What are some basic facts about radiation?
Radiation can be divided into ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. This site is concerned with ionizing radiation. Radioactive materials are a source of ionizing radiation because they emit particles and waves that can strip an electron from an atom, creating a free radical. There are five types of ionizing radiation that have differing degrees of penetration, and are of concern in terms of a person’s health:
- Alpha particles: These particles can be stopped by a sheet of paper or the dead outer layer of your skin
- Beta particles: These particles can be stopped by any dense material, preferably by light elements such as certain metals and plastics like perspex. When stopped by heavy atoms such as lead, X-rays result.
- Neutrons: These particles seem to be found mainly inside a nuclear reactor, although they were observed outside the Fukushima reactors. They are uncharged, so they do not ionize atoms directly. However, they can penetrate very far into materials, then collide with the nucleus of an atom; this in turn emits gamma rays, ionizes the atom, or changes the atom into a different, radioactive element. Neutrons produce the chain reaction and radioactive elements in a nuclear reactor or bomb.
- X-rays: These electromagnetic rays or photons can be stopped by lead and thick layers of concrete
- Gamma rays: These rays have more energy than X-rays; they are also stopped by lead and thick layers of concrete
Within each type, radiation can vary in the amount of energy contained in one particle or photon. A radioactive nucleus can eject alpha and beta particles at different speeds, or emit X-rays or gamma rays of different wavelengths. Those with higher energy penetrate further and do more damage.
Exposure to radiation causes either irradiation or contamination. Irradiation means that you are exposed to radiation from outside of you, for example when you get an X-ray. Contamination on the other hand means that you absorb radioactive material, so it irradiates you from the inside, such as when you inhale radon gas or eat food contaminated with Iodine-131.
The introductory page to an on-line course at Princeton explains the basics of radiation, including the many units of measure.
The EPA explains radiation’s health effects.
What is the difference between ingesting (through food and water), inhaling, and external exposure to radioactive particles?
It’s the stuff that gets inside your body that’s so dangerous, internal emitters. Not the external radiation you measure, that really has nothing to do with anything. It’s what you inhale and ingest in your food.
— Helen Caldicott, physician and expert on the medical effects of radiation
A straightforward explanation
What can we do to protect ourselves and our children?
Many people are unaware that 90-95% of cancers are preventable. Although radiation can be very difficult to counter, there are steps you take to improve your odds.
Because health effects are often cumulative and synergistic, start by limiting your exposure to other carcinogens and toxins:
- Test your home for radon and reduce its level, even if below the “threshold” of 4 pC/L (see The Myth of Low-Level Radiation)
- Avoid personal, lawn care and health-care products that contain toxins
Improve your body’s response to damaging radiation with the following regime:
- Consume 5 grams a day of vitamin C
- Reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption
- Decrease meat consumption
- Reduce or eliminate dairy products, especially if Cesium-137 is detected (detected on April 11, 2011 in Montpelier, VT and other places). (Apart from the radiation, dairy products and some soy cheeses contain the milk protein casein, which promotes or amplifies other carcinogens.)
- Reduce or eliminate sugar consumption. Fructose feeds pancreatic cancer; high levels of sugar in the blood feed several cancers; high blood sugar also increases insulin production, which indirectly promotes cancer growth.
- Eat five servings a day of fruits and vegetables, especially broccoli, broccoli sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower
- Increase fiber consumption via whole grains and flax-seed fiber. Flaxseed & radiation
- Get as much organic food as possible
- Take one drop a day of Lugol’s Solution or 1 tablet a day of Iodoral, both of which are sources of both iodide and iodine. Many conventionally trained physicians believe this level of iodine supplementation can interfere with thyroid function. This belief is not supported in the literature, and in fact, this level of iodine supplementation appears protective against other common cancers. In addition, these levels are lower than the levels of potassium iodide recommended by the government.
- Take 5000 IU daily of vitamin D-3
- Take 1500 mg daily each of curcumin and green tea extract with a minimum of 30% or more of EGCG
- Lots of lemongrass, melissa, or verbena tea
Knowing where your produce comes from isn’t always easy. If at all possible grow as much of your own food as you can, indoors, or outdoors.
Constant stress and social isolation are bad for your health; the combination greatly increases a woman’s risk for breast cancer (confirmed with lab mice models). Whether it is yoga, walks, or being with friends, do what you can to lower your stress level.
On June 3rd Dr. Mercola posted an excellent article on Vitamin D’s role in combating the effects of radiation, along with other natural remedies:
“This Vitamin Can Radically Reduce Damage from Radioactivity from Fukushima”
What can be done to bring about change & ideally to close down all nuclear reactors, and safeguard the fuel rods and nuclear waste?
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
— Margaret Mead
- Talk to friend and relatives. Frame the argument: It is not between coal and nuclear. Conservation and other steps can achieve enough reductions until truly clean alternatives such as wind and solar are cheap and available. We must get our government to stop the decades of huge subsidies to nuclear power.
- March, write and fight for campaign finance reform.
- Write and fight to overturn “Citizens United” even if it requires an amendment to our Constitution
- Write to the President. Snail mail makes more of an impact than email, but do what you can
- Meet with your State representatives; it is your right
- Write to your U.S. Senators and Representatives
- Write letters to the editor, to local and national newspapers
- Persist: Repeat all the above as often as you can!
14% of the world’s electricity comes from nuclear power. How can I use less?
- Replace all your incandescent light bulbs with the new bright white LED or fluorescent ones
- Go solar. Check SolarRebates.com for rebates nationwide
- Wear fewer clothes in the summer. Use fans. Now you can reduce or eliminate the A/C.
- Wear more clothes in the winter; start with long johns & fleece. For every degree you lower the heat, you will see a significant decrease on your electric bill.
- Get a home energy audit; then follow the recommendations, which typically includes insulating and weatherstripping your home. For most people in New York State, the assessment is free; for many, the improvements are eligible for a credit or at least low-cost financing.
- Consider installing a solar water heater, solar (photovoltaic) panel, geothermal heat pump, wind turbine, or fuel cell; some are eligible for a Federal tax credit
- The next time you move, look for a smaller, more energy-efficient home, in a temperate climate, in a more densely populated area with more stores nearby. (“Best Green Cities in America“, Country Home magazine, 2008; Shrinking the Carbon Footprint of Metropolitan America, Brookings, 2008)