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Fukushima and Perspective

Published February 3rd, 2014 in HN4U Blog, What's in the News

In January, I had an opportunity to head cross country to Butte Montana. Many of you know the history of the atomic movement, or think you do as was my case. My journey took me through the home of the atom splitting and development of nuclear reactors, Idaho’s Arco desert – home of Idaho Falls and Craters of the Moon National Park.

Most of my growing up years we heard about nuclear testing in Nevada or on some remote island in the South Pacific, but I don’t recall ever hearing about Idaho. All along the route, we saw signs marking historical locations for atomic events. This got me to thinking……Now keep in mind I am not a nuclear scientist, but as inquiring minds go, I ask questions, look at topics from different angles and as a skeptic only believe about half of what I read.

As a child growing up in the late 60’s and 70’s in Eastern Oregon we saw the yellow and black radiation bunker signs at our schools – but never really paid them any mind. Today we understand the “hide under your desk” videos were pretty much nonsense. My grandparents had a small uranium mine claim in central Idaho, so did my great Aunt who lived to be 100 years old. Unlike other members of my family I am not a big rock hound, but I still remember my earth science and know our planet is amazing.

Over the last two years we have been hearing the west coast is in danger from radiation reactor melt downs in Fukushima Japan and the nuclear reactor leak is heading our way. I agree the dangers are real, and what we have been dumping in our oceans will come back to haunt us if not kill us. But are the internet reports and YouTube videos to be trusted, for that matter are the government sources?

Before we can get twitterpated over radiation from Japan, we need to look at how much is already here, from natural sources in the Serra’s, Bitterroots, Sawtooths, Cascades and Rocky mountains. Next how much residual contamination from ground testing, here in the states and the Pacific since the 50’s is still hanging out in American soils and waters. Areas in Nevada and Idaho will be contaminated for not just decades but centuries. Basically radiation is every where, and falling into the sensationalistic YouTube presentations when making health decisions in my opinion is dangerous.

Should I use Iodine to protect me from radiation? It depends is the answer. The radiation from Fukushima is from Cesium. According to the EPA  – The most common radioactive form of cesium is cesium-137. It is also very useful in industry for its strong radioactivity. Examples are medical equipment, electronics, appliances, nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons.– Wait it gets better….

The largest single source was fallout from atmospheric nuclear weapons tests in the 1950s and 1960s, which dispersed and deposited cesium-137 world-wide. Spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant wastes may introduce small amounts to the environment. However, the U.S. does not currently reprocess spent nuclear fuel. (remember this is according to the EPA) But countries such as China, N. Korea, Iran, India, and Russia may very well do so.

Although hospitals and research laboratories generate wastes containing cesium-137, they usually do not enter the environment. Occasionally, industrial instruments containing cesium-137 are lost or stolen. These devices are typically metal, and may be considered scrap metal and sold for recycling. If they find their way into a steel mill and are melted, they can cause significant environmental contamination. They may also be discarded and sent to a municipal landfill, or sold for other reasons…. Once again the words of the EPA.

So it would appear the radiation from Fukishima would be indistinguishable from domestic radiation at this point. The EPA along with agencies from other countries has noted: Cesium-137 that is dispersed in the environment, like that from atmospheric testing, is impossible to avoid.
Iodide only protects against one particular radioactive element: radioactive iodine, technically known as iodine-131. Iodine-131 has a half-life of 8.02 days. That means the iodine loses half of its radioactivity within 8 days. The national recommendation is for those living within 20 miles of a nuclear reactor to have Iodine on hand and it must be used with in minutes of an event.

So without reliable sources reporting increases in radioactive iodine levels, I cannot support the use of Potassium Iodine for the Fukishima concerns. I can and do support reasonable dosage use for those with breast cancer, prostate cancer, low thyroid function and general health. These dosage recommendations are as a trace mineral supplement of 6.25mg, providing the individual does not have an irritable heart, digestive ulcerations, iodine sensitivity, or several other factors. Excessive iodine can be dangerous. It is a trace mineral after all.

Is the seafood safe or is it full of radiation? I am reluctant to say go for the fish, simply based on the high levels of chemical contamination unrelated to radiation found in many ocean and lake fish. This year (2014) the Oregon Fish and Wildlife guides list a staggering number of Oregon rivers and lakes with heavy metal and chemical contamination advisories….So when it comes to fish and sea food, radiation may be the least of our worries.

For my part I find it amazing that Oregonians, buy flashlights, because when you look at the amount of radiation we have been exposed to for 70 years – we should all be glowing in the dark.

I found the following website useful:

To your good health, and cut the stress caused by sensationalistic media to reduce cancer.