When disasters like this recent one in Japan happen, people often feel disconnected from it. “It happened somewhere else in the world. Sucks for them, but it doesn’t concern me.” That kind of thing. But individual countries, like the organs of our body, do not exist apart from one another. When one breaks down, the whole body is affected.
I have been so saddened by the disaster in Japan that I nearly lost my nerve and started crying on the radio today. Maybe it’s the German in me, but I am extremely pragmatic and totally unsentimental and unromantic, and breaking down in tears is highly unusual for me. Luckily, it was a short segment and we went to a commercial break before I succumbed to a blubbering meltdown.
Speaking of meltdown, concern about the nuclear disaster in Japan are not abating. At the Fukushima Nuclear plant that suffered damage during the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and and explosions in the days after, Tokyo Electric is struggling to keep spent fuel rods cooled in pools of water. While most of the media attention is on the reactor itself, the spent fuel rods pose an even greater risk, as failure to keep adequate water levels could lead to a catastrophic fire. According to Arnie Gunderson, a nuclear engineer at Fairewinds Associates and a member of the public oversight panel for the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, which is identical to the Fukushima Daiichi unit 1, the result of such a fire would be “like Chernobyl on steroids”.
Please see the following article by Kirk James Murphy, MD on the significance of the spent fuel rods and the implications of this disaster for America:
For daily updates on radiation levels in the US, go to
I guess despite the media’s efforts to reassure the North American public that the disaster at Fukushima poses no direct threat to their health, it looks like people are not buying this. Instead, they are stocking up on potassium iodide tablets, to the point where both the Canadian and American governments have felt the need to address this issue by urging the public to stop buying the stuff.
Tell them, ‘Stop, don’t do it,’” said Kathryn Higley, director of radiation health physics at Oregon State University.
“There’s a lot of mythology about the use of potassium iodide,” added Dr. Irwin Redlener, a pediatrician and disaster preparedness specialist at Columbia University. “It’s not a radiation antidote in general.”
Canadian health agencies are stating the same, reminding people that it’s neither necessary, not a cure-all, nor even safe. Meawhile, the US military has already started giving it out to soldiers who are helping with relief efforts in Japan. Probably, for not, it’s not necessary for us here in North America. Unless Fukushima does turn out to be Chernobyl on steroids.
I live in Montreal, about as far to the tail end of whatever radiation could drift over from Japan. Out of curiosity, I asked the pharmacist about potassium iodide and whether they had any in stock. He acted like he had never heard the name before and excused himself while he went to google it. He returned to say what I already knew from having googled it myself before going over there and told me that they didn’t carry it but if there were a need for it in an emergency, the government would be dispensing it. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I pointed out that in when such a disaster hits, systems break down and you can’t even count of the government for food, water or shelter, let alone something like potassium iodide. And as it is, we have people being turned away at the ER and dying in the hallways of our hospitals, so you can imagine how the health system would be equipped to handle a true mass public health emergency.
Well, I didn’t go into all that, but it went through my head and I thought ‘Talk about having faith in the system! Somebody please give this guy a red pill! STAT!”
In any case, it seems the public is a little more aware than the pharmacist because when I had alook at the shelves where they do have a small supply of iodine/potassium iodate, which is for external use, they were nearly cleared out and this is not normal because it just so happens that I was in there the previous week, before the disaster struck, and noticed that they had this product right over the epsom salts, which are also useful to detox radiation. Now, I don’t know if the product is at all ingestible (it does say ‘poison’ on the label) or useful as a prophylactic against radiation exposure, but I can’t help to think that it can’t be a coincidence that it has suddenly become so popular.
As of today, radiation levels in the US are normal and hopefully Fukushima will not turn out to be ‘Chernobyl on steroids’, but if it does, I tend to think that we will have to do a lot more than take potassium iodide to make it through.