Lesson 10: Technology
10.1 – Technological Disasters
• Death toll from technological disasters is not as great as natural hazards.
• Ratio from Natural disasters in Europe and N.A. are similar while less developed
countries experience a ratio of about 20:1.
Types of Technological Disasters
1. Global or Multiple Extreme Hazards
• Widespread and long-term – nuclear war
• Accumulative effects – pesticides
2. ‘Titanic’ Rare Catastrophes
• Singular loss – Plane crash or mine collapse
• Dramatic and Traumatic – viewed by millions
• Industrial or transportation technologies – car crashes
• Consumer/Waste products – drugs and disposable toxins
• Difficult to monitor – constant innovation and expanding markets
• Linked to mass advertising and consumer values
• Require extra money, government programs/intervention, and quality control to mitigate
• Cumulative effects are conditions that worsen slowly over time as concentrations of
chemicals/poisons build up until they reach a threshold that harms human health.
• Usually have a voluntary component – usually an occupation or lifestyle decision.
• Usually revolve around; large scale structures – probability of failure during lifetime of
the structure, transport – probability of death or injury per kilometre travelled, industry –
probability of death due to chemical exposure.
• Groups most affected are often upper and middle classes – consumer groups. Involved
in industry, transportation systems, resource industries and city living.
• Geography of risk – urban centres, transportation networks, and modern groups focused
on consumerism and material life.
10.2 – Radon • Release of radioactive gas from the Earth’s bedrock – colourless, odourless, tasteless.
• Primary source is from the decay or uranium to radium to gas (radon) – it is then
breathed in and decays to polonium lodging in the lungs and damaging tissue.
• Accounts for 40% of annual radiation dose – can seep into our homes.
• Risk varies depending on geology – more risk when house is well-insulated. Basements
are higher risk – less air circulation. Homes with sand in the building material (uranium
10.3 – Radiation
• Pathways include inhalation, ingestion and contact (water, food, air).
• Effects evident within days or weeks in form of radiation sickness and burns. Effects can
be delayed or chronic (leukemia or skin cancer). Impact can be indirect (genetic
chromosomal change, fertility, and birth defects).
Types of Hazards
• One of the main hazards of radiation is disposal of waste material.
1. High Level Wastes (HLW) – Long half-life. Reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.
2. Intermediate Level Wastes (ILW) – Material used in housing radioactive material – metal
3. Low-Level Wastes (LLW) – Exists in many locations. Range from nuclear waste to
medical facilities and universities.
• In general radiation can be identified by:
1. Type of radioactivity released
2. Pathway of human exposure; direct or indirect
3. Length of time to decay (Half-life)
• Consider the entire life cycle of a hazard. In the case of radiation this includes:
o Mining of uranium – tailings considered a radioactive hazard
o Fabrication of weapons and fuel – site contamination from hazards
o Production of electricity through nuclear power – Accidents or attacks on plants
o Transportation of material – Deliberate attacks on the carrier or accidents
o Storage of wastes until they are non-radioactive
Geography of Risk
• Majority of nuclear reactors in Canada are located in Southern Ontario.
• Limited countries part of the ‘Nuclear Club’ – those that possess threats such as the
nuclear bomb include; United States, Russia, Great Britain, France, China, India and
Pakistan. Israel, Iran, and North Korea possess nu