Fire department officials wait for arriving residents evacuated from areas surrounding the Fukushima nuclear facilities damaged in Friday's massive earthquake are checked for radiation exposure Sunday, March 13, 2011, Koriyama city, Fukushima prefecture, Japan. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
Americans scared of radiation from Japan's nuclear power plants are making a run on radiation poisoning pills.
However, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said there is little threat here from Japanese radiation. That is because of the distance, which, along with the fact that radiation decays over time, are crucial factors.
Radiation is measure in "Grays" or Gy for short. A chest X-Ray exposes you to less than .1 Gy. One whole Gy can cause symptoms. 6 Gy's can cause death in 2 days to 2 weeks.
Since Gy's are hard to measure, doctors often go by symptoms which are very time specific.
If it's low dose it may cause nausea and vomiting in 6 hours, but usually causes no other symptoms.
Moderate dose - meaning 2-6 Gy's -causes nausea and vomiting sooner in two hours, along with diarrhea, headache and fever.
Severe and potentially fatal doses of 6-10 Gy's cause the same symptoms but they occur sooner; as early as ten minutes to one hour.
The point here is that if you only experience nausea and vomiting and no other symptoms for days the dose was probably mild.
The treatments for radiation poisoning are: If you are close to the area: remove all clothing and wash thoroughly; That removes 90% of radiation particles.
Since uranium turns to radioactive iodine that can cause cancer we give potassium iodide to known exposures within 48 hours. That can concentrate in the thyroid and may prevent thyroid and other cancers.
Doctors also can give Prussian blue or other chemicals that force radiation particles out of the body.
There is no reason to be fearful here in Southern California. Even if you came into contact with someone who came from Japan, especially if they have changed clothing and washed up.
Published at 7:04 AM PDT on Mar 15, 2011