Alpha particle
A tiny mass of material composed of two protons and two neutrons. Alpha particles do not travel very far from their radioactive source. They cannot pass through a piece of paper, clothes or even the layer of dead cells which normally protects the skin. Because alpha particles cannot penetrate human skin they are not considered an "external exposure hazard." This means that if the alpha particles stay outside the human body they cannot harm it. However, alpha particle sources located within the body may pose an "internal" health hazard if they are present in great enough quantities. For instance, the risk from indoor radon gas is due to inhaled alpha particle sources which irradiate lung tissue. Alpha rays are streams of alpha particles.

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alpha particle n a positively charged nuclear particle identical with the nucleus of a helium atom that consists of two protons and two neutrons and is ejected at high speed in certain radioactive transformations called also alpha, alpha ray

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a positively charged particle ejected from the nucleus of a radioactive atom, being a high-speed ionized atom of helium. A stream of these particles constitutes alpha rays.

Medical dictionary. 2011.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • alpha particle — n. a positively charged particle given off by certain radioactive substances: it consists of two protons and two neutrons (a helium nucleus), and is converted into an atom of helium by the acquisition of two electrons …   English World dictionary

  • alpha particle — (also alpha ray) ► NOUN Physics ▪ a helium nucleus, especially as emitted by some radioactive substances …   English terms dictionary

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