In the News 3/17/2011

The news from Japan keeps getting worse day by day, especially in regard to the potential for nuclear disaster. Unfortunately the possibility of even low levels of radiation reaching the west coast of the U.S. has panicked a lot of people as reported in the Enterprise Record yesterday (Radiation jitters push sales of iodine pills).
I came across an article that really puts things in perspective (Will US West Coast Citizens Exceed Banana Equivalent Dose). We are exposed to radiation every day, from the sun, things around us, and foods we eat. Bananas are particularly “high” because of the potasium-40 they contain.

According to the article, if you ate a banana every day for a year, you would take in roughly 3.6 mrems of radiation. About three times that, 10 mrems, would raise your risk of getting cancer by 1 in a million (same as smoking 1.4 cigarettes). The initial radioactive steam release on March 12th was equivalent to about 30 bananas in a day, but was down to 2-3 banana equivalents per day within two days. Of course the situation has taken a turn for the worse there. The recent bigger explosion at reactor 2 initially put out the equivalent of 250 bananas per day of radiation (a person exposed would get the maximum yearly recommended exposure in a day), but rapidly dropped to a third of that.

That is , of course of great concern to people not only in Japan, but their neighbors. Remember, though, that we are over 5000 miles away from Japan. By the time any radioactive clouds make it across the Atlantic to our shores, the radioactive particles will have been diluted out by the atmosphere so much, that we would likely increase our radiation intake to the amount of eating maybe one banana per day. So, first and foremost, DON’T PANIC. Secondly, keep the iodine tablets for those that need them, like the people actually in Japan.

I wish the people of Japan a swift and, hopefully, mild end to the current issues with their nuclear reactors. I hope that all of those displaced by or who have lost loved ones in this tragedy recover as swiftly as possible and that they receive all the help they need at this very, very, difficult time.
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