Entries in Radioactivity (2)


Radiation from Japan Disaster Found Along California Coast

Hemera/Thinkstock(LONG BEACH, Calif.) -- Kelp along the California coast was found to be contaminated with radioactive material from a nuclear plant damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, according to a recent study.

Researchers at California State University, Long Beach found that the kelp contained radioactive iodine, cesium, xenon and other particles at levels unlikely to be detrimental to human health but much higher than the amounts measured before the disaster.

The levels were also about the same as those measured in British Columbia and Washington state after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion.

The researchers also expressed worry that the radioactivity could have made it into the coastal food chain, although they weren’t sure what impact that could have.

“Radioactivity is taken up by the kelp, and anything that feeds on the kelp will be exposed to this also,” said co-author Steven Manley in a news release.

Medical experts, however, said the disaster’s impact on U.S. public health was likely insignificant. Exposures of large numbers of people in past nuclear accidents, such as Chernobyl, have indicated that any radiation that reached the West Coast wouldn’t have much of an effect.

“But in Japan, the effects are as serious as we thought.  There’s still a lot of contamination there,” said Dr. Nagy Elsayyad, an assistant professor at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine.  “Some areas are still getting contamination in the fish, and some of the radiation is very long-lasting.”

Manley and his co-author, Christopher Lowe, wrote that exposures along the North American coast should continue to be monitored.

“The resulting data would reveal the pattern of plume dispersal and the degree of contamination of the coastal community.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Anti-Radiation Pills Bought as US Fears Rise

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- With fears growing of a nuclear disaster in Japan, Americans are taking their own steps to protect themselves from radiation.

There's a run on iodide pills, Geiger counters and emergency kits on Never mind that Japan is on the other side of the world; even Midwesterners are preparing.

Potassium iodide tablets protect the thyroid gland from radioactive material by overloading it with nonradioactive iodine.

"There is no increased risk of harmful levels of radiation exposure in the United States based on the situation to date at the nuclear power complex in Japan," said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Los Angeles' director of public health. "Residents who ingest potassium iodide out of concern of possible exposure from this situation are doing something which is not only ineffective, but could also cause side effects."

Dan Sprau, who teaches radiation safety at East Carolina University, said, "Potassium can lead to heart problems."

Dr. Tim Jorgensen, an associate professor of radiation medicine at Georgetown University, said that giving an adult dose of potassium iodide to an infant would be toxic.

In Redding, Calif., Whitney's Vitamin and Herb Shop is stocking up on potassium iodide tablets after the store said it was overwhelmed with calls this weekend from people seeking the anti-radiation medicine. But Jorgensen says Californians have no reason to panic.

Radiation is all around us and it's perfectly normal and safe. Bananas are radioactive. So are microwave ovens, cell phones and X-rays, even people. Every year, just walking around on the planet, each of us is exposed to about 3.5 millisieverts (mSv) of radiation. That is the equivalent of approximately 94 chest X-rays.

In order to get radiation sickness you need to be exposed to 1,000 mSv at once. For most people radiation would be fatal at about 5,000 mSv.

To put this in perspective, the radiation levels at the nuclear plant in Japan are about 400 mSv. That means you would have to sit there for two and a half hours to get sick.

Even in the worst-case scenario, if there is a full meltdown doctors said the radiation levels would be so low by the time they reached America they couldn't hurt anyone. Which is why, despite the scary pictures coming out of Japan, experts are telling ABC News that there is no need to panic and no need to run out for Geiger counters or potassium iodide pills.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio