The Nuclear Fallout from Japan and Your Health
CLARIFICATION POSTED HERE: 7pm/PST
You know about the nasty earthquake in Japan – but have you heard that Japanese nuclear reactors have spewed massive amounts of radiation that is heading our way here in America? Good news: IODINE. Protect your thyroid with supplemental iodine, my friends. You know I’m not a fear monger, so let’s roll up our sleeves and talk prevention, and the role of this preventive micronutrient.
First, healing, loving, good wishes for the Japanese and their arduous, terrifying few days. May all beings experience peace. As the jet streams send OVER THE NEXT WEEK the radiation to Canada and the Western US, may all do what they can to learn how to manage it as safely as possible.
Second, there is not time for a carefully-crafted, methodically-researched, evidence-based plan (the type of plan I favor). It’s pull yourself up by your bootstraps with what we know, and what we’ve learned from previous accidents. Wish we had more time to get the full story, but sometimes the precautionary principle trumps waiting for the full story. Let’s turn instead to expert opinion on WTF we’re to do about the sitch.
I’ve read estimates that up to 750 RADS of radiation is to hit us here in the Bay Area. I’m hoping that is wrong and a huge overestimate.
For perspective, one cat scan is 1 RAD. 750 RADS, or even significantly less, is a lot of radiation, the kind that may cause thyroid damage, particularly thyroid cancer when radioactive iodine binds in the thyroid cells, hair loss, and genetic damage. More details on what’s possible right here.
If you are flush with iodine, it is far more difficult for radioactive fallout to bind in our thyroid.
Who are the thought leaders I turn to in times like these?
I don’t totally trust the CDC because they are a government agency and often respond too slow to be helpful. As I write this, I see no reports yet from the CDC on the situation. However, here is the CDC’s recommendations on iodine to prevent damage from radioactive iodine fallout based on previous data such as in Chernobyl.
- Adults and breastfeeding women should take 130mg of potassium iodide (available at health food stores)
- kids 3-18 should take 65mg of potassium iodide
- kids 1 month to 3 years should take 32 mg
Yesterday I was on the phone with my grandfather to wish him a happy 92nd birthday, and he warned me (before it hit the news) in his entirely cogent, commanding, MIT-graduate voice that there was tremendous danger with the Japanese nuclear reactors exploding or otherwise releasing nuclear fallout into the atmosphere. Thanks, Gramps, for the heads up.
Dr. David Brownstein does not recommend starting the iodine now, he suggests we start 1-2 days before the expected fallout. The oral potassium iodide lasts for 24-72 hours, so duration depends on how long we remain exposed. Follow the news, as he suggests, and plan accordingly. Keep checking back here to see what’s next.
Non-radioactive iodine, such as the potassium iodide recommended by the CDC is relatively safe. Waiting until we have definitive evidence may not be safe. Excess doses can cause headache, tremor, palpitations, muscle weakness and disrupted menstrual cycles. Most of us are iodine deficient unless you mindfully take a supplement. You can also call my office at 510-893-3907 and check your urine iodine level if you have the luxury of time before the nuclear fallout arrives, if it arrives. Iodine is found naturally in sea vegetables, but you probably cannot get enough through food sources to prevent damage.
Thanks to Helayne Waldman for connecting me with Dr. David.
Share any concerns or questions you have here, and please spread the word to your loved ones on the West Coast.
Written by: Dr. Sara Gottfried
Tags: iodine for thyroid patients, Japan's nuclear reactors and radiation, Japanese nuclear reactors, nuclear fallout from Japan and your health, preventative iodine for exposure to radiation, preventative micronutrients, The Nuclear Fallout from Japan and your Health, written by Dr. Sara Gottfried