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According to sites like this, bentonite clay can absorb and remove radiation from the human body.

Calcium Bentonite clay is the natural detoxing agent that can be used internally, externally with poultices and full body applications, and by taking detox clay baths. These are highly beneficial methods for detoxification, especially for cases of heavy metal poisoning and radiation buildup. So consider releasing the toxic burden of the body inside and out with a safe and effective Calcium Bentonite Clay detoxification program.

This claim seems to be pretty prevalent within the alternative medicine community. Sites like this (and many others) state things like this:

Another use for bentonite clay, which is very timely considering the recent natural and the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, is adsorption of radiation. Not only does bentonite clay adsorb radiation from nuclear fallout, it also adsorbs any kind of radiation.

Is there evidence to support that bentonite clay can remove radiation from the human body?

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    Almost everything absorbs every kind of radiation. Commented May 5, 2014 at 3:21
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    There might be confusion due to lack of understanding of chemistry behind this. Some clays are very good at attracting and holding some of the heavy elements that may be emitting radiation. So it isn't so much that the clays absorb radiation but they will extract some of the compounds that emit radiation and remove them from the body. Though I doubt this works through the skin.
    – matt_black
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 10:55
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    An aside: When I worked in health-physics at a nuclear power plant we would use what was basically duct-tape to get alpha and beta particles off clothing. Particles of this sort are essentially dust, of a radioactive sort. Commented May 7, 2014 at 18:01
  • IIRC, it is used for storing nuclear waste storage. See the kitty litter mess up: livescience.com/…
    – vartec
    Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 13:09

2 Answers 2

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I noticed your second example uses the word "adsorbs" (holding as a thin film on the outside) rather than "absorbs"; at first I thought this was an accidental spelling error, but the page you linked to was very clear about what it thought it meant.

Radiation is not the sort of thing that can be adsorbed. Light, for example, is radiation. Gamma rays (one of the examples given in the second link) are the same stuff as ordinary light, only further in the blue direction than blue light (if you will excuse the over-simplification).

Other forms of radiation include:

  1. Alpha radiation — this is ionised, fast-moving helium. It will embed itself in whatever it hits, then turn into helium gas and stop reacting entirely; imagine it as a tiny bullet. The (already dead) outer layer of your skin will stop this type of radiation.
  2. Beta radiation — this is a fast moving electron. Again, imagine this like a tiny bullet. It will get stuck in whatever it hits (your flesh, some clay, the wall), and will then be a small electric charge, similar to when you brush your hair too much and it stands on end.
  3. Neutron radiation — this is (almost) the only type of radiation that can make other things radioactive. Again, imagine this as a small bullet: it's not going to get stuck on the surface of anything, mainly because it will be deep inside whatever stops it moving. To a first approximation, if you had a source of this on one side of your body, half of the radiation will go through you and out the other side, the other half will be absorbed by your body.

In any case, clay won't remove radiation — radiation doesn't work like that.

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    1. It might remove radioactive material, not products of radioactive decay, this is what I believe is meant. 2. Please provide references for your claims. 3. It doesn't exactly address the question.
    – sashkello
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 12:56
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    While radiation itself may not be adsorbed, doesn't mean radioactive particles cannot. Adsorption is how gas mask filters work and many of them are designed to protect against radioactive fallout.
    – vartec
    Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 13:02
  • @SJuan76: while that is true, it's irrelevant to the fact that adsorbtion in some cases (like gas-mask) can be used to remove radioactive particles. Thus the logic used in this answer is invalid.
    – vartec
    Commented Jul 26, 2014 at 23:23
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The biggest problem with this question is the use of the word "radiation", as in "can remove radiation".

Radiation is radiated energy. The International Atomic Energy Agency defines it:

Radiation is energy that moves from one place to another in a form that can be described as waves or particles.
What is Radiation?

Radiation isn't something that can be removed, as it by definition is removing itself by radiating, and at very high speed.

So the direct answer the question, "Can bentonite clay remove radiation from the human body?" is "no".

If what was actually intended was "radioactive material", a source of radiation and something quite different from "radiation" itself, the answer is "yes":

Clay and their minerals, both in its natural and modified forms, have the ability to absorb various radioactive materials from aqueous solution, such as Uranium, Thorium and Caesium as discussed extensively in this review. This article presented an overview of properties and classifications of clay, current research literature on using clay minerals as an absorber, and a descriptive analysis of their adsorption behaviour. Three type of clay are the focused in this review namely Bentonite, Kaolin and Zeolites due to their excellent qualification in absorbing radioactive materials such as Uranium, Thorium and Caesium.
Adsorption of Radioactive Element by Clay: A Review - IOPscience

But even if the answer is yes, that the quoted material confuses the two different concepts is a good indication of the unreliability of whatever else it claims.

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  • This is not a good argument as your specific pedantry of 'radiation is a thing that removes itself' is... extremely problematic on any scale larger than a single atom.
    – CJR
    Commented yesterday
  • @CJR, "radiation" is small particles (including photons) moving at very high speed. They can cause damage, but they exist in a human body for a very tiny fraction of a second and so the concept of removing them is meaningless. The problematic larger particles are not "radiation", they are "radioactive material", which will eventually release radiation, hence the need to remove them. Commented yesterday
  • Your new definition of "radiation" is small particles (including photons) moving at very high speed. They can cause damage, but they exist in a human body for a very tiny fraction of a second is also incorrect. You should look at the decay mechanism for At211 or Pu238 (as counterexamples where your definition fails).
    – CJR
    Commented yesterday
  • @CJR, I don't see how At211 doesn't match what I said. It does have a complicated decay process, but throughout it exists either as stationary particles (some of which are "radioactive material") or as very briefly lived high speed particles, "radiation". Clay might work on that radioactive material, but it can't "remove the radiation". Commented yesterday
  • @CJR says "Your new definition …". It's not my definition. Radiation is radiated energy. Iternational Atomic Energy Agency says "Radiation is energy that moves from one place to another in a form that can be described as waves or particles. We are exposed to radiation in our everyday life. Some of the most familiar sources of radiation include the sun, microwave ovens in our kitchens and the radios we listen to in our cars. Most of this radiation carries no risk to our health.". Commented yesterday

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