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How serious is your Radiation Risk?

Updated on April 4, 2011

Are you at risk?

How serious is the risk of radiation exposure from Japan? The crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility has raised many questions about radiation.

Should I be worried about food imported from Japan?

Could I be harmed by radiation coming from Japan?

How much radiation am I exposed to in my daily life?

There is no safe amount of radiation or of radioactive material. Even small amounts do harm. — Linus Pauling

Radiation has also been detected in milk, tap water and vegetables, prompting the government to release a long list of banned food products from the region closest to the reactors. Ninety-nine individually tested foods, including spinach, milk, cabbage and celery, have turned up with some radioactivity.

The radiation levels that are coming from Japan should not be enough to sicken healthy people in the Americas, but it could cause existing health issues to worsen.

The risk of developing cancer from breathing polluted air in Los Angeles is higher than the risk of radiation fallout from Japan.

In fact, fear of radiation may be the bigger problem, because that leads to stress. Large-scale radiation exposure usually affects the thyroid gland. Located in the lower part of the neck, this gland uses iodine to make and store hormones that help regulate heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature.

Potassium iodide is the only remedy mentioned by other sources, a drug that helps protect against radiation poisoning, is in high demand in the U.S. following disasters at nuclear power plants in Japan. Potassium iodide protects the thyroid gland against radioactive iodine that can be released from nuclear reactors accidentally, but it will only partially protect just the thyroid and the reproductive organs. While it may be a good idea for some people, it is important to remember that the rest of the body will still be completely vulnerable



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