Japan’s nuclear crisis could create serious health problems

March 18th, 2011 - 5:05 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Mar 18 (ANI): A professor of pharmaceutical sciences has said that the nuclear power plant crisis in Japan could create serious health problems if too much radiation is released into the atmosphere.

Reactor problems at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant could lead to exposure to large amounts of radioactivity, which can be lethal to humans and has long-term health consequences.

Radioactive substances are dangerous because they are unstable molecules that are continually exploding. When they explode, they emit ionising radiation containing a high amount of energy.

When particles emitted from an exploding molecule hit a cell in the body, considerable damage ensues. Ionising radiation is like a fusillade of miniature bullets hitting the body or miniature bombs that explode within cells.

There are two types of radioactive exposures. One is the acute exposure to ionising radiation and second is the chronic exposure arising from ingestion or inhalation of the radioactive material

In the first, particles, or energy waves emanating from the radioactive source, can penetrate the body and damage vital cellular machinery.

The greatest concern is when it damages DNA, preventing it from making new proteins to keep the cell alive. Worse yet, it may begin to copy itself abnormally turning the cell into a cancer cell.

In the second, radioactive materials are released as gases or small particulates. The gases can be inhaled and absorbed into the body through the lungs.

Particulates are also dispersed into the air and can also be inhaled. The particulate will ultimately settle on the ground, contaminating everything it contacts. It’s incorporated into plants growing on the contaminated ground, entering the food chain.

This results in long-term sustained exposure to the radioactive molecules. Inside the body, the radioactive molecules continue to explode, damaging the cells in which they are located.

Robert C. Speth, Ph.D., is a professor of pharmaceutical sciences at Nova Southeastern University’s College of Pharmacy. (ANI)

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