Lessons from Chernobyl

Posted to Subscribers on 17 March 2011


Dear Subscribers,

For every post I actually send, there are 2-3 more in a draft folder, often much longer and therefore perhaps tedious. However, because of the magnitude of radiation issue, I will upload all my background information, research, links, etc., etc., etc. into one convenient place. Unlike previous endeavors, I will not create a new web site but rather just a carefully indexed section.

This will take the whole day which is why I am taking the day "off" — it's not like I am going to the beach.

If you are new subscriber, you don't know me yet, but everyone who has been on this list for a while knows that I always tell you to think for yourself. I might connect dots one way but the bigger picture is always huge so there will be people with other perspectives. However, I have been concerned about radiation for years and I have a folder with notes I have been making that dates back to the 70s. As I told a colleague in Sri Lanka, the folder is so old that it is in my handwriting, not digital format. This obviously makes it much slower to convert to web formats.

In the posts that I upload later today, I will explain how the theoretical studies are done, either with lab animals or patients undergoing irradiation. These studies are relevant but they are based on specific parameters that are unique to the exposure, exposures that are, of course, intentional. The reality is that the situation most parallel to what we now have with the Fukushima reactors is Chernobyl. There are also significant differences, but more similarities than to Hiroshima or medical irradiation.

To break through some of the confusion as well as myths, it is really important to separate out the hazards that are unique to crews trying to contain the damage from those that might affect people, animals, plants, soil, and water at greater distances. Let's put these into three risk categories. At greatest risk are the workers at the damaged plant. Moreover, these people are exposed to a wider variety of radioactive materials, some of which have half lives of seconds. In theory, one slip of a mask and some of these people would die rather quickly from what is called acute radiation sickness.

The second level of risk is in the area immediately surrounding the plant, an area that has been evacuated. In the case of Chernobyl, the evacuees had to be resettled and 25 years later, the area closest to the explosion is still unsafe. However, much to the surprise of scientists, tiny signs of life are returning. Not surprisingly, the first signs were fungi that feast on radioactive waste. You know I have been writing about this for years. There is mold in the Mir Space Station so contrary to what some believe, irradiation does not destroy fungi, it just makes it more pathogenic. So, this might be a good time to mention that one of the first alerts to circulate after leaks from Fukushima was not to eat any mushrooms harvested after the first releases of radiation into the atmosphere. I know, I know. I am going to get 20 emails telling me I don't know what I am talking about, but you ignore this advice at your own peril.

In Chernobyl, the first signs of "viability" were fungi in the reactor itself, not on the ground a few kilometers from the explosion but in the reactor. There are places near Chernobyl that some say will be uninhabitable for 400,000 years, but the melanin-rich fungi are thriving so now you know why I have said so many times that people may think they are the top of the food chain but fungi have the last laugh. If you are curious, you can take this a step further and ask what melanin is doing in our bodies? It protects us from ultraviolet radiation so the particular fungi that are thriving on radioactive materials are the ones that are very, very black.

In any event, what we are seeing is that some forms of life are better able to cope with radioactivity so the area around Chernobyl now has some signs of becoming a thriving ecosystem, albeit one that precludes the possibility of human existence.

So, in the areas closest to the disaster, we have evacuation zones and then another area that is at lesser risk but where people are advised to stay indoors as much as possible. If they do have to go out, they should wear wet face masks because cesium explodes on contact with moisture. People in these areas will be exposed to more than radioactive cesium. They will probably be exposed to radioactive iodine and perhaps some uranium and plutonium as well, maybe some strontium-90 and other particulates.

Finally, we have those who are much more distant from the nuclear disaster. Depending on the winds and the time it takes for the wind to reach these more remote places, exposures will vary. In Asia, for example, there is more risk of radioactive iodine exposures than there is in the U.S. I am not downplaying the gravity of this disaster, not for a second, but I am trying to help people who are confused to understand that a press release intended for Tokyo residents may have different advice than one intended for people on the West Coast of the U.S. For the moment, the greatest risk long-term as well as the greatest general risk is cesium-137.

Pet Protection

I have been totally deluged and it is truly impossible to answer personal emails at this time. However, I am reading them, looking at the questions and concerns, and thinking about what to post. Top on today's list are pets and their protection. Since I have pets, I have given this quite a bit of thought, including how to keep Savika indoors if we have a radioactive shower. At the moment, she seems to be reveling in the first hints of spring and is enjoying being outside. This said, she loves Chyawanprash and she has finally come to the point where she likes practically anything I give her, including herbs in tincture form. I think we will manage. Chyawanprash has significant radioprotective properties so I would urge people to consider getting together with friends and family to make your own.

Next, sunflower seeds are a great source of potassium so the birds will get more than usual and I will sprout them when the weather gets just a bit warmer and lighter. Fiesta likes alcohol extracts and flower essences. The cockatoos are more cautious of strange people things, but they will take herbs when I put drops in water or when they can chew on roots or fresh leaves or flowers. In short, I think we can manage.

Others are writing about their gardens. This is so sad. People have been writing for months about chemtrails and now we have radioactivity heading our way. If we all stretch barriers over our gardens, we are obviously going to affect a lot more than we might first imagine but I have to say, I think it is hugely realistic to consider greenhouses and covered space. So, when I look at my half acre, I try to imagine what will do best and where. I think we have to wait and observe. I expect my ginkgo tree to do just fine. It looked rather anemic last year but it obviously didn't like being transplanted. I have ordered seeds and will encourage others to plant both ginkgo and sea buckthorn. These are two plants that have very specific benefits, but much longer harvesting time. For quick starts, I think the research on holy basil is pretty interesting so I will try to cover it and a few different kinds of radioprotective mints in another post. These could be producing edible leaves within a few weeks. In between in harvest time would be ginger and turmeric. Both are radioprotective but unless you already have it growing, it won't be ready to harvest when you need it. Of course, these are available in countless different extract, powder, and food forms.

I am obviously giving this crisis every minute I can possibly find so I hope you will have some patience and not take offense at my failure to answer every individual email.

Many blessings,


Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2011






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Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2011

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