I have never understood nuclear power. I don’t mean the actual physics behind it, but the rationale that is a clean, safe source of power. Ever since I was a child and heard about Three Mile Island in neighboring Pennsylvania, I’ve grown up in fear of reactor meltdowns (my uncle works at a nuclear power plant). During the cold war when my friends were afraid of nuclear war, I viewed cooling towers with anxiety.
The magnitude of the Japanese earthquake is beyond comprehension. My children have watched images on the news, and my six-year-old son repeatedly asks, “Why?” I do my best to explain plate tectonics, but the truth is I have no idea how to explain to my children about the imminent nuclear catastrophe, other than we live in One World.
We live on the west coast. Prevailing winds will bring radioactive emissions to us in three to ten days, from various sources I have read. Some of it has probably already reached us.
Shortly after the quake hit and news of possible problems with nuclear reactors trickled in, my neighbor said eat lots of seaweed. As my mother tried to assure me the nuclear problems were under control, I decided to do a little research to see how I could protect my family.
Jennifer Margulis makes the following recommendations on Mothering.com:
I’m not sure, honestly, what or who to believe. But I do know that the healthier our children eat, the less likely they are to succumb to disease. A healthy body is a body that can better fight being poisoned. So here are some suggestions to help combat the toxic exposure we might be facing in the next few days and over the coming months from Japan:
1) Eat brown rice: whole grains, especially brown rice, are high in fiber and phosphorous, which help remove harmful toxins from the body.
2) Eat seaweed, kelp, and other sea vegetables: Canadian researchers have reported that sea vegetables contain a polysaccharide that selectively binds radioactive strontium to help eliminate it from the body. According to this account, “In laboratory experiments, sodium alginate prepared from kelp, kombu, and other brown seaweeds off the Atlantic and pacific coasts was introduced along with strontium and calcium into rats. The reduction of radioactive particles in bone uptake, measured in the femur, reached as high as 80%, with little interference with calcium absorption.”
3) Eat miso soup: In 1945 when Dr. Tatsuichiro Akizuki, M.D., Director of Internal Medicine at a hospital in Nagasaki, had his staff eat a diet of brown rice, miso soup, seaweed, and pumpkin, and prohibited them from eating any sugar or sweets, his staff and patients were much healthier and did not succumb to radiation sickness.
4) Stop eating sugar or sweets of any kind: You’ve known forever that sugar, especially refined sugar and corn syrups, are harmful for you and your children. With this crisis in Japan it is a good time to go cold turkey and stop the sweets, which is another of Akizuki’s recommendations.
5) Consider iodine supplements: This might be the most important thing you can do in the longterm but I put it last on the list because I think whole food intervention should be our first defense and because I worry about the quality of supplements. Still, we want to make sure our thyroids don’t absorb radioactive thyroid. To do this, we must have adequate iodine levels in our bodies, but we also need to be careful not to take too much iodine and be aware that iodine is secreted into breast milk.
Most Americans are deficient in iodine in their diet; it’s why it is in salt (damn, why do I buy the iodine-free salt?). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)recommends [amazon_link id=”B0014H1KNY” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]potassium iodide[/amazon_link] in radioactive emergencies, and shortages are already being experienced in California:
What does KI do?
Following a radiological or nuclear event, radioactive iodine may be released into the air and then be breathed into the lungs. Radioactive iodine may also contaminate the local food supply and get into the body through food or through drink. When radioactive materials get into the body through breathing, eating, or drinking, we say that “internal contamination” has occurred. In the case of internal contamination with radioactive iodine, the thyroid gland quickly absorbs this chemical. Radioactive iodine absorbed by the thyroid can then injure the gland. Because non-radioactive KI acts to block radioactive iodine from being taken into the thyroid gland, it can help protect this gland from injury.
What KI cannot do
Knowing what KI cannot do is also important. KI cannot prevent radioactive iodine from entering the body. KI canprotect only the thyroid from radioactive iodine, not other parts of the body. KI cannot reverse the health effects caused by radioactive iodine once damage to the thyroid has occurred. KI cannotprotect the body from radioactive elements other than radioactive iodine—if radioactive iodine is not present, taking KI is not protective.
How does KI work?
The thyroid gland cannot tell the difference between stable and radioactive iodine and will absorb both. KI works by blocking radioactive iodine from entering the thyroid. When a person takes KI, the stable iodine in the medicine gets absorbed by the thyroid. Because KI contains so much stable iodine, the thyroid gland becomes “full” and cannot absorb any more iodine—either stable or radioactive—for the next 24 hours.
Iodized table salt also contains iodine; iodized table salt contains enough iodine to keep most people healthy under normal conditions. However, table salt does not contain enough iodine to block radioactive iodine from getting into your thyroid gland. You should not use table salt as a substitute for KI….
How much KI should I take?
According to the FDA, the following doses are appropriate to take after internal contamination with (or likely internal contamination with) radioactive iodine:
- Adults should take 130 mg (one 130 mg tablet OR two 65 mg tablets OR two mL of solution).
- Women who are breastfeeding should take the adult dose of 130 mg.
- Children between 3 and 18 years of age should take 65 mg (one 65 mg tablet OR 1 mL of solution). Children who are adult size (greater than or equal to 150 pounds) should take the full adult dose, regardless of their age.
- Infants and children between 1 month and 3 years of age should take 32 mg (½ of a 65 mg tablet OR ½ mL of solution). This dose is for both nursing and non-nursing infants and children.
- Newborns from birth to 1 month of age should be given 16 mg (¼ of a 65 mg tablet or ¼ mL of solution). This dose is for both nursing and non-nursing newborn infants.
I have ordered KI online, and today I stocked up on miso and seaweed. I still need to get some kelp to sprinkle on the dog food. Fortunately, my children love [amazon_link id=”B000HVX6NK” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]seaweed snacks[/amazon_link]. I don’t think I am being paranoid, but I am being prepared. Seaweed and miso won’t hurt us, and even though radiation levels may be mild in the United States, I don’t want to take any chances. It will be months before radiation stops leaking.
Thankfully, the amount of radioactive emissions that will reach us will not be nearly as great as that of the poor people of Japan. They have my greatest empathy. We can’t sit on our laurels and pretend this won’t happen to us. We have nuclear power plants along the ring of fire, and history has proven you don’t need an 8.9 earthquake to have a meltdown. It’s time to end nuclear power in favor of truly green energy.