What are the Effects of Nuclear Radiation Exposure at Low Levels?

Fukushima has been upgraded to a Level 7 nuclear disaster.  Chernobyl was a level 7 disaster, and so far is responsible for the deaths of 2 million people.  Fukushima is even worse, and it continues despite the lack of media coverage.  The nuclear power plant was severley damaged by the earthquake, and further damaged by a nuclear explosion in Unit 3.

Radioactive gases and liquids are still being emitted.  The ocean is contaminated, and fish 40 km away are affected so far.  The groundwater is contaminated, up to 1/2 km away so far.  This is particularly ominous, as it indicates that simply putting a cap over the reactor will not be adequate.

Radioactive particles are being carried on the jet stream across the Pacific Ocean to the west coast of America, east across the continent, and all the way to Europe.  Previous events have shown that these particles tend to stay in broadly the same latitude, which is exactly what is happening again.  Air sampling definitely contains iodine 131 and cesium 137.  These particles come down with dust, rain and snow.

Everyone except the Japanese near Fukushima are experiencing low level radiation exposure.  This certainly sounds better than the horrors of obvious acute radiation sickness.  But the problem is that there is no safe dose of radiation. Ever.  No exceptions.  All exposures to radiation from all sources are damaging and cumulative in the body.

Radioactive particles enter your body through the air, food and water.  Once they are in your tissues, they continue to do damage for your entire life.  This is not at all comparable to the transient dose of radiation you receive from an x-ray or from flying on airplanes.  Though this type of exposure certainly also causes damage at the time you are being exposed.

What Are the Effects of Nuclear Radiation Exposure at Low Levels?

  • Cell membrane damage
  • Cancer

The Petkau effect

Dr. Aabram Petkau studied the dose of radiation that would rupture a cell membrane. He found that 3500 rads  delivered in 2¼ hours would do it. Then he used much weaker radiation and found that 0.7 rads delivered in 11½ hours would also destroy the membrane. This challenged the prevailing assumption of a linear relationship between total dose and the consequences.

This damage to your cell membranes occurs 24/7 nonstop from the radioactive particles inside your body.  This amount of damage and repair puts you more at risk for making mistakes, which can lead to cancer.  Decades of research show clearly that any dose of radiation increases an individual’s risk for the development of cancer.  Children and the elderly are even more at risk.

How do I protect myself?

First, remember that radiation from Fukushima is not the only source of exposure.  It is important to maintain the big picture.  You are constantly being exposed to low level radiation.  This exposure comes from many sources, including previous nuclear accidents and incidents, nuclear weapons testing and use, and from medical procedures.

Radioactive particles travel great distances in the atmosphere and come down with dust, rain and snow.  Once they come down they stick everywhere.

To know how to protect yourself, you need to know exactly what you are being exposed to and how much.   This information is currently not available in adequate detail.  Yes, there is evidence of Iodine 133 and cesium 137.  What else exactly?  Are some days worse?  Are some places worse at certain times?  Should there be radiation alert days, much like current air pollution alerts?

How about the food supply?  So far radioactive particles have been detected in milk products.  How about meat?  How about vegetables?  Are they on the surface, or incorporated into the structure of the plant?

The information needed to make informed decisions is not currently available.

As citizens we need to put pressure onto the government to make monitoring and understanding radiation exposure a priority.  And we absolutely need to speak up about wanting energy sources than minimize harm.  The risks associated with anything nuclear are simply far too great.

Review the things you can do to protect yourself from the harmful effects of radiation in the post: “What Do I Need To Know About Japan, Iodine, Radiation Sickness and More?”

To Your Vibrant Health!

Veronica Tilden, DO

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