By Emily Murray
The disaster currently wrecking havoc in Japan is hard for many of us to fully imagine. When the updated death tolls and devastation statistics are reported solemnly on the nightly news following in the wake of the double disaster of the earthquake and tsunami which all began on March 11, it’s hard for those of us so far away in the United States to really comprehend what this type of devastation looks like on such a large scale.
While all eyes, thoughts and prayers are on Japan and the growing nuclear crisis, many Americans are beginning to grow concerned for their own health and what this massive amount of leaking radiation means for those in the U.S. This fear has been further fueled by many news reports and even corrupt companies trying to capitalize from this collective anxiety by selling loads of “ant-radiation” types of treatments and pills. Well, our concerns can focus back towards those currently in need of help in Japan because experts agree that we are not at risk.
In an article featured on CNN.com last week, the views of health and nuclear safety experts were voiced and have hopefully begun to reach those Americans still concerned about radiation exposure. As stated in the article, “even if radiation levels around the plant reach Chernobyl-like levels, Japan’s disaster will not pose a health hazard to the United States.”
To explain this more in-depth, Nolan Hertel (nuclear engineering researcher at Georgia Institute of Technology) explained it an a simplistic way that many can relate to. Basically once radiation is released into the air, it will begin breaking apart as the wind blows it. Despite popular belief, it does not bond together and move in one large “cloud” over thousands of miles (which would be necessary for it to reach the U.S.).
What still has many disbelievers of this theory concerned is the fact that radiation levels will likely rise in the U.S. Sound like a contradiction to the previous point made? Well, to be more specific, they will rise BUT will not be enough to cause any health concerns here. The radiation levels will generally disipate back down as the radiation reaches it’s half life and continues breaking down again and again until levels return back to normal.
Before this recent nuclear crisis, Chernobyl was on the forefront of our minds when we pictured nuclear devastation. Many experts liken the current Fukushiima Daiichi disaster to this earlier one. While many may recall an increase in things like thyroid cancer in children during Chernobyl, our methods of monitoring food and environmental radiation is much more sophisticated than it was in the 80s and consequently, we are not at risk for radiation entering our water system or food sources without us knowing beforehand.
Regardless of this reassuring bit of knowledge, many people are still currently stocking up on potassium iodide to protect against the harmful reactions radiation is known to have on the thyroid. Even here are KwikMed we have had inquiries as to whether or not we supply this type of medication (we don’t). Essentially experts have ruled that even those on the West Coast have nothing to worry about, but if it helps ease concerns, there is no real harm in having some potassium iodine on hand.