The cans in the market suddenly stopped having labels. I don't think it was because they ran out of paper.
Radioactive contamination is a factor that makes travel in the Exclusion Zone risky.
Radiation is caused when particles or energy are discharged from the nucleus of an atom from an unstable element (#84 and up on the periodic table, as well as elements 43 and 61). There are four types of radiation caused by four different things that were a prevelent problem in 1986; however, only two of them need to be worried about anymore.
Out of all four types, alpha radiation is (for the most part) the least harmful. An alpha particle is discharged from the nucleus and this generates an alpha ray. Alpha particles are comparatively large, so a sheet of paper is all that it takes to stop alpha radiation. However, they can be inhaled or swallowed, and could potentially "stick" in the body and stay there for years, bombarding one area with radiation. This usually causes deadly cancer to form.
Beta radiation shares most of the same properties with alpha radiation; however the particles are smaller and can go into the skin a little bit before they are stopped. This can cause "nuclear burns" under the surface of the skin, which may heal after a few weeks or get progressively worse if the affected person has severe radiation sickness. This happened to many of the firefighters who arrived first on the scene and liquidators who built the sarcophagus. Also, like alpha particles, beta radiation can be inhaled or ingested, remaining for years and causing sickness. That is why it is important to wear a gas mask when travelling in a radioactive area.
Unlike alpha and beta radiation, gamma radiation has no particle and is entirely an energy discharge from the unstable atom. It has a different wavelength from alpha and beta rays, making it highly penetrating; it takes up to 94cm of lead to stop gamma radiation, depending on how close to the source a person is. However the lack of a particle can make gamma radiation less dangerous than alpha or beta - lacking a particle that will stay within a human body, it can only do damage in the immediate. But the "damage in the immediate" is often far worse than the long-term damage alpha and beta cause; because it is difficult to stop, gamma radiation can go through the entire body of a person, and in a high dose it can kill them horribly in a short period of time.
X-rays are something that everyone is familiar with - when you go to the doctor with a broken hand, it is placed under a machine and a "picture" is taken of the bones. X-rays are artificially created; they do not exist in nature. That does not stop them from being dangerous. X-rays are used in medical facilities because they have the same penetrative properties as gamma radiaion, but since X-rays can be "manufactured," it is easier to use them than it is to use gamma radiation. Lacking a particle, X-rays cause the same type of damage as gamma radiation, but, like gamma radiation, cannot sit dormant and cause cancer in the long term.
The Radioactive Effects Of ChernobylEdit
As previously stated, the four types of radiation mentioned above were all a problem immediately following the accident. People in Pripyat did not know what was actually happening at the plant, and would stand on bridges or the roofs of their apartment buildings to watch the beautiful colored lights. Those who stood on the bridge were in the direct path of the reactor, and would have been saturated with X-ray radiation.
The firefighters who first arrived had no idea what they were really dealing with; they absorbed heavy doses of all four types. The breathed in alpha particles, the beta radiation went under their skin, and gamma and X-rays shot through their bodies like bullets. They were sent to a special hospital in Moscow for treatment; all died horribly in less than three weeks. One fireman, Vasily Ignatenko, took 1600 roentgens (400 being the lethal dose). His skin was so badly damaged that a wrinkle in his bedsheets would make him bleed, and he sometimes coughed up pieces of his internal organs. He died in fourteen days.
After the fire was put out and the liquidators arrived, they were most suspect to gamma radiation because the reactor was no longer generating X-rays and they wore cloths, surgical masks and sometimes even the luxury of respirators over their faces. Helicopter pilots were also suspect to the penetrating properties of the gamma ray - most of those pilots and liquidators are no longer alive.
Farmers who worked on contaminated collective farms and liquidators who dug up the earth and buried it were victims of alpha and beta radiation. It burrorwed into their skin and lungs, and many died from cancer five or ten years after the fact.
In the here and now, gamma and X-ray radiation are not present in the Exclusion Zone, and in the tiny pockets where they are, they are not enough to be a threat to human health.
It is alpha radiation and beta radiation that are prevelant. Even so, it is safe to be in the open air on the paved areas. Asphalt does not hold intense levels of radiation. Being in the buildings in Pripyat or journeying the Red Forest are a different story. It is important to have a dosimeter and a gas mask handy when walking in the forest, looking through the kindergarten, or inspecting the army trucks left behind in Buryakovka field. Many of the villages are not safe, either; wood is a sponge for alpha particles.