It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here at Legitimate Citizen.
We sort of got washed away in the overwhelm that followed the Honshu quake and the Fukashima Daiichi reactor crisis. We continue to monitor radiation levels in the states via EPA RadNet and RadiationNetwork. We have struggled with the math as we tried to make sense of the reporting on the incident. After months of conflicting reports and journalistic slight of hand, we have come to a few conclusions.
1) The reporting of radiation releases in the various scales is confusing and probably intentional. We heard rads and sieverts, rems and millirems. Each scale finds use for different purposes and distinguishing between the various scales and which should be used under what circumstances is an arcane science to those of use who don’t work with this stuff every day. We feel that authorities have no interested in provided the public with accurate information, so they kept us confused and scrambling with their nuclear shell game.
p.s. – when numbers get reported in terms of Sieverts that’s usually a very bad sign…
2) If we really knew and understood the magnitude of what has happened to us, we would be enraged and outraged. However, once it’s out, it’s out. There’s not a lot you can do about it. You can take measures to try to protect yourself from radiation. And you can take steps to try to support your body with the tools it needs to mitigate and repair radiation damage. But, mostly, if you’ve been radiated, you just have to do the best you can and wait to see what happens in a couple of decades.
There is a ton of “information” and pseudo-science on the internet about what to do in the event of radiation exposure. Some of these things seem pretty extreme and I’m not certain that they wouldn’t be more harmful than the radiation itself.
Myself, I stick with miso and teas that contain stinging nettle. Miso contains a compound called dipicolinic acid that has been shown to protect cells from certain forms of radiation. There is anecdotal evidence that it affords considerable protection… but, again, that’s anecdotal evidence. The research on it is limited. But I like miso, so it’s no big deal for me. It’s already part of my diet.
The stinging nettle tea… I can’t remember where I got it. The University of Maryland Medical Center website has a good article on the medicinal properties of stinging nettle. It states, in part:
“Stinging nettle has been used for hundreds of years to treat painful muscles and joints, eczema, arthritis, gout, and anemia. Today, many people use it to treat urinary problems during the early stages of an enlarged prostate (called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH), for urinary tract infections, for hay fever (allergic rhinitis), or in compresses or creams for treating joint pain, sprains and strains, tendonitis, and insect bites” (University of Maryland, 2010).
While none of that speaks specifically to radiation exposure, nothing I read in there sounds like it’s going to hurt me. Stinging nettle figured prominently in the ingredient list of an “anti-radiation tea” a friend of mine drank religiously after being exposed to radiation from Chernobyl.
3) More than likely, there has been more radiation released than we will ever know. Over the past few months, our casual monitoring has shown us that radiation levels frequently spiked to over a hundred times our normal background level here in Albuquerque. Spikes in other areas were much higher. While this was going on, all we heard in the media was that there was no cause for concern. We may never know directly exactly how bad this event has been. We will see its effects in sea life, in cancer clusters, and in abbreviated lifespans.
4) There is no such thing as healthy radiation (the relationship between sunshine and vitamin D notwithstanding). Ionizing radiation is not good for you. It is used to treat cancer because it is deadly for cells — and cancer cells are more fragile than normal, healthy cells. Ionizing radiation is always bad for you — and for every other living organism.
5) Ionizing radiation dosages are cumulative. It doesn’t wear off like a dose of aspirin. You can get away with smaller exposures over longer periods of time because your body comes closer to being able to repair the damage to its cells as this damage happens. When the doses are larger and/or closer together, your body can’t keep up. There is the chance that damaged cells will not die, but will replicate with their damaged genetic material. Ionizing radiation doses are cumulative.
The lessons of the crisis in Japan are hard. I’m not talking about the lessons for society about energy, or for policy makers concerned with nuclear waste. I’m talking about the lessons for you and I. The lessons are hard: there are things which are completely out of our control; there are events from which we will be unable protect ourselves regardless of our plans and preparations; control is an illusion; we cannot separate ourselves from the rest of the world – we are all interconnected. We’re all in this together.
Since I am seeing that there are things I cannot control, in order to better cope with this crisis, I look at things I can control and the choices I make. I can choose to use less energy, or choose to generate some of my own power through wind and/or solar (we’re not there yet, but it is on the table). I can take care of myself in a way that supports my body to maintain and heal itself – regardless of what I may or may not have been exposed to. I can make choices that reduce my dependence on a system that is not sustainable (like raising some of my own food). I can make choices that help sustain the world as it repairs itself (like planting plants, trees and shrubs that support wildlife or installing bat houses and bird houses or keeping bees). I can choose to do things that bring me peace in the face of the anxiety caused by so many unknowns and so many things that are out of my control: prayer, meditation, study. I can make my voice heard with my elected officials: voicing my opinion about sustainable energy, sustainable agriculture, opposing big-pharma & giant mono-culture agri-business, opposing ramapant insecticide and herbicide use, opposing GMO’s at every level.
Essentially, I’ve been looking at this crisis and I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s not a damned thing I can do about it directly. Here I am. There they are. I’m not a nuclear engineer. I am one woman. I’m going to do what I can where I am and let God, the Universe, the Great Pumpkin or whatever Higher Power there may be take care of the rest.
Thanks for reading.
University of Maryland School of Medicine. 2010. Retrieved from: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/stinging-nettle-000275.htm