As radiation from Japanese reactor hits west coast, US government says “Don’t take iodine or kelp”. That’s wrong.
For more than 6o years, government officials have downplayed the dangers of radiation.
The truth is: radiation can kill you – slowly, through cancer. And you can avoid that with some simple measures, right now, such as increasing your intake of Iodine and Iodide.
Calming public relations vs action
From the atomic testing of the 1950s to Three Mile Island and now the Japanese Fukushima reactor meltdown, officials have issued happy, soothing words, rather than useful or true ones.
“…I want to be very clear,” President Obama told a worried nation. “We do not expect harmful levels of radiation to reach the United States, whether it’s the West Coast, Hawaii, Alaska or U.S. territories.”
Here’s a different way a government can react to radiation:
Within hours after the onset of the Chernobyl disaster, Polish authorities acted to get iodine solutions, potassium and sodium iodide tablets, even seaweed tablets and capsules into as many of their citizens as possible to protect them from the nearby huge amounts of iodine 131 coming their way. Over the intervening 20 years, the Polish people treated with iodine 127 have almost 1000 time less thyroid disease than neighboring countries even further than Poland from the Chernobyl disaster site.
But as Americans from Berkeley to Boston snap up potassium iodide pills and kelp, health officials tell us not to take them.
Dr. Mel Kohn, Oregon’s Director of Public Health, says there have been no detected increased radiation levels detected at this time and he does not expect there to be an increase in the near future. “Given the current size of the release and the distance from Oregon, we do not expect that to change”, said Kohn. “There is no public health risk to the state.”
The AP quotes a variety of officials, all of them totally sanguine, all of them uttering the same bland denials they issue every single time there’s a radiation problem. That unanimity alone should be enough to make you suspicious… aren’t journalists always supposed to report both sides of the story?
“Radiation is one of those words that get everybody scared, like ‘plague,'” said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of public health for Los Angeles County. “But we’re 5,000 miles away.”
…Even if particles waft to the U.S. coast, the amount will be so diluted that it will not pose any health risk. Wind, rain and salt spray will help clean the air over the vast ocean between Japan and the United States.
…”It is certainly not a threat in terms of human health” added William H. Miller, a professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Missouri.
…National Nuclear Security Administration spokesman Damien LaVera said. “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said they see no radiation at harmful levels reaching the United States, and we’re not seeing anything that is inconsistent with that.”
“Worst-case scenario, there is no threat to public health in California,” said the agency’s acting secretary, Mike Dayton.
Overall radiation levels can get diluted, yes. External radiation can get diluted across the whole country, and when officials say “radiation is harmless”, that’s what they’re talking about.
But “particles” can’t get diluted. They’re particles. Particles of Iodine 131 and plutonium WILL be spewed out into the atmosphere.
By the time they reach California or Iowa there may only be a dozen particles per square mile, rather than hundreds. But if you breathe a particle of plutonium in it stays in your lung, cranking out radiation, until you die – probably of cancer.
The difference between external radiation and ingesting particles of fallout is like the difference between nicking yourself shaving – and swallowing the razor blade.
The same goes for radioactive iodine. It gets absorbed and concentrated in your thyroid, where it can cause cancer. If there is any chance at all of you getting cancer, and a very simple, even healthy way for you to block that, why on earth would public health officials tell you NOT to do that?
Harmful levels for a public health official are very different from harmful levels for individuals. They tend to talk in terms of long-term effects like a few dozen or a few hundred “excess” cancers, while we tend to be rightly worried about things that will kill us on a strictly personal basis.
Are you an average person? I don’t know about you, but my statistically insignificant death from cancer would still be a matter of grave personal concern, even if it wouldn’t rise to the level of a public health emergency.
Here’s what you need to know….
Iodine and Iodide can protect you
Naturally-occurring Iodine and its Iodide form are important nutrients, but one product of nuclear processes is a radioactive variant, Iodine 131.
The body concentrates that Iodine 131 in the thyroid gland, where it spews out concentrated radiation during the 8 weeks it takes to decay. Down the road, this leads to thyroid cancer.
There’s a simple way to prevent that: increase your body’s intake of natural Iodine and Iodide, and you won’t absorb the Iodine 131 when it shows up. Many Americans are probably low on Iodine already (because of the bromine in hot tubs, among other reasons), so supplementing Iodine isn’t a bad idea.
You can take a pill [note: many Americans have thyroid problems; if you do, check with your doctor before doing anything], or you can get a better, healthier source through edible seaweed, like the green nori that wraps sushi rolls or the other varieties popular in Japanese soups. Seaweed contains lots of other healthy minerals, too.
[Note: Really, this should go without saying, but please don’t do anything stupid. Don’t take lots of pills. That won’t help. If you have thyroid issues, check with your doctor first.]