3/15/2011 — The biggest immediate danger to North America, from the nuclear catastrophe unfolding in Japan, is currently estimated to arise from the pools of spent nuclear fuel rods stored in each reactor building.  Owing to systems failures, these pools  may not be adequately cooled and could conceivably catch fire, which would result in the release of nuclear isotopes into the atmosphere.

The prevailing winds are to the east, meaning that they would head out towards the Pacific coast of the United States.  The amount of radiation reaching the US would depend on the then current wind and weather conditions, but would presumably dissipate to a significant degree before reaching us, owing to the distance involved.  However, like the Chernobyl disaster 25 years ago, the effects would spread across the globe, but would be the most significant nearest the source of the radiation leak.

The composition of the radiation would also depend on the type of fuel rods and their age.  In particular, the presence of radioactive Iodine 131 would become progressively less significant as the rods age.  By 2 months, the iodine would have decayed into harmless isotopes.  But the heavier elements, such as Cesium, uranium, and in the case of one of the spent fuel pools, plutonium, would remain problematic for a very long time.  There is no known way to prevent damage from these heavier radioactive elements except to avoid the exposure.

Damage from radioactive iodine can be mitigated by taking in Potassium iodide by mouth prior to and during exposure.  The organs that readily take up iodine (most notably the thyroid) will be less likely to take up radioactive iodine if they have already taken in significant quantities of potassium iodide by mouth.

For the many of you that are now taking Iodoral as part of the iodine program,  or who took it in the past for at least several months, you are probably already protected, although should a significant exposure occur, we would add a higher dose for a short time (see link in the next paragraph).

For those of you who have never taken iodine supplements, I would strictly follow the CDC guidelines for the use of Potassium iodide.

What I do not know at this point is how much danger is to be expected from radioactive iodine from the Japanese reactors.  This may be significant, or it may be next-to-nothing.

At this time, no one should alter their present supplement programs.  I do not know if there will be any need for us to do anything.  I will continue to post information as if becomes available if it influences possible prevention strategies.