Radiation Risk from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant

According to the experts, the risk of radiation exposure from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant is low, and the US government is closely monitoring the situation. The Japanese government has implemented preventive measures to prevent an wave of cancer caused by fallout, and according to Owen Hoffman, a radiation risk expert at the consulting firm SENES Oak Ridge Inc., in Tennessee, even if there were a substantial release of radiation, and it did reach the US, it would be greatly diluted.

According to the CDC, radiation exposure can lead to Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS), also known as radiation toxicity or radiation sickness, and is caused by high doses of penetrating radiation to at least  most of the in a short period of time.

Normally the first symptoms of ARS will be nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Symptoms will start within minutes to days after the exposure, and can last for minutes or up to several days. They may also come and go. Then there is usually a short period where one looks and feels healthy, after which they will become sick again with loss of appetite, fatigue, fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, as well as seizures and coma. This seriously ill stage may last from a few hours up to several months depending on the level of exposure.

If radiation exposure is suspected, a series of CBC (complete blood count) tests can be useful to monitor lymphocyte count as depletion may occur after exposure to radiation. HLA (human leukocyte antigen) typing may be done as well.  These tests will be done prior to any initial blood transfusion and at periodic intervals following the transfusion.