Over the last few days, I have been deluged with emails about what steps we should take to prevent our own radiation poisoning. I want to make a couple of initial points in this Musings: 1) all the ideas about what we should be taking to protect ourselves are good ideas. I will go over one of them — the one that is suggested most frequently and 2) these ideas are good not because we need protection from radiation poisoning but because they were good ideas even before the Japan disaster began. And finally, 3) I pose the question of whether there is a significant danger of radioactive poisoning.
The suggestion for radiation protection made most often is that we start taking potassium iodide immediately. I understand there has been a run on the stock of potassium iodide in the country.The potassium protects against radioactive cesium. Iodide is a form of iodine. Iodine is essential for your thyroid and several other tissues and organs. Your thyroid needs it most and, thus, it concentrates most heavily there. If you’re deficient, as most Americans are, your thyroid will pick up any iodine that your body finds, including radioactive iodine, which can poison your thyroid. Iodide protects your thyroid against radioactive iodine.
While it is true that potassium iodide gives some protection against radiation, it is likely that if there is high radiation, it won’t do the trick well enough. You need enough potassium in your body to prevent absorption of radioactive cesium, and, again, as most of us are deficient in iodine, similarly, most of us are deficient in potassium. There’s simply not enough potassium in any formula of potassium iodide to protect against radioactive cesium.
Further, and most importantly, you need to protect a lot more than your thyroid from radiation. The potassium iodide will give insufficient protection to other organs.
Yet, supplementing our diet with iodine is almost always a good idea. The Japanese, actually, are in good shape with this. They regularly take iodine – in the form of seaweed and algae – which are staples in their diet. At least partially because of the large amounts of iodine in their diet, Japanese women, until recently, have had the lowest breast cancer rate in the world. Iodine induces apoptosis, programmed cell death. This process is essential to growth and development (fingers form in the fetus by apoptosis of the tissue between them). But iodine is also good for destroying cells that represent a threat to the integrity of the organism, like cancer cells and cells infected with viruses. Iodine also removes toxic chemicals – fluoride, bromide, lead, aluminum, mercury – and biological toxins; it suppresses auto-immunity, strengthens the T-cell adaptive immune system, and protects against abnormal growth of bacteria in the stomach. Click here to understand more about iodine.
The product I take, and was taking long before the Japanese radiation threat, is Iodoral, which provides the body with both iodine and potassium iodide. One capsule a day is all you need for general protection. If there is a radiation threat, simply double that amount. So, by all means, take Iodoral. And keep taking it, even after the threat of this disaster has passed.
But on to the most important question: is there a danger of our being radiologically poisoned. The experts disagree on this; I have read widely divergent opinions. What I am clear about, however, is what I learned from my previous explorations into the phenomenon of radiation hormesis. As long as the level of radiation exposure remains “low” (as it is currently), not only is there no danger, but there might even be some benefits accrued.
Most of us have a knee-jerk reaction to the word radiation. If we think it is near us, we want to flee for our lives. A deep fear has developed in our country about all things radioactive. The fear stems from the common belief that any dose of radiation increases the likelihood of two dreaded diseases: cancer and congenital malformations.
It was out of this concern that a MIT professor wrote an email to his family in Japan immediately after the reactors first failed to reassure them that the likelihood was that they would be safe from being over-exposed to radioactive material. Much to the surprise of the professor, the email went viral. The email is technical and very compelling – and states all the difficult-to-understand reasons why the threat for radioactive poisoning is not as great as people fear. Following that initial email, a group of MIT nuclear scientists have banded together to make commentary on the on-going situation in Japan – and they are giving up-dates as they are able to gather reliable information. Their website is: http://mitnse.com/. You can see there the original email by Josef Oehmen ”Why I am not worried about Japan’s nuclear reactors,” as well as the group’s subsequent commentaries.
Similarly, Rod Adams, who has also had extensive experience in the nuclear field, has been blogging, giving his ideas of why the situation may be able to be stabilized. He also discusses the differences between Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and the situation in Japan. He’s worth reading:
For Adams’ blog, click.
Finally, popular theoretical physicist Michio Kaku’s websitecontains his blog with a recent posting (today) on the dangers of the on-going situation in Japan.
With all the concern about the potential danger of radioactive poisoning from the Japanese damaged reactors, it is important for us to not lose sight of the therapeutic benefits of low-level radiation. In my research on radiation hormesis, I read many research papers and I spoke to some of the leading nuclear experts in the country. The evidence is clear: as we are deficient in iodine, we are similarly deficient in radiation. As Ted Rockwell, eminent nuclear engineer, said in a recent blog in response to what is happening in Japan and the fear stimulated:
“…Life evolved on, and adapted to, a much more radioactive planet. Our current natural radiation levels – worldwide – are below optimum. Statements that there is no safe level of radiation are an affront to science and to common sense.”
Thus, according to Rockwell, and many other eminent scientists, it seems that we are deficient – not only in iodine and potassium, but we need more of the unlikely material of radiation, as well.
Rockwell continues in his article, Fukushima: It’s Not About Radiation; It’s About Tsunamis, explaining that the radiation dose that the Japanese people have been exposed to, thus far, is still insignificant in terms of a health issue.
Worldwide, the average radiation exposure is about 360 millirems per year. Scientists agree that humans can safely handle 1,000 a year. Different places on earth have different exposure rates (as we will see in a moment), and some go much higher than the average with not only no perceptible ill effects, but, in fact, these fortunate inhabitants actually enjoy better health.
There is a wealth of medical and scientific research on exposure to radiation documenting the hormesis effect: high-dose radiation kills by destroying tissue (all medical use of radiation, including x-rays is high dosage); but low-dose radiation stimulates. Specifically the immune system reacts in a positive fashion to low-dose exposure, and creates a healing response in the organism. Researcher T.D. (Don) Lucky has spent a lifetime documenting the effects of radiation hormesis: according to his, and over 3000 other medical studies, exposure to low-dose radiation results in anti-aging effects, increased fertility, mental acuity, cancer suppression, improvement of immune function, promotion of healthy growth and an increase of defense against disease.
Listen to my interview with Don Lucky.
And, to my interview with Ted Rockwell on radiation hormesis.
Of the over 3000 studies on radiation hormesis, three environmentally- induced radioactive situations are particularly compelling.
First, there is incidence of cancers induced by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There were, as we now know should have been expected, large numbers of people near the bombs who subsequently developed radiologically-induced cancers. It is also true, however, that there were large numbers of people who did not develop radiologically-induced cancers. The size of this latter group has been a surprise to most scientists. Findings of several studies show that when exposure to radiation was at points distant from the blasts, radiation absorption was minimal, and leukemia deaths among these A-bomb survivors was below normal. But, this is where the data get interesting: minimally exposed survivors haven’t just not died of leukemia or other cancers; they haven’t been dying for any reason. They’re healthier than the Japanese population who lived far away from the blast and received no exposure. Dr. Sohei Kondo, in 1993, published Health Effects of Low-Level Radiation, in which he reported findings of a significantly lower death rate for those who had been exposed to low levels of the radiation fall-out than for those who had no exposure at all. As well, no adverse genetic effects in the progeny of the minimally exposed population have been detected during sixty years of study.
To put radiation exposure dosage from the bombs in contemporary perspective, according to Christopher Windham, it is now understood that the radiation dose from a full-body medical scan today can be almost as high as the dose received by some of the survivors of the bomb.
The Japanese know, as well as any peoples, the effects of radiation, for obvious reasons. But they also know about the beneficial effects of radiation hormesis. Before the recent disaster, there were at least six popular spas in Japan where people went for radiation hormesis therapy. Water bubbling up from deep within the earth carried levels of radiation that eased pain, and promoted health. Not only do the spas offer radioactive hot baths, they also paint the walls with radioactive paint.