- ISIL creates all-female brigade to terrorize women into following Sharia law
- ISTOOK: Obama wants to be impeached
- Obama to Latin leaders: Help with border
- Military bans troops from Baptist church event honoring ‘God’s Rescue Squad’
- ‘Pocket drones’: U.S. Army developing tiny surveillance tools for the next big war
- Belgian cafe posts sign: Dogs allowed, but Jews stay out
- Gen. Dempsey: Pentagon studying Russian readiness plans not viewed ‘for 20 years’
- John McCain: Botched, two-hour execution of murderer is ‘torture’
- House GOP ready to move border bill
- Bomb squad called after live WWII artillery washes on Cape Cod beach
Japanese ‘understand’ radiation effects, prepared to deal with poisoning woes
Question of the Day
The Japanese people could well be the world's most prepared people in coping with a nuclear power plant accident, a U.S. expert on radiation poisoning said Tuesday.
"When it comes to the medical effects of ionizing radiation, if any population understands these biological effects, it certainly is the Japanese population," said Richard L. Morin, chairman of the safety committee of the American College of Radiology.
"The level of consciousness, I think, is very, very high," said Mr. Morin, who teaches radiological physics at the Mayo Clinic.
The March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out the cooling system of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. It has since suffered damage to four of its six reactors, and struggled with a fire yesterday. Japanese officials ordered an immediate evacuation around the plant, and now ask anyone within a 30-kilometer radius to stay inside and seal their shelters.
Mr. Morin said the fire appears to be the biggest hazard because it sent radioactive particulates into the air.
"That's why the press has many pictures of radiation workers in [hazardous material] suits with instruments trying to measure" radioactivity on people, Mr. Morin said.
External contamination "really is not that bad," he said, because very few particulates would fall on any one person.
"It can be cleaned up. … There are very good ways to get rid of what essentially looks like dust" on a person's clothing, he added.
Affected persons would also scrub their skin and wash their hair.
Medical and other facilities that work with radioactive materials are familiar with these actions, he said.
The deeper concern, especially with larger releases like those from the Dai-ichi plant, "is internal contamination," in which a person inhales or ingests radioactive materials.
The Japanese government has already distributed potassium iodide pills, Mr. Morin noted. The pills act by saturating the thyroid gland and blocking absorption of iodine-131 from the particulates; after taking the pills, any ingested radioactive materials "will just be passed through their system," said Mr. Morin. Thyroid cancer is a primary, long-term health concern in radiation exposure.
The Japanese government has been regularly updating the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) on the status of the Dai-ichi plant.
Wednesday afternoon, a full team of nuclear experts from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is scheduled to arrive in Japan. The experts will assist in the safe shutdown of the Japanese reactors and assess the impact of radioactive releases on the people and the environment, the agency said.
Earlier this week, Japanese authorities told the IAEA that two of the Dai-ichi units reached a peak of 400 millisieverts per hour - a dangerous level. Radiation doses are typically expressed in millisievert (mSv), which is one-thousandth of a sievert. A chest X-ray, for instance, gives about 0.2 mSv of radiation dose.
Later readings were far lower, at 11.9 millisieverts per hour and 0.6 millisieverts, according to the World Nuclear News.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs acknowledges military personnel's potential exposure to dangerous ionizing radiation and has named thyroid cancer and many other cancers as a "presumptive disease" that allows for automatic disability compensation.
The World Nuclear Association, an industry trade group, has reviewed several of the most well-known nuclear disasters.
The Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Middletown, Pa., experienced equipment failures within its walls in 1979. Very low levels of radiation were released, and vulnerable people within a five-mile radius of the plant were evacuated. Multiple lawsuits were dismissed after subsequent studies found no evidence of injuries.
In 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Soviet Ukraine experienced a reactor explosion and released radiation into neighboring areas. About 24,000 people living within 15 kilometers received an average 450 millisieverts of radiation.
Out of 134 severely exposed Russian workers, 28 died within three months and another 19 died between 1987 and 2004 from different causes. Radiation fallout displaced 336,000 persons. Thyroid cancer cases rose among "Chernobyl children," but their survival rate was almost 99 percent.
According to later studies on the 1945 atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, some 76,000 persons were exposed to radiation levels up to 5,000 millisieverts. Experts suggested that this exposure led to several hundred additional cancer deaths than what would have been expected in the population.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor.
Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...
- '50 Shades' movie trailer outrages anti-porn groups
- Tougher clinic rules lead to drop in Texas abortions
- David Tyree hired by Giants in a move bashed by gay-rights groups
- U.S. social and economic trends on worrisome track, survey finds
- JAMA opinion piece calls for ending lifetime ban on blood donation by gay men
Latest Blog Entries
- Gay therapy ban author seeks Calif. House seat
- Transgender 'bathroom law' gets 5,000 more signatures
- Pro-life, stem-cell bill signed into law by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback
- N. Dakota lawmakers approve tough abortion bill
- Pope Benedict XVI's successor should allow priests to get a new title: Husband, poll finds
TWT Video Picks
President wants everyone but himself to pay more
- 'We're coming for you, Barack Obama': Top U.S. official discloses threat from ISIL terrorists
- 'Pocket drones': U.S. Army developing tiny spies for the next big war
- Ted Nugent loses second casino gig for 'racist remarks'
- Obama orders Pentagon advisers to Ukraine
- ISTOOK: Obama wants to be impeached
- NAPOLITANO: What if our democracy is a fraud?
- Afghan who killed three U.S. Marines in 2012 to serve over 7-year prison sentence
- EDITORIAL: Obama's 'economic patriotism' means higher taxes
- HUSAIN: Fleeing Iraqi Christians find safe haven at the Shrine of Imam Ali
- Brian Kelly, Notre Dame ready for different route to title
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq