DOH on radiation illness

This is a Cold War era survey-meter (also know...Image via WikipediaA March 14, 2011 briefer by the Department of Health

Exposure from ionizing radiation following nuclear plant accidents may cause acute as well as long-term effects on health.

Health effects are largely determined by the degree and duration of exposure. The highest risk to health is found among nuclear plant workers. Communities a few miles around the plant may also be affected. That is why evacuation may be necessary to reduce this risk.

Very early occurrence of vomiting or very serious conditions or even death among exposed population, strongly suggest human absorption of very high doses of ionizing radiation. Blood tests may be done to confirm exposure. Geiger counter or dosimeter (see picture) are also used to monitor progressive exposure to radiation.

Acute illness is known as acute radiation syndrome or radiation poisoning. This manifests as nausea, vomiting, fever or diarrhea. More serious conditions appear with extreme exposure. A latent period follows and lasts for weeks or months. Then more serious conditions affecting other organs may occur. Hair may fall and blood may be found in stools or vomit.

It is important that proper decontamination is done among those exposed. This means removing all clothes and shoes followed by showering. Treatment is given to prevent organ damage.

Long-term effects after exposure include cancers and genetic malformations in fetuses.

Presently, Japanese authorities are implementing containment procedures to eliminate radiation leaks. People have also been evacuated from a 12-mile radius. Hundreds have been screened for radiation exposure and so far no report of any illness was made.