Radiation & U: A handy guide to radiation and its effects on you

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By Joshua Ostrer

On March 18, as predicted by the UN’s CTBTO (Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization), the radioactivity reached the west coast of California. As of March 30, there are 12 states that have found traces of the radioactive iodide-131, including states as far east as Massachusetts and that number is expected to increase.

However, the fear that the Japanese reactors spawned in Americans, is apparently, without grounds.  The average American is exposed to radiation on a daily basis. Even bananas contain radioactivity, an amount used as a radiation dose equivalent unit, BED (banana equivalent dose).

According to the EPA’s website, levels of radioactivity are still “thousands of times below any conservative level of concern.” The EPA’s Albany RadNet monitor shows essentially no visible increase in detected radioactivity. “Some of the filter results show levels slightly higher than those found by EPA monitors last week and a Department of Energy of monitor the week before. These types of findings are to be expected in the coming days and are still far below levels of public health concern,” says the EPA.

“There are very small amounts of radioactive material from Japan in the air over the US,” spokeswoman Claudia Hutton told CBS 6. “When it rains or snows, the material is washed to the ground and onto surface waters, such as lakes, rivers and reservoirs. Water quality is being monitored, and the drinking water throughout New York is safe,” said the New York Health Department.

Despite statements from the EPA, NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission), and President Obama himself, the public, especially along the west coast, are harboring panic. Companies selling radioactivity preparedness supplies are selling out of stock across the nation. Potassium iodide, used to prevent damage from radioactive idione-131, has sold particularly well. However, California officials informed the public to “not take potassium iodide as a precautionary measure,” since taking potassium iodide can cause side-effects.

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