The nuclear crisis in Japan may be slowly improving, but we are not completely out of the clear when it comes to radiation exposure. Despite assurances by the U.S. government that there is no real risk of radiation exposure here in North America, fears are continuing to rise over the potential clouds of radioactive fallout (radioactive isotopes) that may travel via jet stream winds and contaminate local areas, especially on the West Coast.
Could this really happen? While this is a tough question which experts and authorities are undoubtedly grappling with by the minute, the general answer is yes. If explosions from the damaged nuclear plants in Japan propel radioactive materials into the upper atmosphere, jet stream winds can carry them far and wide, causing cumulative repercussions across the globe. Adding to the anxiety is the general sense that accurate information regarding the severity of this devastating crisis is being kept from the general public, both here and in Japan, to prevent widespread panic.
As a result, we’ve seen an enormous demand for the supplement potassium iodine to help protect against radiation exposure, and many West Coast suppliers are now completely out of stock. However, this supplement is not a cure all for radiation-related illnesses, and only protects from thyroid cancer by preventing the thyroid – the organ most vulnerable to radiation — from absorbing radioactive iodine, called iodine-131. The radioactive isotope Cesium-134 has also been leaking from the Japanese reactors in addition to iodine -131, and there is reason to believe that other radioactive isotopes such as Strontium-90 are leaking into the atmosphere as well.
It is very important to note that successful thyroid protection with potassium iodine is extremely dependent on timing with regards to such radiation exposure, and even still, will not protect against these other radioactive isotopes. It can also pose problems for people with thyroid issues. Nevertheless, potassium iodine can be an important preventative in this case, but other supplements and foods which are known to remove radioactive isotopes from the body and protect against DNA mutation must be taken as well if the risk of exposure is indeed real.
Dangers of Radiation Exposure
Radioactive isotope particles, including Iodine-131, Cesium-134, Strontium-90 and others which are present in radioactive fallout, can be inhaled, ingested through radiation-contaminated food and water, and/or deposited onto the skin. Radioactive particles are particularly damaging to DNA, and can easily cause mutations which eventually lead to cancer, birth defects, cardiovascular disease and other life threatening health problems.
There are many short term health effects caused by significant exposure as well. Acutely, radioactive isotopes are most damaging to rapidly dividing cells such as those in the intestinal lining, bone marrow, hair and skin, and can cause severe gastrointestinal problems, skin problems, loss of immune and blood cells, hair loss, fatigue, and central nervous damage soon after exposure, depending on the severity. Children are at the highest risk because their cells divide more rapidly than adults.
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