Protecting Your Liver From Nuclear Radiation

As the nuclear reactor crisis in Japan unfolds, some folks on the United States’s West Coast are worrying about radiation exposure. Although those with liver disease may be more prone to illness from a nuclear accident, there are several ways to mitigate the danger.
by Nicole Cutler, L.Ac.
As Japan works to prevent a major nuclear meltdown following the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, America’s concerns about the health effects of radiation are growing. On the eighth day post quake, the threat of Japan’s leaking radiation reaching American soil appeared to be miniscule. U.S. officials claimed that any airborne hazards are not enough to cause health concerns. Despite the government’s reports, some remain doubtful of the air’s safety. In addition, those with a compromised liver could be at greater risk of damage from nuclear radiation than healthy people. Thankfully, there are a handful of approaches that can be taken to prevent becoming sick from radiation.
About Nuclear Radiation
Especially since the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb explosions and the Chernobyl catastrophic nuclear accident, radiation exposure’s ability to cause cancer is well documented. According to James Fagin, chief of endocrinology at New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the thyroid is the organ most at risk of cancer from a nuclear accident. This is because:
•    The thyroid takes in iodine from the blood in order to make critical hormones.
•    The thyroid can’t tell the difference between radioactive iodine, which can be released in a nuclear meltdown, and the normal kind.
•    Radioactive material entering the thyroid can cause cancer.

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Radiation Emergencies Fact Sheets from the CDC

Radiation Emergencies
Fact Sheets



  FAQs About a Radiation Emergency
How you can protect yourself and your family
FAQs About Iodine-131 Found in Surface Water
FAQs About Iodine-131 Found in Milk
Sheltering in Place During a Radiation Emergency
When and how you need to shelter in place during a radiation emergency
Facts about Evacuation During a Radiation Emergency
How to evacuate the area if advised by local officials during a radiation emergency
Dirty Bombs
FAQs about a terrorist attack with a conventional bomb that has radioactive material in it
Nuclear Blast
FAQs about what a nuclear blast is and how to protect yourself
Radioactive Contamination & Radiation Exposure
What you should know about the difference between radiation contamination and exposure
Potassium Iodide (KI)
What KI is and how it can protect in a radiation emergency
Prussian Blue
Facts about Prussian blue and how it can remove some radioactive materials from the body
Facts about diethylenetriaminepentaacetate (DTPA) and how it can remove some radioactive material from the body
How Neupogen is used when someone has acute radiation syndrome
Acute Radiation Syndrome
What you need to know about radiation sickness
Radiation and Pregnancy
How radiation exposure affects pregnant women and fetal development
Population Monitoring after a Release of Radioactive Material
How public health officials would monitor people to protect the public’s health after a radiation emergency
CDC’s Roles in the Event of Nuclear or Radiological Terrorist Attack
How CDC will assist state and local public health officials in a radiation emergency

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff is monitoring the situation at the Surry nuclear power plant

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff is monitoring the situation at the Surry nuclear power plant after the site lost offsite power early Saturday evening due to a tornado affecting an electrical switchyard next to the plant. The NRC is monitoring the event through the NRC resident inspectors at the site and in the Atlanta regional office. The plant is operated by Dominion. The two units at the Surry plant automatically shut down after losing offsite power. Four of the plant’s diesel generators started to power the units’ emergency loads, an NRC spokesman said in a press release. Plant operators have partially restored offsite power to both plants, and safety systems have operated as needed. Dominion notified the NRC of the situation soon after it happened and the agency dispatched its resident inspectors to the Surry plant site as well as staffed its incident response center in Atlanta. Dominion declared an "unusual event," the lowest of the four NRC emergency classification levels, around 7 p.m. Saturday

US finds tiny amount of radiation in milk

31 Mar 2011 00:14
Source: reuters // Reuters

WASHINGTON, March 30 (Reuters) - A trace amount of radioactive iodine, well below levels of public health concerns, has been detected in milk from the state of Washington as the U.S. monitors radiation levels amid the nuclear crisis in Japan, U.S. regulators said on Wednesday.
"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 Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency said in a joint statement.
Testing found 0.8 pCi/L of iodine-131, a radioactive form of iodine, in the milk sample.
Although there are naturally occurring levels of radiation in milk, such an isotope is not normally found in milk, but the agencies stressed it was 5,000 times lower than the FDA's standard, known as the "defined intervention level."
"These findings are a minuscule amount compared to what people experience every day," FDA scientist Patricia Hansen said in a statement.
The EPA said it has increased radiation monitoring in U.S. milk, precipitation and drinking water in response to radiation leaks at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which was damaged by the huge tsunami that was followed by the massive 9.0 quake on March 11.
The agencies said Iodine-131 has a very short half-life of approximately eight days, and the level detected in milk and milk products was therefore expected to drop relatively quickly.
Contaminated milk is a worry after a nuclear accident because toxic levels of radioactive iodine can get into rainwater and feed that is ingested by cows and taken up in their milk. Contaminated milk was one of the biggest causes of thyroid cancers after the nuclear accident in Chernobyl because people near the plant kept drinking milk from local cows.
Iodine-131 is a threat to human health because it goes immediately to the thyroid gland, where it can cause cancer. Experts say thyroid cancer is generally considered non-fatal because treatments are so effective. (Reporting by Lisa Richwine in Washington and Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago, Editing by Sandra Maler)
Mar 30, 5:41 AM EDT

Alabama lab is 1st defense for radiation from Japan

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- At a government laboratory in Alabama, workers in blue coats unload envelopes packed with small filters that trapped air particles in Hawaii, Alaska and elsewhere. The discs are placed in lead-lined, barrel-like devices for testing to make sure no traces of radioactive materials have wafted across the Pacific Ocean from Japan.
So far, the sea breeze in places like Honolulu is no more dangerous than the pollen-laden air of the Deep South, according to officials. Still, the 60 or so workers in the 72,000-square-foot building will be the first to know if the Japanese disaster spreads harmful amounts of radiation to the U.S. Minute amounts of radiation from Japan's reactor have spread as far as the U.S. East Coast, though officials say it's less harmful than the radiation people are exposed to on a routine basis.
Using super-sensitive equipment and computers linked to West Coast monitors by satellite connections that download new air-quality data each hour, experts hunched over monitors are scouring the atmosphere for any radioactive materials that could pose a threat to U.S. public health. There's always some radiation in the environment - the testers are looking for abnormally high amounts.
Located on an annex of Maxwell Air Force base just a few miles from Alabama's white-domed Capitol, the Environmental Protection Agency's National Air and Radiation Environmental Laboratory has added a few extra contract workers because of the threat from Japan, officials say. And, as a precaution, it plans an early start to an annual program that tests milk for traces of radiation.
"I don't expect to see anything, but we'll have the data if we're asked for it," lab director Ronald G. Fraass said.
An electric plant with six nuclear reactors on Japan's northeast shore was badly damaged by the earthquake and tsunami that struck March 11, prompting mass evacuations as the plant spewed radiation into the environment. Since then in Japan, radiation has been found in raw milk, seawater and 11 kinds of vegetables grown near the complex.
President Barack Obama, other leaders and scientists have tried to assure Americans that radiation from the Japanese disaster doesn't pose a threat to the United States, but a hotline set up by health officials in California still was flooded with more than 1,000 calls about radiation.
And across the country, people have been ordering potassium iodide. The pills protect the thyroid from absorbing radioactive iodine, but they protect no other body parts nor against any other radioactive elements. Health officials have said there is no need to stock up on the pills.
The EPA's monitoring system is aimed at providing another layer of assurance.
Long before the Japanese quake became a nuclear scare, EPA had a network of 124 monitoring stations scattered nationwide from California to Maine that were deployed mostly because of the threat of nuclear terrorism after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The boxlike devices have bell-shaped inlets that constantly pull in air and test it for radiation. Data from those sites is sent by satellite links to the Alabama laboratory, where technicians monitor it constantly on computers for any unusual spikes.
After the earthquake, Fraass said, the agency added seven additional monitors in Hawaii, Alaska, Saipan and Guam as a first line of defense to detect any dangerous radiation moving across the Pacific Ocean. Expected to detect radiation amounts as little as a single hundredth of the government's level of concern, the fixed monitors actually are detecting far smaller amounts, he said.
"Our system in the field is quite adequate to be able to see anything that would be of concern to the public," Fraass said.
Aside from the digital monitoring, the detection devices are outfitted with circular white fiber filters that are bombarded with air pulled in from the environment. Those filters are removed twice weekly and sent by regular mail to the lab in Montgomery. The filters are small and the amount of radiation they contain poses no health risk to postal workers, Fraass said.
None of the tests run since the Japanese earthquake has detected dangerous amounts of radiation, he said. And the stepped-up monitoring is expected to continue until the last traces of radioactivity linked to the Japanese crisis are gone.
"Right now we're only seeing a few that would trigger even a tenth of the level we normally count at, so in effect we're not seeing anything that should be any concern for the American people," Fraass said.

We're safe from radiation in US. per NEI

Potassium iodide can be dangerous if taken incorrectly

People should not take potassium iodide unnecessarily.
People should not take potassium iodide unnecessarily. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Potassium iodide supplements are flying off drug-store shelves in the United States, according to a number of reports. There are two reasons why this is not a good thing. One, experts have repeatedly reassured Americans that any radiation from the leaking nuclear reactors in Japan will not be a threat in this country. The radiation will dissipate as it traverses the Pacific Ocean. Buying it is a waste of money.

Two, taking potassium iodide tablets without just cause can be risky for some people, health experts warned Wednesday.

"All of the predictions are that there will not be enough radiation reaching Hawaii or the West Coast to be of any concern, said Dr. Leonard Wartofsky, an endocrinologist at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., and a past president of the Endocrine Society. "Although in Japan, especially among those living very close to the reactor, there is major exposure and there is reason to take iodide tablets or solution."

Potassium iodide is not recommended until radiation levels are in the 50-rad region, he said. "It's not going to be anywhere near that in the United States. It's hitting the panic button unnecessarily."

In cases of true radiation exposure, the benefits of potassium iodide outweigh the risks.

Taking stable iodide tablets can protect the thyroid from exposure to radioactive iodine-131 by "filling up" the gland and preventing it from taking up the radioactive iodine. But potassium iodide can be harmful to people who are allergic to the substance or who have the skin disorders dermatitis herpetiformis or urticaria vasculitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
People with thyroid disorders whot take the substance can experience a worsening of their thyroid illnesses, Wartofsky said. If potassium iodide is truly necessary for these people, they should take it under a doctor's supervision. Pregnant women and infants should not be given potassium iodide because it could cause a serious thyroid disorder in infants.

The supplements can cause some side effects including nausea, rashes and inflammation of the salivary glands.

Related: Potassium iodide and Geiger counter sales spike after Japan disaster

Fukushima Radiation Release Rivals Chernobyl « Vince's Economic Blog

Fukushima Radiation Release Rivals Chernobyl « Vince's Economic Blog

Estimated Annual Doses of Radiation from Natural Background

WASHINGTON, March 22 (Tantao News) – When the Japanese government reported that six members of the emergency crew at the Fukushima plant were exposed to more than 100 millisieverts (mSv) of radiation per hour, many outside the nuclear industry wondered what this meant. This is understandable because radiation dose units are not familiar to many people despite the public being told that we are exposed to radiation from a variety of sources depending on where we live or have visited, our occupation, and what medical or dental procedures we have undergone.
For example, estimated annual doses from natural background levels include:
Average of total US- 3 mSv
US Rocky Mountain area- 6 mSv
Yangjiang, China- 6 mSv
Guarapari, Brazil – 35 mSv
Ramsar, Iran – 0.2 mSv
Airplane and space travel estimates:
Round-trip New York to London – 0.1 mSv/trip
Airline flight crews – 3 mSv/year
International Space Mission Participant – 100 mSv/mission
Medical diagnostics estimates:
Chest x-ray – 0.1 mSv
Mammogram – 2.5 mSv
G.I. Fluoroscope – 85 mSv
Full body- spiral Computed Tomography scan – 100 mSv
In cancer radiotherapy, the doses administered to tumors are markedly higher than doses received from diagnostic procedures since the goal of radiotherapy is to destroy the target tissue as opposed to obtain an image of it.
Placing all of these potential doses in context, a dose limit of 11 mSv per year is considered to be reasonable and protective by the US Department of Energy and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

CDC steps

Basic Steps to Protect Yourself and Your Family in a Radiation Emergency

If a radiation emergency happens near where people live or work, you can take immediate action to protect yourself, your loved ones, and others around you. This kind of emergency could be a dirty bomb or nuclear explosion, a nuclear power plant accident, or a transportation accident. These actions will protect people in a radiation emergency:

  • Get inside and stay inside an undamaged building.
  • If possible, shower and change into clean clothes.
  • Stay tuned to television or radio for updates and instructions.

Emergency workers and local officials are trained to respond to different types of situations and will give you specific instructions to keep you safe. For more information, please readProtecting Yourself and Family.

Bill Nye explains reactors

Q and A

Q&A: Health effects of radiation exposure

Japanese officials have ordered anyone living within 20km (12 miles) of the Fukushima nuclear power plant to evacuate the area.

A large explosion has occurred in one of its buildings and some radiation leakage has been detected. If the Japanese authorities act swiftly, they should be able to minimise the cost to human health.

What are the immediate health effects of exposure to radiation?

Exposure to moderate levels can result in radiation sickness, which produces a range of symptoms.

Nausea and vomiting often begin within hours of exposure, followed by diarrhoea, headaches and fever.

After the first round of symptoms, there may be a brief period with no apparent illness, but this may be followed within weeks by new, more serious symptoms.

At higher levels of radiation, all of these symptoms may be immediately apparent, along with widespread - and potentially fatal - damage to internal organs.

Exposure to a radiation dose of four grays will typically kill about half of all healthy adults.

For comparison, radiation therapy for cancer typically involves several doses of between one and seven grays at a time - but these doses are highly controlled, and usually specifically targeted at small areas of the body.

How is radiation sickness treated?

The first thing to do is to try to minimise further contamination by removing clothes and shoes, and gently washing the skin with soap and water.

Drugs are available that increase white blood-cell production to counter any damage that may have occurred to the bone marrow, and to reduce the risk of further infections due to immune-system damage.

There are also specific drugs that can help to reduce the damage to internal organs caused by radioactive particles.

How does radiation have an impact on health?

Radioactive materials that decay spontaneously produce ionising radiation, which has the capacity to cause significant damage to the body's internal chemistry, breaking the chemical bonds between the atoms and molecules that make up our tissues.

The body responds by trying to repair this damage, but sometimes it is too severe or widespread to make repair possible. There is also a danger of mistakes in the natural repair process.

Regions of the body that are most vulnerable to radiation damage include the cells lining the intestine and stomach, and the blood-cell producing cells in the bone marrow.

The extent of the damage caused is dependent on how long people are exposed to radiation, and at what level.

What are the most likely long-term health effects?

Cancer is the biggest long-term risk. Usually when the body's cells reach their "sell-by date" they commit suicide. Cancer results when cells lose this ability, and effectively become immortal, continuing to divide and divide in an uncontrolled fashion.

The body has various processes for ensuring that cells do not become cancerous, and for replacing damaged tissue.

But the damage caused by exposure to radiation can completely disrupt these control processes, making it much more likely that cancer will result.

Failure to repair the damage caused by radiation properly can also result in changes - or mutations - to the body's genetic material, which are not only associated with cancer, but may also be potentially passed down to offspring, leading to deformities in future generations. These can include smaller head or brain size, poorly formed eyes, slow growth and severe learning difficulties.

Are children at greater risk?

Potentially yes. Because they are growing more rapidly, more cells are dividing, and so the potential for things to go wrong is greater.

Following the Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident in the Ukraine in 1986, the World Health Organization recorded a dramatic increase in thyroid cancer among children in the vicinity.

This was because the radioactive materials released during the accident contained high levels of radioactive iodine, a material that accumulates in the thyroid.

How can the Japanese authorities minimise the cost to human health?

Professor Richard Wakeford, an expert in exposure to radiation, said provided the Japanese authorities acted quickly most of the general population should be spared significant health problems.

He said in those circumstances the only people likely to be at risk of serious health effects were nuclear workers at the plant or emergency workers exposed to high levels of radiation.

He said the top priority would be to evacuate people from the area and to make sure they did not eat contaminated food. The biggest risk was that radioactive iodine could get into their system, raising the risk of thyroid cancer.

To counter that risk people could be given tablets containing stable iodine which would prevent the body absorbing the radioactive version.