Responding to reactor problems

The tragedy in Japan continued to worsen today with word that one of the failed nuclear reactors may have run out of water and a serious meltdown was imminent; the Internet erupted with rumors the U.S. government was seizing the supply of potassium iodide, which diminishes the impact of radiation poisoning; and there were reports that lethal waves of radiation were just hours away.

Also, Reuters reported that the European Union was worried that food exported from Japan could be radioactive, and the alternative Westword newspaper in Denver reported on the state health agency’s list of recommendations regarding the ongoing disaster at the Fukushima plant on the other side of the world.

But several experts in the field said while preparations certainly are reasonable – and could contribute to a level of safety in other emergencies – there really was no reason for a panic.

Dr. Jane Orient of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons told WND that some of the reports of radiation measurements at the evacuation zone surrounding the Fukushima plant have equaled roughly three chest X-rays.

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“I have seen maps suggesting that within 10 days the whole United States from Alaska to the tip of Baja California on the West Coast will see 750 rads, which is an instantly lethal dose,” she said.

“That’s totally preposterous.”

For one thing, she said, the radiation is not from a nuclear explosion but a failed process to use nuclear power to generate heat, make steam and produce energy.

Whatever radiation is released, through steam or even steam explosions, certainly could create issues, but it probably would not be significant by the time it crossed the Pacific, she said.

Even inside the perimeter of the plant, she said, people can work for short periods of time without dire health consequences.

Orient said the assumption that there is no safe level of radiation exposure just isn’t right.

“It’s like saying if one person falls from 100 feet, he would get killed, so if 100 people fall from one foot, at least one person would get killed,” she said.

“There’s a lot of evidence that radiation workers [who generally have higher exposure] have a lower risk of cancer and a longer lifespan,” she said.

WND columnist Ann Coulter, who tongue-in-cheek headlined her column “A glowing report on radiation,” noted that the New York Times science section in 2001 reported scientists believed some level of exposure protects against cancer “by activating cells’ natural defense mechanisms.”

Her report included a 1991 Department of Energy evaluation that examined 700,000 shipyard workers whose exposure had been high from ships’ nuclear reactions but whose cancer rate was low.

She also cited the work of University of Pittsburgh physics professor Bernard Cohen and others as affirmation.

“Although reporters love to issue sensationalized reports about the danger from Japan’s nuclear reactors, remember that, so far, thousands have died only because of Mother Nature. And the survivors may outlive all of us over here in hermetically sealed, radiation-free America,” she said.

Orient, however, said the Japanese situation is a wakeup call.

She said her Physicians for Civil Defense organization is set up to provide information, techniques and procedures for obtaining the best result, even during a radiation episode, including detailed information on what is needed to have the best protection should someone be caught in his home during a radiation blast.

Fox News commentator Dr. Manny Alvarez said people need to exercise caution when taking potassium iodide, which mitigates radiation exposure, because of possible complications and side effects.

“To have these pills at home, if you don’t know when to take them or how to take them or who to give them to, it could be a bigger problem,” he said.

Carol Norred, a Ph.D. in nursing whose book “Health Care Domino” is yet to be published, told WND that there are many common practices that can help immensely if someone is exposed to radiation. Using something as simple as diuretics and laxatives can help the body eliminate the material that is radioactive and minimize impact, she said.

She’s also described what symptoms to watch for and how to seek the greatest protections.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported the Standard $ Poor’s 500 index was falling on worries about Japan’s crisis.

A recent WND report quoted authorities saying that the threat of a dirty bomb, which includes conventional explosives and radioactive waste carried by the blast, probably is a larger threat to the U.S., since the Border Patrol routinely nabs illegal aliens linked to terror-supporting nations crossing into the U.S.

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