First – I would like anyone who is reading this to take a moment to send your good thoughts and a healing prayer to the people, animals, plants, ocean, and land in Japan. They are all suffering an immense tragedy and even though it might feel far away, we are all changed because of this event. While sending positive intentions may seem trite, our thoughts can alter the world as they set the stage for physical change. It begins with one person and cascades from there. Please believe that you can and do make a difference – no matter how small.
Second – I am being asked daily about our risks here as the radiation is headed this way. For those who think that this is simple fear mongering or the concern of apocalyptic thinkers, please reconsider. This is a link from the New York Times demonstrates how the Earth’s weather patterns are dispersing the radiation from Japan – note the West Coast of the US on the far right of the map: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/03/16/science/plume-graphic.html . Scientists are saying that the amount reaching us will be minimal and pose little risk to our health. In my opinion, we will never completely know the full range of health issues that occur from an incident such as this nuclear meltdown. Hopefully, it will be minimally consequential but we must consider the bioaccumulation of radiation in our soils, oceans, and hence in the foods we consume. In Japan measurable levels of the reactive elements such as uranium are already being found in eggs, animal milks, water sources, and the soil.
Let me make a very important point – the degree to which radiation will effect you depends on your previous health status. When working with people who are concerned about this meltdown there are many factors I have to take into consideration: iodine levels in the body PRIOR to exposure, antioxidant status, calcium status, ability of the organs of elimination to function, and so forth. Dr. David Brownstein writes, “I believe this crisis should highlight the need for each of us to take a more active role in our own health care decisions. It is important to take the proper steps to achieve your optimal health before a crisis arises. Many times these steps include eating a healthy diet and taking the correct supplements. My experience has shown that ensuring an adequate iodine level is one piece of the puzzle to obtaining your optimal health.” I could not agree more.
Why are so many people talking about iodine levels? We know that nuclear radiation causes an increase in thyroid cancer as was seen after the Chernobyl incident. This occurs because our thyroid binds iodine – and if deficient will bind radioactive iodine present after a meltdown. Our thyroid gland sits approximately 2/3 of the way down the front of our neck and is responsible for a multitude of actions in the body such as regulating metabolism. Iodine receptors are also found throughout the body in many other tissues including breast, prostate, uterus, ovary, gastrointestinal, and adipose (fatty) – essentially every cell in our body uses iodine. If a person is deficient in iodine there is an increased risk for the environmental radioactive iodine to bind to the cell and cause damage to the DNA. Ultimately, DNA damage is what leads to cancer.
Radioactive iodine is, however, not the only concern from such an incident as we are witnessing in Japan. Strontium-90 is part of a radioactive fallout as well. If the strontium rains down on a herd of grazing cows for instance, it accumulates in their fatty tissue and eventually in their milk. When that milk is consumed the strontium-90 is incorporated into our bones as it is used similarly to calcium. As with radioactive iodine causing altered DNA, a similar situation occurs with the strontium potentially leading to bone cancer.
And finally ionizing radiation is also a concern. We are all constantly exposed to this type of radiation from the environment, too much is a health hazard. Once again we are concerned about alteration of the DNA and RNA which leads to cellular mutation and general disruption of biological function including the potential of cancer.
So the question becomes – what to do? The first step is minimize exposure – through food choices, location, and activity. The second step is assess your health – what are your iodine levels? Calcium levels? Antioxidant status? Are you exposing yourself to environmental toxins daily that decrease your baseline health status – including chlorine, bromine, pesticides, fluorine, and so on? As doctors we are recommending between 6-50mg of iodine (bioavailable) depending on your previous status, thyroid health, size, age, and overall demand. Studies show that around 13mg a day is an average dose that will prevent consequences from radioactive iodine – this is over 100 times what the normal American consumes. Our RDA (recommended daily allowance) is in the mcg – microgram – range. In this situation we are talking about mgs or milligrams. Contact your healthcare provider to discuss more on this topic as there are risks to taking too much iodine.
I hope that this information has proved helpful. If you have any questions please contact me – Dr. Holcomb Johnston – at (406) 585-9113 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Below are a few links that will help you gather more information. In peace…