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Non-medical uses

Some of the ways radiation is used in non-medical settings include the following.  

Carbon dating: Every living thing absorbs Carbon, including the relatively rare isotope 14C (about 1% of all Carbon isotopes). Carbon-14 is radioactive by beta-emission, with a half-life of about 5700 years. When the specimen dies, it stops absorbing Carbon, and so by measuring the amount of 14C present in a sample, and comparing that to a comparable living specimen, one can get an estimate of the sample's age.  

Sterilization of equipment and food: The fact that radiation can destroy biological material is used in the sterilization of medical equipment, where a lack of contamination is essential. More controversial is the same use on food, where it is used to destroy agents which hasten spoilage.  

Smoke detectors: In a smoke detector, a low-level radioactive material is present. This radiation can ionize particles contained in smoke, which are subsequently detected by their charge.