Health Implications of Fukushima and Radioactive Exposure

Updated: Apr 4

The potential radioactive fallout from the Fukushima reactors has been a great concern for everyone in the last few weeks.  The health risks (DNA damage from exposure to radioactive materials) is a serious concern.  Political issues around the safety and wisdom of utilizing this technology aside, most people want to know “what do I need to do now to protect myself”.  There is a lot of conflicting information available both in the media and on the internet about radiation levels in Japan, the jet stream, radioactive fallout drifting to our continent, etc. 

Here is a summary of what I think the current situation is:

  1. Significant amounts of radioactive materials have been released from the nuclear reactors that have lost their cooling systems.  The risk is not only overheating and potential melt down of the reactors, but melt down in the pools that house the used fuel (nuclear waste).  Containment of these nuclear materials has been compromised and is still unstable.

  2. The primary elements of concern from the Japan reactors are:  Iodine 131, and Cesium 137, both are byproducts of nuclear fission.

  3. The amount of radiation decreases rapidly as you move away from the source.  Those at greatest risk are the people in Japan that are in the immediate vicinity (and have been evacuated).

  4. The half life of Iodine 131 is 8 days (approximately how long it will take to cross the ocean to get to us).  The half life of Cesium 137 is 30 years in the environment, however it is much shorter in the body (70 days).

  5. Radiation is generally measured in “rem” units.  Most of us get about 0.3 rem each year from general environmental exposure.   A chest X-ray generates 0.1 rem, an abdominal CT scan generates 1.4 rem.  Doses up to 10 rems spread out over a long time period (a year) are of minimal to no concern.  Symptoms of radiation sickness occur between 50-100 rems, and lethal doses are between 400-1000 rems.

  6. One ounce of Cesium 137 included in a bomb, would expose someone 1000 km away to 2.5 rem (assuming the cloud drifted to them).

  7. Some nuclear materials from Japan are airborne, and have made it across the ocean to our coast.  Both Iodine 131 and Cesium 137 have been found in our food & water, but the amounts are very small.

  8. Because of the decades of nuclear weapons testing world-wide, everyone on the planet has trace amounts of radioactive isotopes in their bodies and all of the food and air on the planet are contaminated to some extent.

  9. In general I believe we should worry about (and loudly object to) this technology; however, I think that our current exposure due to the reactor failures in Japan at the moment, while real, are minimal.  My concern is the additive effect of the fallout in the ocean becoming incorporated into our food supply.

So, what should you do?

  • Don’t panic (but do call your legislators and tell them you are not in favor of nuclear technology as a solution to global warming!)

  • Dose up on antioxidants such as:  Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, melatonin, natural beta carotene.  All of these are available in good quality multi-vitamins and (you guessed it!) fresh fruits and vegetables.  It is worthwhile to take supplemental Vitamin C and Selenium.

  • Do take an iodine supplement.  If your body is not iodine deficient, it will not absorb radioactive iodine.  I do not think that exposure levels merit mega doses of iodine at present.  I am recommending a normal daily dose of 150mcg to 12.5mg.

  • Consume seaweed (for iodine, but also contains other substances that sponge up radioactive molecules)

  • Consume Miso soup (see recipe below)

  • Consume medicinal mushrooms (Shitake, Reishi, etc)

  • Consume Green tea, first steep extracts most of the caffeine, re-steeping the leaves releases more anti-oxidants each time.

  • Herbs such as Turmeric, and Panax Ginseng have been found to protect healthy cells from radiation.

  • Products such as Modfilan and Iscador (available online) are also helpful in combating damage from large radioactive exposures.

  • Should we find ourselves facing large scale exposure, there are prescription substances available to help the body flush out specific radioactive elements.

Radiation Protection Miso Soup recipe

Miso soup is relatively easy to prepare.  Miso can be obtained from the refrigerated section of the grocery store. 

For 4 servings

  • 4 cups water

  • 3 tablespoons miso paste (available in yellow, white or red), the longer fermented, the better.

  • 1 package tofu, diced

  • 1 scallion or green onion, sliced to ½ inch pieces

  • 4 shitake mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced

  • ½ carrot, thinly sliced

  • Kelp (dried seaweed), crumbled or chopped


  • Heat  4 cups water to boiling. 

  • Turn down heat to medium and stir in miso paste until dissolved.

  • Add everything else.  

  • Gently heat for 2-3 minutes prior to eating. 

  • Serve with Green tea (especially the second “steep”) and you have yourself a “master- blaster-anti-radiation” meal.   ENJOY!


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