Public Health

U.S. Radiation Risks Minuscule; Chernobyl's Legacy & Iodine Scams

Good morning. Here's a quick roundup of radiation news.

With radiation from the crippled Japanese nuclear plant detected on the West Coast of the United States, there's a lot of anxiety about whether it's a danger to human health. All Things Considered host Michele Norris talked with Andre Bouville, an expert on radiation exposure, who says the additional risks are vanishingly small:

You know, we live in a sea of radiation — there is natural radiation due to uranium and thorium in the ground or from cosmic rays coming from the sky. We are also subject to medical radiation. So the radioactive cloud will bring another source of exposure, but judging from the Chernobyl experience, the West Coast of the United States is so far from Japan that levels should be very small.

Nevertheless, people concerned about radiation have made a run on supplies of potassium iodide, which can protect the thyroid against radioactive iodine, one of the isotopes that has been detected in Japan. The Food and Drug Administration says the surge in demand has brought the scammers out, USA Today reports. The paper quotes Gary Coody, FDA's national health fraud coordinator:

We found many different offers for potassium iodide and other products that we're taking a look at.

Finally, the New York Times weighs in with a report on a National Cancer Institute study that finds the risk for thyroid cancer 25 years after the accident at Chernobyl has yet to decline for Ukrainians who were children or teenagers at the time. Many may have eaten food contaminated with radioactive iodine.

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