Friday, May 24, 2013
State: AK Could See Very Small Increase In Radiation Levels
State health officials say levels would be well below a health concern
The explosions at the Fukishima Daiichi nuclear power plant have triggered fears across the globe, including Alaska, of radiation exposure.
The state commissioner of health and social services says Alaska could see a “very small increase in radiation levels—well below levels that would be a health concern.”
State officials say there are monitoring radiation levels at stations throughout the state—in Juneau, Anchorage and Fairbanks—through black boxes, which send that information back to state and federal computers.
But state health officials say, the chances of radiation reaching Alaska from Japan are very slim.
“The immediate effects occur within minutes and they typically are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, general malaise,” said Joe McLaughlin, state epidemiologist for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.
Weeks to months later, those symptoms get worse.
“They can also develop skin damage, hair loss, problems with the bone marrow and that can result in infection and ultimately can cause death,” McLaughlin said. “If you're going to die from radiation exposure, that usually occurs within months.”
But the chances of the problem affecting Alaskans are slim, officials said.
“Right now, we don't expect any radiation to affect Alaska,” said Chris Laborde, the state’s emergency program manager.
Scientists with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission say weather is keeping the radiation at bay: rain and snow are clearing the atmosphere and wind is carrying the rest of the radiation out to sea.
Still, some are worried.
“Some Alaskans have been calling in, asking whether or not it is appropriate for them to be taking potassium iodide and the simple answer to this at this point is, no,” McLaughlin said.
The pills protect the thyroid against radiation, but they can be harmful.
“It also can cause adverse side effects and therefore should only be taken if exposure to considerable doses of radiation is expected to occur,” McLaughlin said. “At this point there's no immediate or anticipated indication that this will occur in Alaska.”
Radiation may not be a concern, health officials say, but they're urging Alaskans to be prepared should an earthquake or tsunami strike.