Entries in Radiation (30)


Fukushima Fallout in California Waters: A Health Threat?

DigitalGlobe via Getty Images(BERKELEY, Calif.) -- The radioactive fallout from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant accident has spread as far as California waters, according to scientists from the University of California, Berkeley.

But although the level of radioactivity in the water was higher than normal, they said, it was still very low and not harmful to humans.

“The levels of fallout we have observed in San Francisco Bay area rain water pose[d] no health risk to the public,” wrote the study authors, led by Eric B. Norman of UC Berkeley’s Department of Nuclear Engineering.

The March earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan compromised the nuclear plant, causing radioactive material to run into the surrounding waters.  Researchers subsequently found some of that same material in rainwater collected from the San Francisco Bay area.

Samples gathered between March 16 and March 26 showed abnormally high levels of radioactive elements. The levels were highest in samples collected on March 24, but after that the levels returned to normal.

“The levels in the rain water went down very quickly,” said Dr. Nagy Elsayyad, assistant professor of radiation oncology at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine.  “Even the water with the highest levels would be safe. It’s impossible to ingest the amount of water it would take for the radioactivity to be harmful.”

Additionally, he said, people don’t generally drink rainwater.

Scientists also found radioactive material in samples of weeds, vegetables and milk sold in the area, but those levels were also very low.

While people have no reason to fear these findings, Elsayyad understands why people worry when they hear about elevated levels of radiation. The health effects of being exposed to radiation can be very serious, and include organ damage and cancer.

“It’s deeply ingrained in our culture that radiation is harmful,” he said. ”I wouldn’t blame people for being worried, but it’s important to make it clear that these results show the water is safe.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Kara Kennedy's Heart Attack Related to Cancer Treatment?

Brian Snyder-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The heart attack death of Kara Kennedy, the latest in the tragedy-touched Kennedy dynasty, may have been related to the aggressive cancer treatment she underwent about a decade ago, say her brother and a cardiologist.

The 51-year-old daughter of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy died Sept. 16 while working out at her Washington, D.C., gym.

"Depending upon where the lung cancer was, her heart could have taken a direct hit," said Dr. Sharonne N. Hayes, a cardiologist and founder of the Women's Heart Clinic at the Mayo Institute.

More details on Kara Kennedy's death are expected to be released by the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate as funeral arrangements are being made for Wednesday.

Kara Kennedy was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2002 and was initially told it was inoperable.  But with her father's help, she found a surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston who removed part of her right lung, followed by chemotherapy and radiation.

Her brother, former Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy, 44, said the grueling treatments had left his sister physically weakened.

For cancer patients who have aggressive chemotherapy and radiation, particularly in the chest, "there are some real heart risks," according to Hayes, who did not treat Kara Kennedy.  "The heart muscle can be weakened."

"This is probably widely underappreciated," she said.  "People are so fearful of cancer, but in order to save people from cancer, other organs are put at risk -- the heart, in particular."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


After Brain Surgery, U.K. Gradeschooler Can't Stop Giggling

BananaStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Seven-year-old Enna Stephens is facing a daunting 16 months of chemotherapy and radiation after doctor's removed a tumor from her brain, but thanks to a bizarre side effect of the surgery: all she can do is laugh about it.

Enna suffers from pseudobulbar affect (PBA), a neurological disorder brought on by nerve damage that makes it difficult to control one's emotional response. Some patients with PBA cry uncontrollably, others get angry, but for Enna, it has manifested as frequent bouts of the giggles.

While PBA can cause normal reactions, such as a chuckle following a joke, to become exaggerated, the emotional responses sometimes run contrary to the actual emotion the patient is feeling, or have nothing to do with it at all.

"Different patients suffer it in different ways," says Dr. Brian Greenwald, medical director of brain injury rehabilitation at the Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Center in New York City, who did not treat Enna. "Sometimes they'll be hysterically crying but not actually feel upset. Sometimes they are angry but it comes out as laughter. It can be incredibly frustrating to live with because it starts to interfere with one's social and professional life," he says.

In cases of traumatic brain injury, PBA can be a sign of damage to the brain and will often subside with time as the brain heals. For those with degenerative conditions, such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's, however, PBA tends to worsen over time.

According to Enna's doctors, there is something to smile about: they believe the cancer was completely removed and there is an 80 percent chance it won't return, doctors told the U.K. press.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Radiation Breast Cancer Treatment Registry May Be Incomplete

ABC News(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) -- A new report suggests that nearly  20 percent of breast cancer radiation patients are not getting their treatments posted in a federal database.

The Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) database is overseen by the U.S. National Cancer Institute. Cancer researchers rely on the database to compare racial and geographic trends in the disease.

Researchers looked at SEER data in Detroit and Los Angeles and compared it with treatment center reports. They found that 273 of 1,292 patients were not getting their treatments recorded.

The study was published in the journal Cancer on June 29.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Women with Advanced Breast Cancer Not Getting Needed Treatment

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- More than half of the women with high-risk, advanced breast cancer aren't receiving the radiation treatments they need, according to a new study published Monday in Cancer.

Researchers at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston analyzed data from over 38,000 women over the age of 66 who underwent a mastectomy for invasive breast cancer between 1992 and 2005.  They found that the use of radiation therapy increased between 1996 and 1998 from 37 percent to 58 percent in response to the publication of landmark clinical trials during that time period that showed the treatment saves lives.

However, since then, there’s been no further increase, and the researchers reported that between 1999 and 2005 only 55 percent of women with high-risk breast cancer actually underwent the radiation therapy.

Dr. Shirvani, the lead author of the study, said that “when physicians are not guided by published evidence, there is the chance that patient outcomes will suffer or that patients will undergo unnecessary treatments and tests.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Cellphone Makers Already Warn About Radiation Exposure

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The World Health Organization's conclusion this week that low-level radiation from cellphones possibly causes cancer should have come as no surprise to anyone who reads the user manual. Placing cellphones in the same category as lead and engine exhaust, the director of the WHO's cancer research arm said in a statement: "Given the potential consequences for public health … it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure."

But virtually every major cellphone maker already recommends that users take precautions. Somewhere in their user manuals are instructions for customers to keep their phones away from their bodies to avoid exceeding Federal Communications Commission exposure limits.

Researchers at Washington, D.C.-based, nonprofit Environmental Working Group examined more than a dozen of the most popular models. Below are the results, which were based on tests that assumed callers were using a belt holster. The government has yet to test for phones carried in jacket or pants pockets, the way most users carry them. It's one of many questions the science has yet to answer definitively.

Palm Pixi: "To ensure compliance with RF exposure guidelines the phone must be used with a minimum of 1.5 cm (0.6 in.) separation from the body. Failure to observe these instructions could result in your RF exposure exceeding the relevant guideline limits."

HTC Droid Incredible: "To comply with RF exposure requirements, a minimum separation distance of 1.5 cm [0.6 inch] must be maintained between the user's body and the handset, including the antenna."

Apple iPhone (16 GB): "When using iPhone near your body for voice calls or for wireless data transmission over a cellular network, keep iPhone at least 15 mm (5/8 inch) away from the body."

HTC Evo 4G: "To comply with RF exposure requirements, a minimum separation distance of 1.5 cm [0.6 inch] must be maintained between the user's body and the handset, including the antenna."

LG Quantum: "This device was tested for typical body-worn operations with the back of the phone kept 0.79 inches (2 cm) between the user's body and the back of the phone. To comply with FCC RF exposure requirements, a minimum separation distance of 0.79 inches (2 cm) must be maintained between the user's body and the back of the phone."

Samsung Epic 4G: "If you do not use a body-worn accessory, ensure the antenna is at least 7/16 inch (1.5 centimeters) from your body when transmitting."

Motorola Droid 2 Global: "If you do not use a body-worn accessory supplied or approved by Motorola, keep the mobile device and its antenna at least 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) from your body when transmitting."

Samsung Captivate I897: "For body-worn operation, this phone has been tested and meets FCC RF exposure guidelines when used with an accessory that contains no metal and that positions the mobile device a minimum of 1.5 cm [0.6 inch] from the body."

Nokia 3720 Classic: "This device meets RF exposure guidelines when used either in the normal use position against the ear or when positioned at least 1.5 centimeters (5/8 inch) away from the body."

Blackberry Torch 9800: "If you do not use a holster equipped with an integrated belt clip supplied or approved by RIM when you carry the BlackBerry device, keep the BlackBerry device at least 0.98 in. (25 mm) from your body when the BlackBerry device is transmitting."

Motorola W385: "When using any data feature of the mobile device, with or without an accessory cable, position the mobile device and its antenna at least 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) from your body."

Sanyo Katana II: "If you do not use a body-worn accessory, ensure the antenna is at least 2.2 centimeters [0.86 inch] from your body when transmitting."

Motorola Boost i290: "If you do not use a body-worn accessory supplied or approved by Motorola and are not using the radio product in the intended use positions along side the head in the phone mode or in front of the face in the two-way radio mode — or if you hang your device from a lanyard around your neck — keep the device at least 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) from your body when transmitting."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Children Should Be Monitored Longer Before Getting CT Scans

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Nearly half of all children who are brought into the emergency room for head injuries undergo CT scans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

But a new study suggests for many of these cases, a CT scan may be unnecessary.

Instead, children should be observed in the emergency room for a few hours longer before the physicians make a decision to send them for a CT scan, according to the study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

"The general conundrum is that blunt head trauma in children is common.  Serious traumatic brain injury is less common," said Dr. Lise Nigrovic, emergency medicine pediatrician at Children's Hospital in Boston and lead author of the study.  "But in some cases, it's hard to tell the difference."

CT scans are generally safe, Nigrovic said.  But studies suggest repeated radiation exposure from the scans over time raises the risk of some forms of cancer.  It's unclear how big a risk the scans pose.

Some children may show symptoms of head injury such as headache or dizziness, which warrant further attention.  But for many, it may just be a bump on the head and the signs could wane within a few hours.  While the study didn't assess how long doctors should wait, numerous studies suggest four to six hours can reveal telltale signs of injury.

"It's a question of degree and number of collective symptoms," said Nigrovic.

More serious signs of brain injury include vomiting, loss of consciousness, and impaired memory over a longer period of time.  These signs are less common among children who end up in the emergency room.

According to Nigrovic, physicians should spend more time monitoring for trauma symptoms than skipping straight to scans.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New Warning About Kids Getting CT Scans

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(CINCINNATI) -- Radiologists should take more care when youngsters come into emergency rooms for computed tomography, better known as CT scans, according to a new study.

That's because these kids are often exposed to radiation doses meant for adults, which can boost their chances of developing cancer later in life.

As it happens, children were five times more likely to get a CT scan in 2008 than 1995, during which time the numbers have soared from 330,000 to 1.65 million.

CT scans are usually administered for head injuries, abdominal pain and headache.  Due to improvements in technology, scans for abdominal pain shot up 21 percent over a four-year period.

According to the study by researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, CT scans in youngsters should be monitored carefully so that doses are adjusted properly to their smaller physique.

In some instances, ultrasounds, which are safer, may be substituted for CT scans, usually in cases of diagnosing appendicitis.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


High Radiation in Japanese Fish Raises Concerns

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Are you green around the gills with Monday's news that Japan's Tokyo Electric Power Co. is dumping tons of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean? Experts say there's no need for worry -- at least for now.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it will require seafood imported from Japan to be checked for radiation before it enters the food supply. But even with the new screenings, no one in the U.S. government is saying "stop eating tuna."

"Other food products from this area, including seafood, although not subject to the Import Alert, will be diverted for testing by FDA before they can enter the food supply," the FDA said in a prepared statement. "FDA will also be monitoring and testing food products, including seafood, from other areas of Japan as appropriate."

More specifically, an FDA spokesperson told ABC News that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement "is screening everything from Japan." However, screening does not entail testing all the seafood. In fact, the FDA inspects less than two percent of seafood, according to Winona Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch.

Since screening, the FDA confirmed finding three food products from Japan that contained radioactive isotopes, although they were "all too low to cause adverse events." So far, the FDA said that every piece of seafood that has been imported to the United States is safe.

Offshore from the Fukushima plant, the seawater is now testing at levels off the charts -- 7.5 million times more radioactive than the legal limit.

"I can't go out to fish because of the radiation," one Japanese fisherman told ABC News. "I cannot do anything."

But another fisherman said it was a "bad rumor" that the fish was unsafe to eat. "The fish are totally fine, I believe," he said.

Because of the elevated levels, the Japanese government also announced on Tuesday that it will, for the first time, enact radiation safety standards for fish.

"We're deeply sorry for discharging the radiated water," said Japan's chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano on Monday, "but it was necessary to prevent spreading higher radiated water into the ocean."

Even though radiation levels become diluted in large bodies of water, officials tested a sample of sand lance fish, often used for bait, and found that the species contained nearly double the levels of iodine 131 and cesium 137. The new regulation caps fish radiation levels at the same amount as vegetables -- up to 2,000 bequerels of iodine 131 per kilogram.

Edano said that government will strictly monitor the seafood and move forward after officials understand the full impact of the dumping.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Radiation in US Milk: What It Means

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Milk from America's West Coast containing trace amounts of radioactive iodine is safe to drink, health officials say.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration reported higher-than-normal levels of radioactive Iodine-131 in milk samples from California and Washington Wednesday. But the levels are 5,000 times below the danger threshold.

"These types of findings are to be expected in the coming days and are far below levels of public health concern, including for infants and children," the EPA said on its website.

A March 25 radiation reading from milk in Spokane, Wash. -- 0.8 picocuries per liter -- is more than 4,000 times less than that of a normal banana, which naturally contains radioactive potassium.

Agencies will continue to measure radiation levels in milk and other food products in the U.S. during Japan's ongoing nuclear crisis.

"Radioactivity levels in milk products are monitored, so it is unlikely that any significantly contaminated milk would make it to the marketplace," said Dr. Timothy Jorgensen, associate professor in the department of radiation medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center. "The U.S. population need not be concerned about this level of Iodine-131."

On March 28 the EPA reported very low levels of radiation in the air over Alaska, Alabama, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Saipan, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and Washington state.

On March 22, the FDA banned milk and produce imported from Japan's Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma prefectures.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio