Nuclear Radiation, Cancer and the Crisis in Japan: What You Need To Know
In light of the terrible crisis that is currently occurring in Japan, I am being asked about what can be done to protect against the radiation now being emitted from the damaged nuclear reactors. Here’s what you need to know, both in terms of the current danger and health risks being posed by the radiation that is being spewed by the reactors, as well as what you can do to protect yourself should the dangers increase. (Because of how important this subject is, this article is longer than usual. I encourage you to read it in its entirety because of its importance.)
As always, let’s start with the facts, not fear. Here is what we know so far:
As I write this, the situation involving the nuclear reactors at Fukushima site remains very uncertain. Though both Japan’s prime minister and her emperor have both rightly called for her people to remain calm, there is no doubt that the situation is very serious and could possibly become much worse. In fact, Guenther Oettinger, the European Union’s energy chief has stated that “there could be further catastrophic events, which could pose a threat to the lives of people on the island [Japan]” and that the Fukushima nuclear site was "effectively out of control,” adding that, “The cooling systems did not work, and as a result we are somewhere between a disaster and a major disaster.”
His sentiments were echoed by France’s Industry Minister Eric Bresson, who bluntly said, “Let’s not beat about the bush. They have visibly lost the essential control [of the situation]. That is our analysis, in any case; it’s not what they are saying.”
And Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano seems to agree, warning that the long-range cooling efforts currently underway at the reactor site may not work. “It’s not so simple that everything will be resolved by pouring in water. We are trying to avoid creating other problems.”
Despite these warnings, here in the United States we are being told by government and health officials that Americans are not in any danger. For example, earlier this week, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a statement assuring Americans that we were not likely to experience “any harmful levels of radioactivity” from the crippled reactors in Japan because of “the thousands of miles” separating us from Japan. But the NRC made that warning on March 13. Since then, the situation is Japan has significantly worsened, yet the NRC has not changed its position.
Such posturing by the NRC reminds of what happened after the world’s worst nuclear disaster struck Chernobyl and the people of the Soviet Union in 1986. Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) continues to state that only a handful of deaths were caused by the nuclear fallout released when the reactor at Chernobyl exploded. Such a statement is absurd, and has long been called into question by various health experts. Among them are Russian scientists Alexey Yablokov of the Center for Russian Environmental Policy in Moscow, and Vassily Nesterenko and Alexey Nesterenko of the Institute of Radiation Safety, Belarus. Last year, they published their findings based on their extensive review of scientific literature and concluded that almost a million people may have died as a result of the Chernobyl disaster.
“For the past 23 years, it has been clear that there is a danger greater than nuclear weapons concealed within nuclear power,” they wrote. “No citizen of any country can be assured that he or she can be protected from radioactive contamination. One nuclear reactor can pollute half the globe... Chernobyl fallout covers the entire Northern Hemisphere.”
I completely agree with their assessment. As the late Dr. John Gofman wrote [AGAIN, CARLOS, PLEASE CREATE A LINK, THIS TIME TO PART 2 OF MY MAMMOGRAM ARTICLE THAT FEATURED DR. GOFMAN’S WORK, AND THEN DELETE THIS MESSAGE TO YOU – THANKS – LARRY], when it comes to radiation there is no safe dosage! Moreover, as the scientists pointed out, the radiation released from the Chernobyl explosion did indeed cover all of the Northern Hemisphere. Tragically, one of the consequences of this fact, as pointed out by Dr. Gabriel Cousins, was that after the fallout there was a 900% increase in perinatal deaths in the Boston area. (Perinatal refers to the weeks immediately before and after birth.) “It was found that the cows’ milk (including grass-fed cows’ milk) contained concentrated radioactive I-131, and the expectant or nursing mothers drinking the cows’ milk inadvertently poisoned their babies,” Dr. Cousins reports.
Fortunately, the situation in Japan has not reached the level of disaster that occurred in Chernobyl and I hope and pray that remains the case, and that the brave Japanese workers who are literally risking their lives to contain the damage succeed in their heroic quest. Even so, the Japanese people at large are already facing health risks due to the radiation that has already been emitted by the damaged reactors, which is why the Japanese government has evacuated everyone living within 12 miles of the reactor site, and ordered everyone living between 12 and 20 miles to stay inside and keep their doors and windows shut tight.
Sadly, however, these precautions alone may not be enough. In addition, low but elevated levels of radiation have already been detected over Tokyo, one of the world’s most densely populated cities, having been borne there from the Fukushima site by wind currents. And after the most recent blast, Japan’s prime minister admitted that radiation levels have become “significantly” higher. Tokyo officials later admitted that levels there are 10 times above normal. As a result, a number of foreign governments have instructed their people to leave the city.
As of now, though, here in the United States there has yet to be any indication that wind currents from the jet stream are carrying radiation. This is because, unlike the Chernobyl explosion, so far the blasts from Japan have not risen high enough into the atmosphere to reach the jet stream. In other words, if you do not live in, or in close proximity to, Japan there is no need for you to panic. And should the situation worsen, there is a still a lot you can do simply and effectively to reduce your health risks.
Before I explain what those measures are, first let me explain a bit more about radiation in general.
The Health Risks of Radiation
The first thing you need to know about radiation and its potential health risks is that everything depends on the amount (dose) of radiation you are exposed to and how long that exposure lasts, as well as the method of exposure. As with other health risks, some types of radiation are more dangerous than others, and the risks they pose last longer.
All of us are exposed to some level of radiation each and every day. That’s just a simple fact of life and usually not a cause for concern. Radiation is measured in units known as rems. Under normal conditions, most of us are exposed to an average of three-tenths of a rem each year, all of which comes from our environment (usually from radon in soil). This level increases, sometimes dramatically, if medical tests are used that employ radiation, such as x-rays, CT scans, and mammograms. A single chest x-ray, for example, delivers one-tenth of a rem, while a single CT scan delivers more than one rem, and the dose can often be higher, especially as research has shown that radiologists often have no idea how many rems they are exposing their patients too, and that doses can vary by as much as 1500%!
According to the NRC, doses of less than 10 rems over long periods of time (one year or more) do not increase health risks. However, I agree with Dr. Gofman—no level is truly safe, and therefore you need to do everything you can to avoid anything but normal environmental radiation exposure.
Besides the use of the medical devices mentioned above, we can be exposed to radiation in a variety of other ways. We can inhale radioactive particles, radioactive particles can fall on our skin (these two ways are why the Japanese closest to the Fukushima site are being instructed to stay indoors), or we can take in radiation by consuming radiation-contaminated food or water.
Excess radiation exposure has both short- and long-term consequences. In the short-term, radiation most seriously affects the cells in the body that are the most rapidly dividing, such as those of the hair, stomach lining, and bone marrow. Because children and pregnant women have more rapidly dividing cells in their bodies than do other adults (due to the growth process), they are most at risk from radiation.
The short-term health effects of radiation are due to radiation poisoning. Symptoms of radiation poisoning include loss of energy and fatigue, blood-clotting problems, weakened immunity, unnatural hair loss, nausea, and vomiting. Exposure to radioactive iodine can damage the thyroid gland and cause thyroid cancer if iodine pills are not taken shortly before and during times of exposure (more about this in a minute).
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radiation poisoning almost always occurs following exposure to 50 or more rems, while exposures above 400 rems can lead to death within two weeks to two months.
The long-term consequences of radiation exposure are damaged DNA, which often leads to various types of cancer and leukemia.
How To Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones From Harmful Radiation
With regard to radiation emitted from nuclear reactors, there are various types of radioactive particles that can harm you. These include radioactive iodine-131, cesium-137, strontium-90, and plutonium-239.
At the moment, it is being reported that both radioactive iodine and cesium have both been released from the Japanese reactors. Of the two, radioactive iodine is shorter-lived than cesium. All forms of nuclear radiation have what is called a half-life. Simply put, a half-life equals the amount of time it takes for half of substance to decay. The remaining half of the substance has another half-life, and so on until all traces of the substance are completely gone. To determine how long it takes before all residues of a substance decays, multiple its half-life by 20.
Iodine-131 has an extremely short half-life of only 8 days, meaning it takes a total of 160 days before it completely dissipates. The half-life of cesium-137 is just over 31 years, while that of strontium-90 is approximately 29 years. Plutonium-239, the most dangerous of the above-mentioned radioactive substances, has a half-life of 24,110 years.
(By contrast, uranium, which is used as a fuel for commercial nuclear power plants, has a half-life ranging between 700 million to nearly 4.5 billion years, depending on the type of uranium used—U-235 or U-238. The US military continues to recklessly use depleted uranium in the bullets and missiles our troops use. This travesty is something I will discuss in a future article because of the very serious health consequences it is having on everyone on our planet.)
Each of the types of radioactive substances competes with stores of various minerals in the body in what are known as mineral receptor sites. As you might expect, radioactive iodine competes with healthy iodine, primarily in the receptor sites of the thyroid gland. Similarly, cesium competes with your body’s potassium stores in receptor sites located primarily in the muscles, reproductive glands, and the kidneys, and liver. Strontium competes with calcium stores primarily located in the receptor sites of your bones and teeth, and plutonium competes for minerals such as iron stored in receptor sites in your lungs, as well as your bone and liver.
The fact that these radioactive substances compete for various minerals in the mineral receptor sites of your body is very fortunate.
Because, if your body has an adequate supply of these minerals that the radioactive substances compete against, then your body will be far more likely to ward off such substances before they can take hold within your cells and organs!
This fact has long been known by practitioners of alternative and holistic medicine. That’s one of the many reasons such practitioners, along with myself, stress the importance of a healthy diet and proper nutritional supplementation.
Simply put, when your body is well nourished and has an optimal supply of minerals, it is very resistant to environmental toxins, including the radioactive substances we are talking about here in this article.
With that in mind, here are the simple and effective steps you can start taking now to protect yourself and your loved ones from radiation. These measures that I recommend will work both for radiation that is nuclear in origin, as well as that which is emitted from various medical devices and the new TSA scans that are increasingly common in our US airports. They will also help protect you from all of the radioactive substances that are already in our environment thanks to many years of nuclear testing and nuclear power plants.
To protect yourself from radioactive iodine exposure, supplement with potassium iodide tablets. However, you should only do this immediately before exposure to radioactive iodine, and immediately afterward. To do so otherwise is not only not recommended, it could prove harmful.
A much safer and wiser measure is to consider supplementing with kelp tablets and/or to eat seaweed foods, both of which are rich in natural iodine. You can also consider using iodine supplements such as Lugol’s solution (available in most drug stores; prior to the rise of pharmaceutical drugs in the U.S., Lugol’s solution was the most widely prescribed medicine by American doctors), or, in cases of severe iodine deficiency, the supplement Iodoral, which you can obtain from the Vitamin Research Group. (Visit their website: www.vrp.com.)
Eating iodine-rich foods and, if necessary, supplementing with either Lugol’s solution or Iodoral, will also help ensure that you don’t suffer from iodine deficiency. According to Dr. David Brownstein, a leader in researching the link between iodine deficiencies and disease, nearly everyone in the United States suffers from some level of iodine deficiency, which is why so many people in the US today suffer from hypothyroidism. As he points out, traditionally the Japanese people obtain about 13 mg of iodine each day from their diet of iodine-rich foods. That is more than 100 times the amount of iodine obtained each day by the average American.
To protect yourself from radioactive cesium, you want to ensure that your diet is rich in potassium-rich foods. In times of exposure, as little as six to nine ounces of green sea vegetables (seaweeds) per week is usually enough to minimize exposure risk. Under normal circumstances, two to three ounces of the same foods is usually all that is necessary. Potassium is also found in many other foods, as well, including bananas, beans, whole grains, spinach, and winter squash. For a list of the best other food sources of potassium, and to find out more about this important mineral nutrient, please visit www.thepotassiumrichfoods.com.
Note: Potassium can be quickly depleted from the body by excessive perspiration, such as during intense exercise; excessive caffeine intake; the use of diuretic medications; and during times of diarrhea or vomiting. Certain antibiotics can also deplete potassium stores in the body, as can the use of table salt and the consumption of salty foods.
Should you suffer from a potassium deficiency, ask your doctor about the use of potassium citrate, available at your local health food store. Remember, though, that eating potassium-rich foods is the best way to ensure your body is getting all of the potassium it needs each day.
To protect yourself from radioactive strontium, you want to ensure that your diet is includes an adequate supply of calcium-rich foods. Most people, as well as many doctors, consider milk and dairy products to be the best food sources of calcium. In actuality, they aren’t, and for many people, such foods can cause a variety of health problems. Far better sources of calcium are dark green and green leafy vegetables. Not only do they contain a greater amount of calcium than do milk and other dairy products, the calcium found in such vegetables are far better able to be absorbed by your body.
You may also consider supplementing with calcium supplements, although for most people I don’t recommend this. According to my friend Dr. Garry Gordon, as well as other holistic physicians, using calcium supplements may increase the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and interfere with magnesium and other minerals your body needs. However, calcium supplements would be advisable during times of strontium-90 exposure, especially if you live within 100 miles of any nuclear power plant. (I will be writing about this subject in more detail shortly.)
To protect yourself from radioactive plutonium, eat lots of iron-rich plant-based foods, especially the seaweed dulse, and consider supplementing with “superfoods” such as spirulina or chlorella.
As I mentioned, so far no reports of strontium or plutonium leakage from the Fukushima nuclear power plants have been reported. Even so, during these times, I still think it advisable to include sea vegetables in your daily diet. There are a variety of them that you can choose from, including arame, dulse, hijiki, kelp, and kombhu. I also recommend that you add miso soup to your diet, and eat low on the food chain (primarily vegetables, legumes, and whole grain foods) as doing so has been shown to be a very protective and proactive approach for helping to prevent, and even reverse, many types of cancer.
A Reason For Hope
I mentioned at the start of this article that it is important that we deal with facts, not succumb to fear. It’s my hope that the information I’ve shared with you today will help you do that.
In closing, I want to share with you a story that illustrates just how resilient the human body is, even when exposed to the most dire of health threats.
Years ago, in Japan, there was a young man who had suffered from chronic illness all his life. He had been born with a weak constitution and suffered from both kidney and skin disease, and later he developed tuberculosis. Every doctor he consulted with told him his condition was “incurable.” But this young man refused to accept this diagnosis, and continued to search for a way he could use to heal himself.
During the course of his research, he discovered that certain villagers who lived in the shadow of the nuclear holocaust that occurred following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that ended World War Two had managed to escape the radiation poisoning and subsequent cancers that had killed so many of their neighbors. The young man discovered, because these villagers were so poor, that they lived on a very simple diet of sea vegetables, miso soup, and brown rice, with an occasional piece of fish. He became convinced that it was their diet that had saved them from the devastation that had destroyed so many of their neighboring villages. And so he too began to follow their same diet. Once he did, he completely healed himself.
The young man’s name was Nyoichi Sakurazawa, better known to us today by the pen name he gave himself, George Ohsawa. Ohsawa was the modern-day founder of the macrobiotic diet, which is largely based on the diet of the villagers mentioned above.
I share this tale with you not as an endorsement of the macrobiotic diet (although it certainly can be helpful for some as a way for restoring health), but to give you hope. If those villagers who were directly in the path of the nuclear fallout that rained down upon them and their neighbors could survive that terrible disaster without getting sick, certainly we can too.
Have faith and God bless,
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