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Japan’s Nuclear Crisis Two Weeks Later

It’s been nearly two weeks since a 9.0 earthquake and devastating tsunami killed thousands of Japanese and the resulting damage to nuclear reactors in Northern Japan have added to the tragedy as Japanese officials scramble to prevent nuclear meltdowns.

The human cost is incalculable. And the nuclear crisis itself may have long lasting impacts on the health of area residents as they weather the tragedy of dead, missing or injured loved ones and economic ruin.

Here’s a few tidbits about the crisis, which has prompted one county agency to issue news regarding the minimal radiation threat to Orange County.  “Efforts to contain the emergency at the nuclear power plant in Japan are ongoing. In a press conference today (March 22), the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) reiterated that there is no risk expected to California or its residents as a result of the situation in Japan. Additionally, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) continues to indicate that the nuclear emergency presents no danger to California. The situation is being monitored closely by the CDPH, and in conjunction with, Orange County, State and federal partners including the NRC, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Cal EMA.”

  • 200,000 people have been evacuated from the area with “dangerous” amounts of radiation leaking into the environment
  • Radiation levels are significantly increased in the Japanese fresh water supply and is the food supply; Japanese officials say exposure to water may be harmful to infants.
  • Officials in Thailand are inspecting food for heightened levels of radiation; so is Singapore.
  • Low-level radiation in the air and contaminating the soil following the two explosions is a serious concern
  • According to Dr. Janette Sherman, author and specialist in internal medicine and toxicology from Alexandria, Va, “To assume that steam containing radioisotopes found in nuclear reactors is not going to have health effects, I think, is wishful thinking.” 
  • The Japanese government has distributed nearly a quarter million doses of potassium iodide to evacuation centers bordering the danger zone as a precaution
  • Dozens of plant workers were exposed to low-dose radiation, and the NY Times reports that three plant workers have acute radiation sickness (note to Chuck DeVore; yep the nuclear crisis hasn’t killed anyone….yet).

ABC News.com carried this quote from Dr. Richard Besser, chief medical editor.  Chilling to consider:

“One of the things after Chernobyl, you saw massive numbers of cancers in children. The radioactive iodine got into the grass, the cows ate the grass, it got into the milk.”