Posting in Cancer
What radiation exposure really means.
Just reading about the nuclear crisis in Japan makes my stomach hurt. But this had me thinking about radiation exposure of radioactive iodine and cesium.That's not even counting the radiation in the spent fuel pool, which contains old rods with radioactive materials (plutonium, strontium and cesium).
The risk depends on the distance, dose and amount of exposure — and the effects of radiation are cumulative. Radioactive iodine breaks down pretty quickly, much faster than cesium.
How much is too much? Too much radiation can disrupt cells and cause death. Exposure to a lot of radiation can lead to thyroid cancer, bone cancer and leukemia.
The heroic workers trying to save the reactors have the greatest risk of developing cancer. In one hour, the workers are getting exposed to radiation levels that a person would be exposed to in a year. People who live near the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant have evacuated.
But it's not a localized problem.
Now, airlines and travelers are avoiding Tokyo, after a small spike in radiation was measured. It's about 10 times higher than normal there. Residents are advised to stay indoors to minimize exposure.
And those on the other side of the pond are left wondering, what if the plume from the radiation gets into the jet stream and makes it all the way to California and the rest of the United States? After all, it has happened before and will probably happen again.
The radiation after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster was dispersed all the way throughout the Northern Hemisphere in just three weeks!
There's a chance, the cloud will shroud Tokyo and then float over the Pacific, and will make its way over to Canada and the United States and the rest of the world. (If you want real-time info, radiation levels are now being crowd-sourced through Radiationnetwork.com). However, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission claims the United States is so far away, that we shouldn't be exposed to any harmful levels of radioactivity. Japan is 5,000 miles from the west coast.
According to Reuters, meteorologists predict it would take about six days to the United States, but by then, it would be dissipated into the atmosphere. Still, California is monitoring the situation: the state has radioactivity monitory systems in place to check the air, water and food supply.
Experts claim that the radioactive material seems to be dissipating into the atmosphere, instead of forming a huge cloud like it did in the Chernobyl accident.
Radiation naturally exists. Brazil nuts and bananas have more radiation than other foods. Location matters too: People living in Colorado are exposed to more cosmic radiation than people living along the beach. Consumer products like tobacco and exit signs also emit radiation.
Half of a person's exposure is natural, the other half isn't (and this artificial source comes mainly from diagnostic medical procedures).
Our exposure to radiation is measured in a unit called a microsievert. The radiation levels near Fukushima plant's No. 2 reactor were about 73 microsieverts before a blast, but then it got to be as high as 11,900 microsieverts.
Airport scanners can deliver a radiation dose up to 20 times more than previously thought - and this could increase a person's risk of developing skin cancer. Getting on an airplane from New York to Los Angeles will exposure you to 30-40 microsieverts.
If you're on a plane and it flies near or through a lightning storm, you could be exposed to levels of radiation equivalent to 400 chest X-rays.
Radiation exposure is a fuzzy area, but the associations between radiation exposure and the development of cancer are clear when studied in populations with high levels of ionizing radiation, such as patients involved of therapeutic medical procedures and Japanese atomic bomb survivors. The higher the dose of radiation, the sooner the effects of radiation show up... and the higher probability of death.
The workers at Chernobyl were exposed a large dose, and suffered from acute radiation sickness - some died within three months of the radiation injuries. Radiation sickness, or acute radiation syndrome, can damage tissue and cause the bone marrow to stop making new blood cells...and can possibility lead to death. Symptoms include vomiting, bloody diarrhea, rash, poor wound healing, crippling of the immune system and fatigue and weakness.
Some people are taking potassium iodide pills to keep the body from absorbing radioactive iodine. The Japanese government has given out 230,000 units of iodine to residents near the Fukushima plant, as a precaution.
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Mar 16, 2011
The article above seems to confuse me and I think that this needs to be rectified: "The radiation levels near Fukushima plants No. 2 reactor were about 73 microsieverts before a blast, but then it got to be as high as 11,900 microsieverts." A microsievert is a measure of radiation dose but the article does not state the time period over which these doses are accrued, are we talking microsieverts an hour, a week or a year? This needs to be cleared up for this to make sense.
This is hype of what I like to call "The BOO! Factor". It's all alarmist screaming. How about looking at what the IAEA has to say? "Radiation levels near Fukushima Daiichi and beyond have elevated since the reactor damage began. However, dose rates in Tokyo and other areas outside the 30-kilometre zone remain below levels which would require any protective action. In other words they are not dangerous to human health." Or going to the link at the UN's World Health Organization to find proper information - with updates: http://search.who.int/search?q=japan+nuclear+accident+daiichi&ie=utf8&site=default_collection&client=_en&proxystylesheet=_en&output=xml_no_dtd&oe=utf8 Use information, not scare tactics.
AND, despite all this life sucking radiation, people somehow manage to live longer and healthier in the industrialized world than in all human history. I think the real horror story is the billions living without enough energy to raise themselves to a western world living standard.
I'm afraid I must agree. This is unfounded alarmism. For example, check out the alarmist hype about 3 Mile Island against the FACTS of the illnesses and deaths caused by the "disaster". Automobile accidents kill tens and tens of thousands a year world wide, unbelivably more than radiation, yet I don't hear you or folks like you whinning about that. I think a deep look at priorities is called for, not fear mongering.
Same on you! Your comment "t?s probably best not to drink the milk because that?s how radioactive iodine makes its way into humans." is really out of bounds! You already know that people out side of Japan are scared, buying up potassium iodide and maybe even taking it with all the risks and none of the benefit. And then you make the above statement! What are you thinking???? Not only will milk not be contaminated in the foreseeable events surrounding this nuclear reactor crisis, even if there was a potential for the problem, cows (yes, that's where milk comes from) can be protected against any issues by the prudent feeding of stored forage. This is a well known and easily handled issue in the dairy industry and is used for all kinds of environmental issues, not just reactor problems. So, shame on you for furthering the anxiety young mothers already have about this issue. Your advice is completely out side of the public health rational and you should get EXPERT public health advice before making further recommendations to do or not do something about this current (or future) crises! You do more harm than good!
"Can," "could." "probably," "spewing," "10 times higher than normal" without, of course, bothering to define normal. Typical alarmist uninformative blather.
The risk of radiation exposure is 100% when it hits you and your family regardless of the statistics. My family lived 60 miles due south of Three Mile Island when that disaster hit. Within three years, my mother and many oof our neighbors developed breast cancer, my next door neighbor died of leukemia, my sister developed Graves disease of the thyroid! Yet the scientists and doctors do not attribute these attrocities of having any relation to Three Mile Island. The problem is with people like you who want to keep an absurd standard of living at any cost!