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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What to Do If You're Exposed to Radiation

On the latest news Japan is facing an unprecedented nuclear emergency after a major uranium leak. Radiation levels at the Tokaimura nuclear fuel-processing plant in north-east Japan are 15,000 times higher than normal. The authorities have warned thousands of residents near the site of the accident to stay indoors and to wash off any rain that falls on them

Radiation can leak into the environment in several ways: a nuclear power plant accident, an atomic bomb explosion, accidental release from a medical or industrial device, nuclear weapons testing, or terrorism (like a dirty bomb). When we talk about radiation exposure here, we're mostly talking about the very rare occurrence of a large-scale release of radiation.

Every community has a radiation disaster plan in place. Your local officials should be trained in preparedness and will provide instructions should such an emergency occur. During a radiation emergency, some nuclear research institute may recommend you stay inside your home rather than evacuate. This is because the walls of your home can actually block some of the harmful radiation. The safest room in the house is the one with the least windows, possibly your basement or bathroom.

If you work around radiation and radioactive materials, there are mandates on the amount of radiation to which you can be exposed. Depending on the industry in which you work, there are also precautions like safety gear, masks, gloves and lead-lined aprons.

In the event of a radiation emergency, the first thing to figure out is if you are contaminated. If you have radioactive materials on or inside your body, you're contaminated. Contamination can quickly spread -- you'll shed external contaminants as you move about and release bodily fluids. The CDC recommends the following steps to limit contamination:

1. Get out of the immediate area quickly.
2. Remove your outer layer of clothing.
3. Place clothing in a plastic bag or away from others.
4. Wash all exposed parts of your body.
5. Internal contamination may call for medical attention.

If you're exposed to radiation, medical personnel can evaluate you for radiation sickness or poisoning through symptom checks, blood tests, or a Geiger counter, which can locate radioactive particles. Depending on the severity of exposure, there are different types of medical treatment. Decontamination is the first step, and that may be all you need. Blood tests may be recommended every year or so to check for late-developing symptoms.

There are also pills you can take to reduce symptoms of exposure. You may have heard of people taking potassium iodide tablets in a nuclear emergency. These tablets prevent radioactive iodine from concentrating in your thyroid. It's important to understand that potassium iodide offers no protection from direct radiation exposure or other airborne radioactive particles.

Prussian blue is a type of dye that will bind to radioactive elements like cesium and thallium. It will speed up your body's elimination of radioactive particles, reducing the amount of radiation your cells might absorb. Diethylenetriamine pentaacetic acid (DTPA) binds to the metal in radioactive elements like plutonium, americium and curium. The radioactive particles pass out of the body in urine, again reducing the amount of radiation absorbed.

NOTE: Applying Povidine Iodine solution or Betadine in the neck could not eliminate any radioactive particles in the body nor preventing diseases cause by radioactive particles especially in the thyroid area.

Emergency Response Bulletin
(15 March 2011 9:00 AM)

2. DOST advises the public not to believe these rumors currently spreading through text messages, emails, the Internet, and other means of communication.
3. DOST also advises the public not to entertain these rumors and to stop forwarding said messages so as not to sow panic among the people.
4. The IAEA Incident and Emergency Center has informed that an explosion was heard at Fukishima Daiichi Unit 2 at 2:10 UTC on March 14. The report also states that there is a possibility the suppression chamber may have been damaged due to this explosion. Further details are being awaited.
5. All 4 Units of the Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plants are still in shutdown condition;
6. At unit 1, plant operators were able to restore a residual heat remover system now being used to cool down the reactor core. Efforts are in progress to maintain cold shutdown of the reactor;
7. A hydrogen gas explosion that destroyed the roof of Unit 3 reactor building took place but there has been no notable change in the radiation levels observed in the boundaries of the power plants;
8. There is no scientific and technical basis that radioactive plume or nuclear fall-out from Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plants will hit the territory of the Philippines within the next 24 hours;
9. Wind projection according to PAG-ASA states that wind in the Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plants is heading East of Japan towards the Pacific Coast and is definitely going thousands of kilometers away from the Philippine territorial seas as of 15 March 2011;
10. The public is strongly advised to call the PNRI trunklines with Tel Nos. 929-6010 to 19 and 920-8787 or refer to the DOST (, PNRI website ( and STII ( for further advisories.
11. The public is also advised to access the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) website for the latest development ( of the incident. The IAEA is considered the international watchdog which issues verified information about the events happening in Fukushima.
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