Damage to nuclear power plants in Japan caused by the earthquake and tsunami caused concerns and panic not only among the general public in Japan but also around the world including the people in the U.S.
United States measures radiation dose by the REM unit (Roentgen Equivalent Man), the doses are commonly reported in millirem (mrem) which equals to 1000 of a rem. Japan measures radiation dose by the Sieverts unit (Sv) and doses are commonly reported in milliSieverts which equals to 1000 of a Sievert. Japan imposed a 12 mile evacuation zone around the plant as well as advising residents living within 18 miles to leave the area if they could or to stay indoors and make their homes airtight.
Exposure to radiation can cause radiation sickness. Radiation sickness also known as acute radiation sickness and acute radaition syndrum (ARS) is defined as damage to the body when the body is exposed to a high dose of penetrating radiation often received over a short period of time, the severity of the symptoms depend on the amount of radiation absorbed by the body.
Symptoms of radiation sickness:
Symptoms of radiation sickness may appear within a few minutes to days after the exposure depending on the level of radiation, the symptoms may come and go, they may include:
- Appetite loss.
- weight loss.
- Sore mouth and throat.
- Swollen, red, itchy skin.
- Skin burns.
- Hair loss.
- Increase risk of infections.
- damage to internal organs.
- Increase the risk of cancer.
You should seek medical attenson if you have symptoms of radiation sickness:
- Remove clothes and shoes.
- Gently wash the skin with soap and water.
- Fluids including intravenous fluids.
- Cells lining the stomach and intestine and the bone marrow cells are the most vulnerable to radiation.
- Radiation therapy for cancer involve highly controlled doses and specifically targeted at small area of the body.
- Oral Potassium Iodide (KI) should be given to people who are exposed to radiation as soon as possible. What happens normally is that the thyroid gland uses iodine very actively, and by giving potassium iodide, the thyroid gland will use that instead of the radioactive iodine that can be libirated in radiation accidents. Children are more liable for for thyroid damage because their thyroid is active and they are still growing.