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  • March 18:This Week in the News, Japan and Radiation

March 20, 2011

March 18:This Week in the News, Japan and Radiation

Truly a week that caught us all off guard. Japan has been hit by the most devastating disaster involving radiation. Every channel is covering it in detail. We have seen devastation the likes of which we have never witnessed  and witnessed we have, sitting ringside watching it as it develops and we are helpless. The massive loss of property and life is astounding and to top it off they are now battling the severe cold and a nuclear reactor meltdown?

Nuclear reactor meltdown, a scary thing that most of us know little about. What effect does radiation have on us?  We can’t see it, taste it, smell it. How does it effect us an how long does it take to effect us? Let’s walk through this and get a handle on some facts.


There are two types of radiation:

Ionizing which detaches electrons from the atom producing free radicals. These are atoms with unpaired electrons which become very reactive and unfortunately this is the type of radiation we are exposed to when you have a nuclear reactor meltdown. These are alpha particles, beta particles and  neutrons.

Non-Ionizing involving visible light and radio waves.

Nuclear power

Nuclear reactors produce large amounts of highly energized ionizing radiation in the forms of neutrons. The radiation is a byproduct of fission. This is the procedure which creates the energy that is the focus of the plant. The other byproduct is nuclear waste that emits ionizing radiation for 1000s of years. This radiation again is in the form of neutrons which is a very highly energized form of radiation and very destructive.

Two examples  of high level radiation exposure are the atomic bomb in 1945 and Chernobyl in 1986. At Chernobyl there were 134 individuals who were exposed to high levels of radiation . Of the 134 , 28 died of radiation exposure. There was no increase in congenital abnormalities in either group. There was a clear link to thyroid cancer in contaminated areas in children.

Radiation and it’s Effects

Ionizing radition does just what it says , ionizes molecules and causes free radicals that attack nearby cells. Disrupted molecule then may exceed the bodies ability to repair damage and  may then cause mutations in our cells.

There are many cancers associated with high dose radiation exposure

1)luekemia         2)Thyroid               3)Breast               4)Bladder                 5)Colon

  • 6)Liver                    7)Lung                     8)esophagus     9)Ovarian

Potassium Iodide Pills

These are hot  topic right now. The theory  behind these pills are to fill up the thyroid so it wont take up any radioactive material. The treatment does work but the potassium iodide pills needs to be ingested  a few hours prior to exposure or immediately after.There is no treatment or safe guards for the other cancers caused by  exposure other then avoidance.

Radioactive Food

There will be problems in the areas around the reactors in Japan  due to the nuclear exposure. The water will be contaminated as well as the soil . One concern will be to animals ingesting the exposed foliage and drinking the water. Dairy products seem to be highly at risk due to the fact that the radioactivity is concentrated in the milk. There maybe some low dose radiation that makes it’s way to the US  but the levels appear to not be significant. The best advice is to avoid any food product from Japan until we have more information.

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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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