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Yellow Alert!


Today I learned about a unit of radiation exposure called the BED. This is a unit of measurement based on the radiation exposure from…

See, bananas contain a lot of potassium, which contains 0.01% potassium-40, which is radioactive. The upshot is that the radiation exposure from eating a banana is 1 BED (banana equivalent dose), or roughly equivalent to 0.01 millirem (mrem). Of course, you’d never be able to eat enough bananas to be dangerous since your body would just excrete the excess potassium.

This is also roughly the exposure from having a single smoke detector.


Yes, you read that right. Living near a coal plant exposes you to three times the radiation of a nuclear plant. This is due to the presence of thorium and uranium in coal. But these levels are still ridiculously low.


A typical human body contains some potassium-40.

2 mrem is also roughly your exposure from a NY to LA flight, due to your increased altitude (less atmosphere shielding you from the effects of galactic cosmic rays).


Again, this is due to your increased altitude. Mt Everest is more like 800 mrem (80,000 bananas) per year.


The granite in the walls is mildly radioactive. By comparison, the Vatican is about 800 mrem (80,000 bananas) per year.

…assuming no radiation shielding. But, yeah, that’s a lot of bananas.

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  1. Where do computer monitors fit into this? I’m curious because I sleep with one on my chest every night.

  2. I’m pretty sure Denver is radioactive because it’s built on granite (which contains Uranium, a radioactive element), not because it is at a high altitude. This is why homes in Denver must pass a radon test before being sold. Since the radioactivity comes from the ground, if your home is on a large granite deposit and closed up, over a couple years it can fill with radon, raising radioactivity levels in the house to unsafe doses.

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