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Garry Choy, MD, MS  
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Interests: Radiology
Massachusetts General Hospital
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Japan Crisis: Should you be worried about radiation exposure?

Mar 21, 2011 - 14 comments
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japan

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nuclear

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radiation

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radioactivity

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Radiology

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radiation exposure



As events unfold in Japan, one can't help but worry about the consequences on health due to the developing emergency at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.  Day by day, we are learning about escalating efforts by Japanese emergency workers and engineers stepping up their strategy in preventing a major meltdown.  Low levels of radiation are detected both locally and in other countries, particularly in the United States on the west coast.  Very low levels of radiation have also been detected in the food supply in Japan.

Should one be worried about radiation exposure?  
It certainly is a valid and justified concern, particular for those currently living in Japan and in close proximity to the nuclear reactors.  

In case things do take a turn for the worse, "radiation sickness" or symptoms of radiation exposure can be recognized.  The sequela of radiation exposure are especially relevant at this time for the Japanese workers who are working within the epicenter of the nuclear reactors and risking their lives to avert disaster.  As an additional note, I want to emphasize, that along with the many who are now working hard in the recovery efforts, the workers at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant should be recognized as heroes.  

What are symptoms of acute radiation exposure?
Acute radiation exposure symptoms depend on the level of radiation exposure.  Symptoms and signs include the following:

- Gastrointestinal effects such as nausea and vomiting
- Hematological disturbances such as anemia and bleeding
- Immunological compromise leading to infection
- Usually associated with larger dose exposures, neurological impairment and rapid death can occur

Chronic radiation exposure or long term effects can lead to genetic damage subsequently putting someone at risk for development of cancers and other hematological conditions.

While workers in Japan and those in the epicenter of the evolving nuclear emergency should certainly be vigilant of radiation exposure symptoms.  However, people outside of Japan, particularly those in North America, including the continental United States, Pacific Islands (including Hawaii), Canada, and countries of South America at this time should not be alarmed.  In my opinion, while the ultra-sensitive radioactivity detectors in for example, the United States, will likely pick up some degree of very low radioactivity, the effective health consequences of this measured radioactivity is essentially nil at this point based on the current situation.  


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by ChitChatNine, Mar 22, 2011
What precautions are the rescue workers in Japan taking, and what is the treatment if their levels rise?

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by margypops, Mar 22, 2011
I live on the west coast of California and folks here have been very concerned , I lived in Europe when Chenobyl happened and we were told nothing by the British  government regarding the radioactive fallout, this was in 1986 we had aforethought not to drink milk or eat veg,  as the radioactivity had blown across England, there have been many incidences of Leukemia now in Europe , many attributed to Chenobyl.My concern is that the same may be happening here , although I do admit that testing here in The US by detectors  may be better than it was there at that time ..

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by Archeschick, Mar 23, 2011
In Scotland 1986, our government told us, not to go out in the rain and not to eat british meat (New Zeland lamb sales must have gone through the roof).  Thats all I remember, along with lots or roast lamb dinners and bottled water.

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by Californiawoman, Mar 23, 2011
To keep from panicking and to stay abreast of the latest radiation levels, visit radiationnetwork.com.  It has radiation detectors all over the U.S. and is privately owned, funded, and operated.  They have balanced info.  I'm in California and can tell you that right now you're getting far, FAR more radiation from a long cell phone call or a flight on an airliner. Be informed. Be knowledgable. Know your risks and make your plans accordingly. And pray for those in
Japan.

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by SteveRichfield, Mar 23, 2011
This article and comments preceding mine here only address overall radioactive exposure and NOT the effects of specific dangerous radioactive isotopes like iodine 131 that are being released. Iodine 131 is used medically as an alternative to surgically removing thyroids, because it is quite destructive of thyroids without being a major cancer risk. The Japanese reactors are also releasing two dangerous radioactive cesium isotopes.

We should be talking about the known health dangers from these known to be present radioactive isotopes and NOT the dangers (if any) from overall radioactivity, which I see as a smokescreen that obscures the real issues.

So, what is happening here? Is this "expert" not very expert, or is he just another part of a gigantic whitewash?

I am just one of millions of Americans who wants answers that don't reek of incompetence. Articles like this one are worse than worthless, because they dupe part of the population into complacency, and enrage others who wonder what the author is hiding.

There may or may not be any real dangers from the Japanese reactors, but it seems obvious that "experts" like this one are unable to shed any light on this question.

How about getting a REAL expert to provide a good science evaluation of the dangers (if any)?


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by dawnonme7, Mar 23, 2011
I do not trust government officials at all anymore. Period.

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by JoBug111, Mar 23, 2011
Here is a radiologist expressing his expert opinion about the (lack of) hazards of the nuclear incident in Japan, and you respond basically saying, if it's an expert's honest assessment that the risks are nil, they must be hiding something and trying to "dupe" people.  The attitude here is only a reflection of the success that the 24/7 "news" media has had in generating hysteria about an incident that is hardly worth mentioning in the context of a tsunami that has killed more than 20,000 people and left 400,000 homeless.  On major news networks they have been deliberately conflating nuclear energy with nuclear weapons.  CNN had a headline about "radiation alerts on flights from Japan" which, if you actually read the article, was actually negligible radioactivity from standard medical supplies that had nothing to do with Fukushima.  And yet people continue to respond to such fear tactics with distrust of the people who actually know what they are talking about, like Dr. Choy.  Fukushima is not comparable to Chernobyl at all.  THE REACTOR CORES WERE NOT BREACHED!  None of the cores have been exposed.  There is no radiation cloud coming to rain on the U.S. or anywhere else.  This incident is more comparable to Three Mile Island (which killed no one).  I guess there is no cure for poor reading comprehension; no way to make people trust the experts instead of the CNN/MSNBC/FOX/BBC hyperbolic machine.  The news conglomerates benefit from your fear; keep tuning in to find out when you're all gonna die!  They are the ones who should be treated with such contemptuous distrust.  Turn off the TV, people -- read what the people with degrees are saying.  You are going to be fine.

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by JSM555, Mar 23, 2011
Believe it or not, you can get radiation poisoning from cosmetic laser procedures. Forwarned is forarmed.

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by margypops, Mar 25, 2011
to Jobug Today the Core has been breached it may be leaking......the Prime Minister of Japan has come out and said the situation is grave and serious , I suggest you google for the latest information ..it is like Chenobyl get your facts straight .....

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by Single_Man, Mar 25, 2011
Isaiah 24!!!

MOX Plutonium can not be detected with geiger counters!

Plutonium turns yellow when exposed to the air!!

Tokyo has had Yellow Rain the other day!!

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by margypops, Mar 26, 2011
There are some things should not be played down , and this is one I am on the west coast of California I want to get all the facts .I lived through Chenobyl..the government said nothing about the hazards, for weeks, its a well known fact many are sick and have died since . All we ask for is as per usual for the Truth, which seems impossible for any government to be capable of doing ,as for Obama coming out telling us its okay in the US  well he's not been the best candidate on the truth about any matter ..

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by margypops, Mar 28, 2011
And it continues I see on today's BBC news that higher radiation is spreading across Japan .

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by 898_1, Apr 04, 2011
back in 1986 he rainwater in Portland Ore, contained 500 pico curies per liter that is above 300 limit mark established by EPA for drinking water. the residents were adwised against using it. the Rainwater in CA contained 150 pico curies  per liter.
Therefore it is not as safe as advertized.
the single dose of it will not do a harm, but if 1 year old will drink it for long time the outcome cannot be predicted.
Usually drinking water contains 15 piccuries of Radon gas per liter.
the "metallic" iodine is NOT easy soluble in water (but in alcohool- see lugol's solution) and can be ramoved from drinking water using carbon filters. The Iodine salts- IODIDES cannot be filtered out
if contamination will continue - dust control must be strictly enforced
cows should be not fed with the fresh grass
foodstuff must be covered when exposed to the rain
fruits from adult trees are safe to eat (but they must be washed on the outside)
milk may be processed to cottage cheese - it will be a lot "cleaner"

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by gadolina, Jun 18, 2012
radiationnetwork.com is  a pretty good site, so is www.auntminnie.com and fiercebiotech.com and www.rsna.org and info on radiation experiments, US radiation experiments,
Yellow cake, plutonium buttons were made at Rocky Flats Nuclear Plant near Golden, CO a  Superfund site, you bet it's still hot, the locals will tell you that, just six inches down, the author of a new book, Full Body Burden will be here tomorrow in Denver for a book signing. I bought her book a few weeks ago, she lives out of state.
Then we have Rocky Mtn Arsenal, leaks nerve agents, Lowry Dump, where the doctors live in their elite communities,
not one MD here that belongs to PSR, Physicians for Social Responsibility, no nukes,

read about radionuclides  and TC 99 epa.gov health effects of it, duration , know the fda is allowing this tracer in common meds, they blocked access to labels after I called them out, then it was Ditropan, Ovide skin lotion for lice, and Sustiva for schizophrenia, see tracers or NME if you can find this information,
the lethal dose of radiation is already known, it was determined in the US with The Plutonium Files by Eileen Welsome, who wrote the book on the declassified files  by then Sec of DOE Hazel O'Leary, now at Fisk Univ in TN.
Lethal doses were not determined by Hiroshima and Nagasaki, those were dismissed , ignored or claimed non existent, but reporters there had their articles censored by US agencies.  The Plutonium Files tells all what the US did to it's own citizens pre Japan. to children: radioactive oatmeal, for the science club, to women, radioactive iron, "vitamin" cocktails to pregnant women,   the book Acres of Skin,  The Cincinnati Radiation Survivors, prisoners exposed to lethal doses, no medical treatment, relife from suffering so they could watch the progressive sx until death, vomiting, pain, psychosis,
bit of Buchenwald touch, I'd say, along with Operation Paperclip, Read the  book and the USA's involvement with radiation and denials, to include Rocky Flats criticality accidents, read Life Exposed about Chernobyl and compensation, diagnosis, etc,  read where Pu came from,  California, "Bizerkly", how retrieved from people via biopsy, reduced , processed and reinjected into others who thought and were told they were getting "the best and latest medical care".
Americium is radioactive, in your home smoke detectors,  TC 99 aka Cardiolite, mined from Molybdenum, processed via nuclear fission/waste product then injected into you for CT contrast, along with other isotopes, iodine, etc. Search Radionuclides list, some can be inhaled, odorless, xenon and krypton,   US Heathcare is not healthcare. You are an experiment and mean nothing to them.  All drugs to market are final phase of testing, the post marketing group, YEP!

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