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Using such methods, scientists determined that the age of the Shroud of Turin (Figure 15.3 “Shroud of Turin”; purported by some to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ and composed of flax fibres, a type of plant) is about 600–700 y, not 2,000 y as claimed by some.Scientists were also able to use radiocarbon dating to show that the age of a mummified body found in the ice of the Alps was 5,300 y.The radiation emitted by some radioactive substances can be used to kill microorganisms on a variety of foodstuffs, extending the shelf life of these products.Produce such as tomatoes, mushrooms, sprouts, and berries are irradiated with the emissions from cobalt-60 or cesium-137.Once a living thing dies, it no longer acquires carbon-14; as time passes the carbon-14 that was in the tissues decays.(The half-life of carbon-14 is 5,370 y.) If a once-living artifact is discovered and analyzed many years after its death and the remaining carbon-14 is compared to the known constant level, an approximate age of the artifact can be determined.
One example of a diagnostic application is using radioactive iodine-131 to test for thyroid activity (Figure 15.4 “Medical Diagnostics”).We know these steps because researchers followed the progress of carbon-14 throughout the process.Radioactive isotopes are useful for establishing the ages of various objects.Radioactive isotopes are effective tracers because their radioactivity is easy to detect.A is a substance that can be used to follow the pathway of that substance through some structure.
For instance, leaks in underground water pipes can be discovered by running some tritium-containing water through the pipes and then using a Geiger counter to locate any radioactive tritium subsequently present in the ground around the pipes.