Ignorance is a bigger threat

Two Japanese workers were hospitalized Thursday for radiation exposure after contaminated water seeped into their boots during repair efforts at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility.

The workers were exposed to 170 to 180 millisieverts of radiation while laying electrical cables in

the basement of the building housing reactor No. 3. The average American, by comparison, is exposed 6.2 millisieverts of radiation per year from natural sources, according to the EPA, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Meanwhile, Japanese citizens are buying all the bottled water they can, after the government warned that infants should not consume tap water because elevated levels of radioactive iodine were detected at a water treatment plant. (Reassuringly, countries, corporations and relief agencies are rushing water and other drinks to the country, along with other aid.)

Many Americans are acting as if they are the ones at risk from radiation during this crisis in Japan. In little towns and big cities, people are scrambling to purchase potassium iodide tablets, despite warnings from local, state and federal health and government officials that there is no reason to do so. No doubt, with a certain segment of the population, such warnings will always have the opposite effect.

(Remember, everyone wanted the H1N1 flu vaccine when it was unavailable; the government was accused of hoarding it. When it became available, the government was accused of trying to force it on people.)

Still, it bears repeating that Americans are exposed to more doses of radiation daily that are 100,000 times higher than levels coming from Japan, according to the EPA. We are exposed to radiation from natural sources, like rocks and the sun, and from man-made sources, such as medical imaging and plane travel. The radiation levels from Japan are 100,000 times lower than what a person would get taking a round-trip international flight.

People in the affected area of Japan should take the medication, which works only to protect the thyroid. Others taking it for no reason risk harming their thyroid gland.

None of this matters, however, as doctors continue to be inundated with inquiries, and pharmacies have run out of the non-prescription drug. The three approved manufacturers are out of stock. Not to worry, however. Scammers on the Internet are more than happy to supply panicked people with something, although it’s likely not potassium iodide. What’s riskier than taking an unneeded medication? Taking an unknown unneeded medication.

It speaks to the need for sound science education when people, who have little to no risk from the radiation, clamor to take a medication that might harm their health.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Opinion

Vote 2024. US American presidential election 2024. Vote inscription, badge, sticker. Presidential election banner Vote 2024, poster, sign. Political election campaign symbol. Vector Illustration
Editorial: Ron Muzzall’s work warrants reelection to Senate

Janet St. Clair offers key experience, but Muzzall is effective and sets an example for civil leadership.

Editorial cartoons for Tuesday, July 23

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Help in efforts to save birds, wildlife

Since the 1970s, North America has lost 30 percent of its birds,… Continue reading

Say yes to saving lives by voting for Mukilteo EMS levy

The Mukilteo Fire Department is asking voters to renew the levy for… Continue reading

Kristof: What Biden’s decision not to run means for America

Biden’s selfless choice aids his party, secures his legacy and improves the world’s chances for normalcy.

G9ldberg: And just like that, Democrats find reason for joy

Following Biden’s decision to end his campaign and endorse his veep, Democrats are positively giddy.

Brooks: Democrats must provide an answer to MAGA’s promises

For Democrats to succeed, they need to offer people a future of both security and progress.

Scott Spahr, Generation Engineering Manager at Snohomish County PUD, points to a dial indicating 4 megawatts of power production from one of two Francis turbine units at the Henry M. Jackson Powerhouse on Friday, Feb. 17, 2023, near Sultan, Washington. Some of the water that passes through units 3 and 4 — the two Francis turbines — is diverted to Lake Chaplain, which supplies water to Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Editorial: Amber King best suited for PUD’s 2nd District seat

Among three solid candidates, King’s knowledge of utilities and contracts will serve ratepayers well.

Vote 2024. US American presidential election 2024. Vote inscription, badge, sticker. Presidential election banner Vote 2024, poster, sign. Political election campaign symbol. Vector Illustration
Editorial: Return Wagoner and Low to 39th Disrict seats

‘Workhorse’ Republicans, both have sponsored successful solution-oriented legislation in each chamber.

A law enforcement officer surveys the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, the site of the Republican National Convention, on July 14, 2024. (Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times)
Editorial: Weekend’s violence should steel resolve in democracy

Leaders can lower the temperature of their rhetoric. We can choose elections over violence.

Editorial cartoons for Monday, July 22

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Krugman: For Trump, once again, it’s carnage in America

Ignoring the clear decline in crime rates for much of the country, Trump basks in thoughts of mayhem.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.