What are the risks of Japan radiation?10th May 2011
Japan's Fukushima nuclear power station, damaged by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami two months ago, is still sending out radiation into the air, ocean and ground water.
The emissions could last for many more months, and everyone living within a 12-mile radius of the plant has been evacuated. People in downwind villages are also getting ready to move out.
But how great are the health risks from exposure to this radioactive material?
Before the disaster, Japanese people were typically exposed to 1.5 millisieverts of radiation in background radiation annually.
Since the accident, a person in Tokyo spending eight hours a day outside and drinking tap water would have received 0.12 millisieverts in a month.
However, experts at the Symposium on the International System of Radiological Protection recommends maximum exposure levels of 1 millisievert per year for the general public.
Public health guidelines call especially for children to be shielded from unnecessary exposure to radiation, as they are still growing.
Long-term exposure to low levels of radiation can cause cancer, but no conclusive studies have shown a rise in cancer statistics at levels of less than 100 millisieverts received over a lifetime.
Cancer can take decades to emerge, and may be influenced by factors other than radiation, including diet and smoking, making it hard for research to draw hard and fast conclusions.
According to Japan's National Institute of Radiological Sciences, cumulative exposure to 100 millisieverts of radiation raises the risk of death from cancer by 0.5%.
Not all radiation has the same power to harm. Particles that are breathed in or ingested, or that take longer to wear out can cause more cell damage.
Iodine-131 has been a key focal point of investigation in the wake of the Fukushima accident, because it accumulates quickly in the thryroid gland, putting children in particular at risk.
Cesium-137 accumulates in muscle tissue, although it has a half-life of 90 days inside an adult body.
Plutonium increases the risk of lung cancer when inhaled, while strontium can build up in the bones and cause bone cancer.
Medical experts report a reasonably high level of confidence in the Japanese government when it comes to monitoring food safety, however, meaning children are unlikely to be given contaminated milk products.
They say that the authorities will develop the same level of attunement to radioactive contamination as they did to pesticide pollution in the course of the 20th century.
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Wednesday 11th May 2011 @ 5:15
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Title: What are the risks of Japan radiation?
Author: Luisetta Mudie
Article Id: 18425
Date Added: 10th May 2011