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

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    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.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora