News / Asia

Radiation Levels In Japan Causing Concern in Other Countries

Mother and daughter receive radiation exposure scanning in Fukushima, northern Japan Friday, one week after a massive earthquake and tsunami, March 18, 2011
Mother and daughter receive radiation exposure scanning in Fukushima, northern Japan Friday, one week after a massive earthquake and tsunami, March 18, 2011

As the nuclear crisis continues in northeastern Japan, the government is telling people near the damaged Fukushima-Daiichi reactors to stay indoors. The US government is warning Americans already in Japan to stay at least 80 kilometers away from the reactor site. Many people in the U.S., China and Russia are reportedly stocking up on potassium iodide pills to protect themselves against any wind-borne radiation. While there are many uncertainties about the public health situation in Japan, much is known about the health effects of radiation.

Tens of thousands of people in Japan have been scanned for radiation exposure by medical teams wearing white suits and carrying Geiger counters. When radioactive iodine enters the body, it settles in the thyroid. Children are especially vulnerable.

When the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in Ukraine exploded in 1986, people living nearby were exposed to unusually high levels of radiation.  Experts say more than 6,000 children developed thyroid cancer as a result of that exposure.

"Radioactivity is bad for children because it can damage DNA and affect the way cells divide. And children have cells that divide more rapidly than adults because they are growing," said Dr. Edwin Lyman, who is with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Confusing terminology

Health experts now know that some of these cancers could have been prevented if the children had taken potassium iodide before being exposed to the radiation.

Unless a person is scanned, it is impossible to know how much radiation the body has absorbed.

The terminology can also be confusing.

"One way of measuring is through rem,” said Dr. John Soh, chief of radiation oncology at the Cleveland Clinic. “Another way is the sievert. And because the seivert is a very large unit, we typically measure things in milliseverts.  And just to give you an idea, a chest x-ray is about 0.2 milliseiverts," Soh stated.

Dr. Soh says the average person should not be exposed to more than one milliseivert per year.  If a person were exposed to 17 seiverts or 1,700 rem, it would likely result in a fatal cancer.

Thursday morning, Kazuo Ymanaka, a spokesman for the Japanese power plant, sought to reassure a frightened populace that the radiation levels around the damaged reactors were going down. 

"The changes in the level of radiation as of March 17, today at 9:30 was 3,786 microsieverts per hour. An hour later at 10:30, it went down to 3,750 microsieverts, a bit lower than previously," he said.

Hourly exposure crucial

Professor Robert Baker from Texas Tech University has studied the radiation effects around Chernobyl.

"The amount of radioactivity that kills humans is a substantial amount. If you don't get that much radiation, then the effect for the rest of your life is not easily measured," Baker said.

What counts is not only the amount of a one-time, immediate exposure, but how much radiation a person is exposed to per hour, or regularly over weeks and months.  An exposure of four or five seiverts per hour could require a bone marrow transplant.

A review by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the highest radiation levels so far at the Fukushima plant have been around 400 millisiverts, rates that are high enough to cause radiation sickness within two or three hours. That level quickly dropped and other readings have been far lower.  And the levels also drop quickly the farther away from the damaged plant the measurements are taken.

You May Like

Thousands of Ethiopian Israelis Rally Against Racism

PM Netanyahu says he will meet Damas Pakada, the Ethiopia-born Israeli soldier who was filmed being beaten by two policemen More

10 Migrants Drown, While 4,100 Rescued off Libyan Coast

All of those rescued are being ferried to Italian ports, with some arriving on Italy's southernmost island, Lampedusa, and others taken to Sicily and Calabria More

HRW: Saudis Using US Cluster Bombs in Yemen

Human Rights Watch says photographs, video and other evidence have emerged indicating cluster munitions have been used in 'recent weeks' in airstrikes in Houthi stronghold in northern Yemen 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.
From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil Wari
X
Henry Ridgwell
May 03, 2015 1:12 AM
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Black Families Use Baltimore Case to Revisit 'Police Talk'

Following Freddie Gray’s death in police custody this month, VOA interviewed black families throughout the eastern U.S. city of Baltimore about how they discuss the case. Over and over, parents pointed to a crucial talk they say every black mother or father has with their children. Victoria Macchi has more on how this conversation is passed down through generations.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video 'Woman in Gold' Uses Artwork as Symbol of Cultural Identity

Simon Curtis’ legal drama, "Woman in Gold," is based on the true story of an American Jewish refugee from Austria who fights to reclaim a famous Gustav Klimt painting stolen from her family by the Nazis during World War II. It's a haunting film that speaks to the hearts of millions who have sought to reclaim their past, stripped from them 70 years ago. VOA's Penelope Poulou reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video First Surgical Glue Approved for Use Inside Body

While medical adhesives are becoming more common, none had been approved for use inside the body until now. Earlier this year, the first ever biodegradable surgical glue won that approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on the innovation and its journey from academia to market.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Study: One in Six Species Threatened with Extinction

Climate change is transforming the planet. Unless steps are taken to reduce global warming, scientists predict rising seas, stronger and more frequent storms, drought, fire and floods. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, a new study on species extinction underscores the need to take action to avoid the most catastrophic effects of rising temperatures.
Video

Video Taviani Brothers' 'Wondrous Boccaccio' Offers Tales of Love, Humor

The Italian duo of Paolo and Vittorio Taviani have been making movies for half a century: "The Night of the Shooting Stars," "Padre Padrone," "Good Morning, Babylon." Now in their 80s, the brothers have turned to one of the treasures of Italian culture for their latest film. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver reports.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Baltimore Riots Shed Light on City’s Troubled Past

National Guard troops took up positions Tuesday in Baltimore, Maryland, as authorities tried to restore order after rioting broke out a day earlier. It followed Monday's funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died while in police custody earlier this month. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Challenges Await Aid Organizations on the Ground in Nepal

A major earthquake rocked Nepal on Saturday and killed thousands, injured thousands more and sent countless Nepalese outside to live in makeshift tent villages. The challenges to Nepal are enormous, with some reconstruction estimates at around $5 billion. Aid workers from around the world face challenges getting into Nepal, which likely makes for a difficult recovery. Arash Arabasadi has the story from Washington.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs