will be very short, seconds or less, and in other cases it will be occurring continuously over our lifetime. Keep in mind that being exposed to radiation in a short period of time or over a long period of time is no indication of the total radiation dose and, thus, the possible health effects that may occur.