A couple of days ago, I wrote Part I of Natural Radiation Prevention. This second installment will discuss the causes of radiation illness.
Before you read the contents of this article, please take note that the information provided herein has not been approved by FDA and it is for education purpose only. It is not intended to replace professional medical advice, which we recommend, if and when you suspect you may have been in contact with any type of radioactivity. Please read our full disclaimer statement at the bottom of this web-page.
In short, radiation sickness is caused by exposure to radioactive substances. These substances are considered radioactive because they are unstable atoms (isotopes) that gives off energy as their nuclei decays over time. The effect of such a release of energy from the nuclei is that it may be strong enough to dislodge electrons from other nearby atoms or molecules, somewhat similar effect as that of a free-radical in our body. As it does so, it can damage or even kill living tissues. When exposed at high cumulative dosage it may destroy, damage or even alter the makeup of a living cell. The alteration of cell make-up by radioactive particles can lead to the development of cancer. Furthermore, if a cell’s DNA is damaged, it can cause genetic mutations which may be passed down to the next generation.
Some simple factors that determines the type and extent of health damage caused by exposure to radiation:
1. The total dose of radiation received;
2. The length of time over which it was received;
3. The size and location of the body area exposed;
4. The type of radioactive substance exposed to;
Unless you are one of the nuclear plant workers or people who reside in the vicinity of a nuclear power plant, acute conditions are rare. Radiation sickness is less acute when it is exposed at a less dosage over a long period of time. The chronic condition caused by a long-term exposure in the event of a radioactive leak can be much more common among the general population.
Some of the low-dosage but long term radiation exposure illness symptoms may be associated with cataracts, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, and nausea. More serious symptoms can be cancer, hemorrhage, vomiting, etc…
In our daily living, we are regularly exposed to a small amount of radiation. According to Dr. James Balch in his book “Prescription For Nutritional Healing,” he cites the following common sources of low-level radiation exposure: Medical and dental x-rays; other therapeutic or diagnostic devices using the radioactive materials; radon or uranium in soil or building materials; tobacco smoke; many of the all-too-common high-tech devices such as cell phones, computer display units, electronic games/devices, microwave ovens, radar devices, satellite dishes, extended high altitude plane flights, and smoke detectors.
Since regular clothing material do not protect us from beta, gamma and x-rays radioactive exposure, there is no telling which areas of our body are more prone to radiation damage. However, there is a general rule that one may go by. And that is, some of the bodily cells or tissues are more susceptible to radiation damage than others. While science is still not totally clear on why or what yet, but it has found that cells which are replaced more rapidly relative to other cells are more sensitive than those which are reproduced over a longer period of time. For example, organs like the liver, skin, gastro-intestinal tracks, sperm and bone marrow are all most vulnerable to radiation damage. The brain is not as susceptible to radiation, since the cells are not self-dividing there.
Our thyroid is also particularly vulnerable because its main nutrient source is iodine and it has great affinity for iodine, radioactive or otherwise. If you have ever applied a liquid iodine on your skin, you may have noticed how quickly it disappears on you. It is absorbed in a matter of a minute or more as your thyroid feeds on it. Unfortunately for those of us who do not eat much sea food, there is a deficiency of iodine in our regular diet plan. It is also unfortunate that one of the most common radioactive element from nuclear power plants is the iodine-131. Radioactive iodine-131 poses a particularly significant risk, because it is absorbed rapidly by the thyroid gland and held there.
Radiation exposure risk is measured in units called sieverts, which take into account the type, the amount of radiation, and which parts of the body are exposed. In a typical year, a person might receive a total dose of two or three millisieverts from normal ambient radioactivity, plane flights and medical procedures. In the U.S. the annual exposure limit for nuclear plant workers is 50 millisieverts per year. At or below these levels, the enzymes that repair DNA keep up with damage enough to keep the risk of cancer low. Above the set number, the body’s systems of repair can’t keep pace. 100 millisieverts a year is the threshold above which cancer risk starts to increase, according to the World Nuclear Association.
According to reports, radiation levels have fluctuated at Fukushima, rising at one reading to 400 millisieverts per hour. At that level, seven minutes would bring you to the U.S. yearly limit. Over an hour could be a lethal dose. The 400 millisieverts level was not a sustained measurement and levels continue to fluctuate much lower. Iodine-131 has a half-life of about 8 days but it can travel long distance. Depending on the carrier(wind) speed and altitude, it can reach far distance away from its source. Furthermore, don’t forget that the radioactivity drops at square of its distance away from the source. That’s the reason, there has been no alarm sounded in the U.S. so far.
Nevertheless, there has been a recent surge of interest in iodine, particularly potassium iodide, I will devote my next blog solely on the subject of iodine, how it deals with radioactive counterpart in our body, various sources of iodine supplement, and when and how to take iodine supplement for highest effectiveness against radioactive iodine.