Tritium is the radioactive isotope of hydrogen, produced on a continuous basis in nuclear reactors as a by-product of nuclear fission. Tritium is not dangerous externally, but it is dangerous when we inhale air near reactors or we absorb it through our skin, or when we eat food grown near reactors or drink water that has been contaminated with tritium. This is because once tritium is inside us, it emits radiation: that is, it is an “internal emitter.” Tritium is a carcinogen (causes cancer), teratogen (causes deformations of the embryo during pregnancy) and mutagen (causes mutations to DNA). Even very low rates of tritium exposure can lead to cancer, leukemia, and birth defects.
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