Radiation Dose Units
In the United States, radiation absorbed dose, dose equivalent, and exposure are often measured and stated in the older units called rad, rem, or roentgen (R). For practical purposes with gamma and x rays, these units of measure for exposure or dose are considered equal. This exposure can be from an external source irradiating the whole body, an extremity, or other organ or tissue resulting in an external radiation dose. Alternately, internally deposited radioactive material may cause an internal radiation dose to the whole body or other organ or tissue.
Smaller fractions of these measured quantities often have a prefix, such as, milli (m) means 1/1,000. For example, 1 rad = 1,000 mrad. Micro (μ) means 1/1,000,000. So, 1,000,000 μrad = 1 rad, or 10 μR = 0.000010 R.
The "System International" of units (SI system) for radiation measurement is now the official system of measurement and uses the "gray" (Gy) and "sievert" (Sv) for absorbed dose and equivalent dose respectively. Conversions are as follows:
With radiation counting systems, radioactive transformation events can be measured in units of "disintegrations per minute" (dpm) and, because instruments are not 100% efficient, "counts per minute" (cpm). Background radiation levels are typically less than 10 μR per hour, but due to differences in detector size and efficiency, the cpm reading on fixed monitors and various handheld survey meters will vary considerably.
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