Seen It a Million Times Once upon a time, nuclear radiation was a good way for people to gain superpowers or to create monsters. But as time wore on people came to realize that radiation was more likely to give you cancer or melt your skin off. As such nearly every mention of radiation in media became a hazard to be avoided. In Real Life people are exposed to about 81 mrem of radiation each year, not counting X-ray machines or medical radiation, it takes 50 rem to start developing tumors and a lethal dose is about 400 rem or 2 grays (that's about 5,000x greater than the normal background level).
- Played Up to Eleven and combined with Artistic License – Physics with the Psychlos in Battlefield Earth, they explode when exposed to the slightest bit of radiation. Humans, however, are able to survive in irradiated areas and form villages in such places.
- One of the more realistic portrayals was in Stargate SG-1 when Daniel Jackson was exposed to a very high dose of radiation.
Carter: "We think his right hand was exposed to the equivalent of over eight to nine grays of neutron radiation resulting from direct contact. Full body exposure of over seven. "
- The somewhat zombiefied Owen in Torchwood is permanently killed when a flood of radioactive water from a nuclear reactor disintegrates him.
- Subverted in Freefall during the colony ship salvage arc: the moment Sam and Helix learn there's radiation in the ship, they start panicking and screaming, even though Florence points out the radiation is well within safe levels.
- Throughout the Fallout series, areas that have been dumping grounds for toxic waste or the site of bomb hits are radiated. The more time you spend in them the higher your rad count climbs, eventually causing illness and death if you don't get it cured.
- Real Life: Microwave radiation from many consumer goods, such as cellular phones and microwaves, simply because it has the word "radiation" in it, is assumed by many people to be quite harmful, despite being non-ionizing. There are countless urban legends, wive's tales, hoax emails, and troll videos on Youtube regarding the "dangers" of microwave "radiation".
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: Spock makes his Heroic Sacrifice by hastily working inside the Enterprise's dilithium chamber without a radiation suit.
- The Pripyat levels in Modern Warfare are surrounded by invisible pockets of radiation that act like a Border Patrol. If you go too far out of bounds, you'll rapidly die of radiation poisoning.
- The CSI franchise used it twice. CSI: Miami had an ep about trying to find a radiation-exposed woman before she got other people sick. The CSINY one had radioactive material planted in a book that a couple of people besides the intended victim died from. And it almost killed the coroner, Sid.
- There's a novel from the 80s called The Dorset Disaster by Alexander Sidar that's got this trope all through it. It's about a nuclear explosion in Connecticut and was written as though it were a record of an actual event.
- Battle for the Planet of the Apes got into this with the Forbbiden Zone. Caesar, Mandemus and Mac Donald had to get in, find the tapes of Caesar's parents, view them, and get out quickly so they weren't contaminated with radiation.
- The Nevil Shute novel On the Beach has this as its central theme. Everyone's waiting to die from the advancing fallout of a nuclear war.
- The Last Ship is a novel involving a nuclear war and the ship full of survivors that could be the last on Earth. They were searching for a place free enough of radiation to go ashore.
- Truth in Television: Radium was once thought of as a cure-all and a decorative paint for clocks and such. Many of the workers who made the products died, and in the case of the radium drink, those who used it died. There's one rather famous case where the victim's lower jaw began to rot.
- On an episode of Bones a corpse was feared to be radioactive because it was visibly glowing (it wasn't). Most things that are radioactive don't glow, and most things that glow aren't radioactive.
Hello, Unknown Troper. You'll need to get known to lend a hand here.