News / Asia

Japan's Nuclear Crisis Stokes Fears of Radiation Exposure

A man who was evacuated from the vicinity of Fukushima's nuclear power plants is screened for radiation levels in Nihonmatsu, northern Japan, March 14, 2011.
A man who was evacuated from the vicinity of Fukushima's nuclear power plants is screened for radiation levels in Nihonmatsu, northern Japan, March 14, 2011.

Multimedia

Audio
  • Listen to Kate Woodsome's interview on radiation with James Smith

Japan raised the severity of the Fukushima nuclear crisis from four to five on a
seven-point scale of international nuclear events.

Fears of radiation exposure has caused a run on salt products all across the region, including in China, where shoppers are buying sodium-rich soy sauce in the false-belief that it could protect them.

To understand the effects of radiation, and the protections against it, VOA's Kate Woodsome spoke with James Smith, an adjunct professor of environmental health at Emory University's School of Public Health in Atlanta, Georgia.

How do potassium iodide tablets help protect against radiation exposure?

“The whole idea with potassium iodide is to provide non-radioactive, cold, stable iodine to the thyroid in the body. If the thyroid gland has been saturated with this cold, stable, harmless iodine, then if the body happens to take in by breathing or by eating or drinking any radioactive iodine, it won’t be taken up in the thyroid. It will be excreted. We know from past experiences like Chernobyl, the radiation exposure to the thyroid gland can lead to thyroid cancer. So we want to prevent exposure at all costs, first by making sure we are monitoring for radioactivity, particularly radioactive iodine in the food and the milk. That’s where most of the radioactive iodine intake is going to come from as opposed to breathing it in the air.”

Listen to the entire interview

The situation in Japan is causing anxiety throughout Asia and the world. It has caused a “run” on soy sauce in China, where some think the salt in soy sauce could protect them from exposure to radiation.

“It’s not something I would recommend that they do. Presumably, what people are looking for is the iodine that happens to be in the soy sauce because it contains high levels of salt. And salt in most countries has iodine. But, you know, you might have to consume an awful lot of that to get the amount of iodide that you need.”

What are the health consequences of a high exposure to radiation?

“When we start getting in to the acute levels of radiation exposure, perhaps 1,000 millisierverts is where that begins. These acute effects can lead to death. Actually, about 4,000 millisierverts would be about a 50 percent risk of death.”

Are the Japanese workers trying to put out the fires at the nuclear plants exposed to that high level of dose?

“There is no reason for them to be exposed to that high of a level. However, they could have hundreds of millisierverts that they are exposed to. For volunteer doses, that means in order to save the life of a comrade or colleague at a power plant in case of some accident, it would not be untoward to have that volunteer to be exposed to as much as 250 or 500 millisierverts.”

What are some of the symptoms of radiation poisoning?

“The acute radiation syndrome phase would begin with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. And that could occur within hours, perhaps it might take days before that begins to occur. The greater the dose that the person is exposed to, the more likely those kinds of symptoms are going to appear earlier.”  

There are a lot of fears about radioactive plumes of smoke.  How far could that spread?


“It can spread very far. Normally here in the U.S., the Nuclear Regulatory Commission uses a 10 mile [16 km] protection zone to keep people out of that because of the concern that the plume can be so concentrated within 10 miles of a plant that the fallout from that could be harmful. The 50 mile [80 km] zone that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recommends in some cases, like they are doing in Japan right now, is to make sure that people are not exposed to any high levels of radioactivity in a plume as well as not exposed to anything in the soil or  the food, the water, that could be contaminated. So the idea is outside that 50 mile protection zone, then you are safe to eat, and drink and be outdoors.”

You May Like

Will Cuba Follow the Southeast Asia Model?

Decision to restore ties between US and Cuba has some debating whether it will lead to enhancement or regression of democracy for Communist island nation More

Kenyan Designer Finds Her Niche in Fashion Industry

‘Made in China’ fabrics underlie her success More

Report: CIA, Israel's Mossad Killed Senior Hezbollah Commander

The Washington Post story says Imad Mughniyah was killed instantly by a bomb "triggered remotely" from Tel Aviv by Mossad agents More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Lateri
X
Deborah Block
January 31, 2015 12:12 AM
Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid