Now that much of Europe is being blanketed with radioactive iodine, high levels of radiation in Tokyo and other areas of Japan have been confirmed (and see this and this), and some areas of the United States and Canada - such as the Cascades - are getting hit with fairly significant amounts of radiation, it is time to revisit the question: how can we protect ourselves?
The initial answer is that we should reduce our exposure to radiation in the first place. For example, world renowned physicist Michio Kaku told his Japanese family and friends months ago that they should leave if they can.
If you live in an area receiving any radiation exposure, you should also take off your shoes and leave them by the door (Asian style) and use a Hepa vacuum to get rid of excess dust.
As nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen said in June:
[In a worst case scenario, for example, if the fuel pool at Fukushima reactor 4 were to topple over], I would close my windows, turn the air conditioner on, replace the filters frequently, damp mop, put a HEPA filter in the house and try to avoid as much of the hot particles as possible. You are not going to walk out with a Geiger counter and be in a plume that is going to tell you the meter. The issue will be on the West Coast, hot particles. And the solution there is HEPA filters and avoiding them.
Also, rain is the main way that radiation is spread outside of the vicinity of the nuclear accident. As a parent who doesn't want to tell my kids they can't play in the rain, none of this is fun to talk about ... but during periods of high radiation release, people might want to keep their kids out of heavy rain.
When a lot of radiation is being released, we might want to avoid milk for a couple of weeks or so.
Nuclear expert Chris Busby suggested last month that people exposed to high levels of radiation - for example, those unable to evacuate away from Fukushima - take high doses of calcium and magnesium to block plutonium, strontium and uranium poisoning.
Dr. Busby suggests that adults take 800 mg of calcium and 350 mg of magnesium per day, and that children take the appropriate fraction of that depending on their weight.
Potassium iodide does protect against damage from radioactive iodine, but should only be taken if one is directly exposed to high levels of iodine, and you should never exceed the recommended dosage.
- Prussian blue for cesium
- DTPA for plutonium, americium and curium
- Sodium bicarbonate (i.e. baking soda) for uranium
In addition, there is solid science proving that anti-oxidants help to protect us against low-level radiation. Specifically, low-level ionizing radiation causes our cells to produce free radicals, which produce much of the damage from the radiation. Taking anti-oxidants neutralizes the free radicals, helping to protect us against radiation damage:
- What Foods Are Highest in Antioxidants? Some Inexpensive Foods Are Higher In Antioxidants than the Newest Pricey “Superfoods”
Meditation has also been shown to reduce oxidative stress (i.e. to produce an anti-oxidant effect).
I am not a health care professional and this does not constitute medical advice. This information is general interest only. See your qualified health care provider to obtain specific medical advice.