Radiation from Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Plant poses health risk


Japan is experiencing one of the worst after effects from recent earthquake and subsequent tsunami.  Apart from the destruction and loss of human life, explosions at Fukushima Daiichi plant have made things worse in Japan.  To date the Fukushima Daiichi plant has had three explosions and one reactor is under watch for potential explosion.  The question in everybody’s mind is how much radiation has been emitted due to these explosions and what are short-term and long term effects on human life due to the explosions.

John Hamilton acknowledged in morning news at NPR that it is difficult to estimate the amount of radiation and all sort of numbers have been thrown around.  Residents 30 km (18 miles) of the Fukushima plant have been instructed to vacate or remain indoor (airtight).  BBC addressed the basic Q&A related to radiation and potential health issues and I would like to provide you with the synopsis.

What impact does radiation exposure has on immediate health?
Different level of exposure to radiation can result in varied health effects.

Moderate levels: It is defined as exposure to radiation of strength > 1 gray.  Nausea and vomiting can occur within hours of exposure, followed by diarrhea, headaches and fever.  Initially symptoms can come and go, but with weeks by new, more serious symptoms can be experienced.

Higher levels of radiation: Above mentioned symptoms may be immediately apparent, along with widespread – and potentially fatal – damage to internal organs.

If you are wondering how you do baseline “gray”, during radiation cancer therapy, patient is exposed to highly controlled and targeted dose between one to seven gray.   Uncontrolled exposure to a radiation dose of four gray could kill about half of all healthy adults.

How can I treat radiation sickness?

Here are few tips:

  • Try to minimize further exposure to radiation and gently wash the skin with soap and water.
  • Red blood cells (RBC) may have reduced due to bone marrow damage; drugs can be taken to increase RBC
  • Some drugs can help to...

    reduce the damage to internal organs caused by radioactive particles.

What are the most likely long-term health effects?
One of the biggest long term affects of radiation exposure is cancer, owing to body’s inability to control cell growth process.  Radiation can also result in changes – or mutations – to the body’s genetic material, but may also be potentially passed down to offspring, leading to deformities in future generations.

Does radiation pose greater risk to children?
There is higher probability of greater risk to children as they are growing more rapidly, more cells are dividing.  Thus it could leads to things that can go wrong to greater extent.

What risk does Fukushima pose currently?
The reports issued by Japanese authorities indicate radiation level of up 400 millisieverts per hour recorded at the nuclear plant itself. Sievert is equivalent to gray, so the level is low enough to cause radiation sickness, but could start to depress the production of blood cells in the bone marrow, as stated by Professor Richard Wakeford, an expert in radiation exposure at the University of Manchester.

Prof Wakeford also stated that only emergency workers at the plant were at risk of exposure to such a dose. General population, even ones living close to plant, should have much less level of exposure.

The reports say that Japanese authorities are working constantly to minimize exposure and radiation damage risk for residents.  Evacuations have been called, but there is a lot going on with Japan with earthquake and tsunami disaster.  I would like to request my readers to contribute in whatever way to help Japanese people from one of the nature’s worst disasters.

Tweet or FB this story and help people in Japan by creating awareness of the disaster.


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