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Radioactive tracer isotopes are injected with hydraulic fracturing fluid to determine the injection profile and location of fractures created by hydraulic fracturing.Much smaller incidental doses of iodine-131 than those used in medical therapeutic procedures, are supposed by some studies to be the major cause of increased thyroid cancers after accidental nuclear contamination.Libby thus reasoned that by measuring carbon 14 levels in the remains of an organism that died long ago, one could estimate the time of its death.This procedure of radiocarbon dating has been widely adopted and is considered accurate enough for practical use to study remains up to 50,000 years old.Because atmospheric carbon 14 arises at about the same rate that the atom decays, Earth's levels of carbon 14 have remained fairly constant.Once an organism is dead, however, no new carbon is actively absorbed by its tissues, and its carbon 14 gradually decays.Irradiation of natural tellurium produces almost entirely I-131 as the only radionuclide with a half-life longer than hours, since most lighter isotopes of tellurium become heavier stable isotopes, or else stable iodine or xenon.

More commonly, powdered elemental tellurium is irradiated and then I-131 separated from it by dry distillation of the iodine, which has a far higher vapor pressure.However, since the other 90% of radiation (beta radiation) causes tissue damage without contributing to any ability to see or "image" the isotope, other less-damaging radioisotopes of iodine such as iodine-123 (see isotopes of iodine) are preferred in situations when only nuclear imaging is required.The isotope I-131 is still occasionally used for purely diagnostic (i.e., imaging) work, due to its low expense compared to other iodine radioisotopes.For example, children treated with moderate dose of I-131 for thyroid adenomas had a detectable increase in thyroid cancer, but children treated with a much higher dose did not.Likewise, most studies of very-high-dose I-131 for treatment of Graves disease have failed to find any increase in thyroid cancer, even though there is linear increase in thyroid cancer risk with I-131 absorption at moderate doses.

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By contrast, other iodine radioisotopes are usually created by far more expensive techniques, starting with reactor radiation of expensive capsules of pressurized xenon gas.

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