With the events unfolding in Japan there is understandable concern about exposure to radioactive material.
As a result, I decided to search the internet for valid information only to find out that there is very little to be had. Thus, I requested information from a patient of mine who has a great deal of insight into the nuclear dilemma facing the Japanese. In summarizing his comments he included important information on the use of Potassium Iodide.
So…to help you understand the health issues involved for us in Arizona, I am copying his e-mail to me. Needless to say, I will leave this person’s identity unstated, but do know that this is a person with my absolute confidence in his insights and knowledge. His commentary is straightforward and useful. Please read:
Yes, it is a very serious event. Very difficult to assess exactly what’s happening because there’s little credible information coming out of Japan and even some of that is contradictory.
The press is making a mess out of it. Don’t be overly alarmed because of things that you read or hear.
There are several disciplines involved in the recovery effort and experts in one area don’t necessarily know
other areas well. I’ve heard some “experts” say very inaccurate things. Also, just because someone holds a
high government position doesn’t mean that they know what they are talking about.
Before you get concerned about radiation effects in the US, remember that there have been quite a few nuclear
detonations around the world through the last 70 years or so (Chernobyl, nuclear devices in Nevada, Japan, India,
Pakistan, China, the Pacific islands).* Yes, radiation levels were observed to
rise all over the globe as a result but they have been insignificant compared to the background radiation that we are
all exposed to day in and day out.
Irradiation levels from those were comparable to or less than you may get from a transatlantic flight or from solar
flares. *Note: Not Three Mile Island. Whatever else you may have read or heard, releases from the TMI accident
were very small and most definitely not health significant.
Next, potassium iodide. Iodide tablets are given to those who may be in a position to inhale significant amounts
of Iodine 131 release from a nuclear accident. In other words, those in the immediate vicinity of the accident.
Nobody else should be taking it. It can have very serious side effects, particularly in minors. Don’t do it.
It is likely that two of the reactors are close to full meltdown. The spent fuel pool is about the size of an Olympic
swimming pool, only 40 feet deep. The pool in question for Unit 4 would likely have about 2000 fuel assemblies
(each assembly is 12 feet tall and 1 foot square). The pool has been out of water for hours and hours. There
would be substantial melting, and open to the outside. Putting water on it by helicopter was a total waste. At
some point they need to dump thousands of tons of sand on the Unit 4 spent fuel
pool, by air.