Faure, Gunter Department of Geology, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio.
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A branch of environmental geochemistry and isotope geology concerned with the occurrence of radioactive nuclides in sediment, water, air, biological tissues, and rocks. The nuclides have relatively short half-lives ranging from a few days to about 106 years, and occur only because they are being produced by natural or anthropogenic nuclear reactions or because they are the intermediate unstable daughters of long-lived naturally occurring radioactive isotopes of uranium and thorium. The nuclear radiation, consisting of alpha particles, beta particles, and gamma rays, emitted by these nuclides constitutes a potential health hazard to humans. However, their presence also provides opportunities for measurements of the rates of natural processes in the atmosphere and on the surface of the Earth. See also: Alpha particles; Beta particles; Gamma rays
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