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Health Chats
Radiation Exposure: What You Need to Know
Thursday Mar 24, 2011, 04:00PM - 05:00PM (EST)
Garry Choy, MD, MSBlank
Radiologist
Massachusetts General Hospital
Diagnostic Radiology, MA
Radiologist Garry Choy, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital discusses the health risks of radiation exposure, how you can protect yourself and the signs and symptoms of radiation sickness in this free one-hour health chat on Thursday, March 24, at 4pm ET/1pm PT.<br><br> Of the many fallouts from the tragic earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, one of the most dire is the leaking of radioactive materials from the damaged nuclear reactors. On Thursday, March 17, 2011, President Obama stressed, “We do not expect harmful levels of radiation to reach the United States.” Still, the events bring to mind the question of radiation exposure. Get the facts in this free, one-hour health chat.<br><br> Garry Choy, MD, is a board-certified radiologist who specializes in diagnostic radiology at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA, and answers questions in MedHelp’s radiology forum.<br><br>
MedHelp:
Hello everyone and welcome to today's health chat with Dr. Garry Choy. We will be starting at 4:00 PM (EDT) but please feel free to submit your questions now.

MedHelp:
Welcome Dr. Choy!  We are so excited to have you here today.
Garry Choy, MD:
Thank you MedHelp team, Happy to be here and participate in this Health Chat!
artstinca:
What is radiation, how is it generated by a nuclear power plant and why is it dangerous?
Garry Choy, MD:
Hi artstinca, Radiation is in a nutshell when energy or particles travel through space and in the case of nuclear power and in diagnostic radiology such as from CT scans, x-rays--the radiation is "ionizing" can can be harmful to biologic tissues if the particle concentration / energy levels are high enough
Garry Choy, MD:
In the case of nuclear power, the way nuclear power works is that in the reactor, in heating the water to produce steam to turn the turbines --
Garry Choy, MD:
In generating heat, usually the release of ionizing radiation through particles and energy emitted can be controlled and contained
Garry Choy, MD:
But if there is a "melt down" the reaction cannot be controlled and excessive amounts of radiation / particles will be released, thereby posing risk and danger to those around
ChitChatNine:
I heard on this morning's news (3.24.11) that there's reports of I-131 in the drinking water in Japan and this can cause Thyroid Cancer.  How does that happen?  Why the Thyroid?  How much has to be ingested to cause Thyroid Cancer and lastly, is it faster growing (I assume nodules grow?) than if happening in a person due to natural cause?
Garry Choy, MD:
Hi ChitChatNine, The reports of I-131 in the water is concerning
Garry Choy, MD:
Depending on where the water is sourced from - radioactive particles could have gotten into the water via particles in the ground or air...
Garry Choy, MD:
Reason why I-131 can affect the thyroid is that the thyroid tissue avidly takes up iodine, including "I-131" which is a radioactive isotope and can harm the thyroid
Garry Choy, MD:
The I-131 if in high enough doses can either destroy thyroid tissue or cause genetic damage leading to potentially cancer
cnord29:
I have some friends in Southern California who are concerned about a cloud of radioactive material reaching our shores from Japan. They want to know what they should do to protect their pets.  Do you have any advice?
Garry Choy, MD:
Hi Cnord29, at this time, based on what I hear in the news -- the risk is virtually zero due to the "cloud" or "cloud of particles" that are being spread our way via the air currents...
Garry Choy, MD:
However, if the concentration of "particles" goes up, then one key thing to protect pets from as well as humans from is the ingestion of food supply
Garry Choy, MD:
And also the water supply
Garry Choy, MD:
First resource to typically get affected are any exposed crops and reservoirs.  
arusi:
Welcome Dr. Choy! We are indeed happy to have you here. I just have a breif question. Can computer radiation cause cancer?
Garry Choy, MD:
Hi Arusi-- thanks for being part of the chat.  Computer radiation emitted from the screen/CRT monitors, etc as far as we know to date, does not cause cancer.  
ansemon:
I lived in El Paso when I was 5.  Our drill was to get under our desks and put our hands over our heads.  From what I have gleaned from watching coverage of our radiation disasters, have we really come much farther from  that?
Garry Choy, MD:
Hi Ansemon, We have certainly come very far in terms of early detection.  So in addition to first getting shelter quickly -- now we have radiation detectors in most regions
Garry Choy, MD:
Many radiation detectors will warn public officials early
Garry Choy, MD:
And if everything works well and the way it is supposed to, we can evacuate the region much more quickly and seek shelter further away from the emergency or epicenter of disaster
Garry Choy, MD:
Most major cities have radiation detectors for example
sk123:
I read that the contamination has seeped into Japan's food chain with milk and spinach near the plant showing radiation levels. What does this mean in terms of recovery for Japan? Are their food sources no longer safe?
Garry Choy, MD:
Hi sk123, This is definitely an alarming new development
Garry Choy, MD:
Something to keep aware of, particularly those in direct contact with the Japanese food supply (local people)
Garry Choy, MD:
As well as those who receive alot of food exports from Japan
Garry Choy, MD:
Their food sources should be tested to ensure safety.  Particularly those who liver in Japan including infants and those with predisposition to cancers should avoid local foods for the moment if possible
Garry Choy, MD:
This definitely complicates long term recovery for Japan as this will dramatically affect economic recovery
coolgefyt:
The Fox News "science team" referred to a controversial report that radiation is actually good for your health.  Who is right on this question? Ann Coulter or Science?