Try Not to Panic

Posted to Subscribers on 19 March 2011


Dear Subscribers,

This will be a continuation of some of the recent posts, but there are a couple of small notes I would like to put at the beginning. As you can imagine, I have been deluged. I actually stayed up very late and read all the emails but could not answer all of them. Please allow me to respond via the list instead of personally.

Secondly, many of you requested permission to reprint the posts. Since I closed my Facebook account, I have given one person permission to post to her account.

I am asking others to link to the index which I try to keep up-to-date.

The Nuclear Age

Now, the Pacifi Ka and many more related topics.

As I said, I have been aware of fallout since childhood when some of our school drills involved diving under desks as if they would prevent dematerialization in the event of a nuclear attack. I think we all ought to look at the absurdity of those drills as well as the immense fear this propaganda engendered in a population that literally grew up hostage to the nuclear age. I am truly hoping that the recent events in Japan close a long chapter of absolute insanity and abuse of mental resources and everything and everyone living on this Planet. In a bizarre sort of way, this terrible crisis might help us to avert World War III and a world amok with issues over energy and power.

That is the only silver lining if there is one. My heart still bleeds for the people of Japan, and I pray that this catastrophe does not become a Chernobyl.

For those who are highly nervous, try to keep in mind that most of us have been experiencing fallout for decades. In addition, we are exposed to natural radiation, medical radiation, and now scatter radiation in airports and stores. None of it is good. The safe level is zero, but somewhere between ultra safe and very dangerous, there are some less hysterical resting places for the body and mind. This said, getting a clear fix on exactly what hazards are associated with radiation is no easy task because from the outset, much of the research has been conducted in secrecy and misused, starting with Marie Curie and then the bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and later in the Cold War and now in the never ending quest for weapons of mass destruction. However, there are a few straight facts and one is that high exposure can result in immediate death. What exactly happens at lower levels seems to be imprecise. Personally, I suspect the consequences are always downplayed by officialdom and probably just a bit exaggerated by Greenpeace et al. In theory, the immediate effect of low doses of irradiation would be practically imperceptible but might manifest months later as an increase in birth defects. We have seen agonizing evidence of this in Iraq and Afghanistan due to the use of depleted uranium in weapons. The bunker busters and other weapons designed to penetrate armored vehicles and other targets volatilize and infect all in the vicinity. Then, the debris is carried by air currents where people great distances can become victims. However, the exposure levels define the difference between acute and chronic radiation poisoning so, for all intents and purposes, the only persons at risk of acute exposure are the workers in the nuclear power plants. This happened in Chernobyl and seems to have caused radiation sickness among a few Japanese as well as many members of the military in war zones. Others have varying levels of exposure and risk.


Over the last days, I have gone into more details from Chernobyl to try to determine what we really know and what has been hidden. What we know is that distribution of the fallout was very irregular. Most of Europe, except for the Iberian Peninsula, had some measure of fallout, but the hardest hit were parts of Russia, Belarus, and of course the Ukraine. After this, the distribution was much less predictable. There were hard hit places in Scandinavia and Bavaria and then areas where the impact was not as great. Moreover, what was carried on the winds was mostly cesium-137 whereas what was released closer to the power plant itself had strontium-90 and radioactive iodine. We can expect to see some repetition of this pattern with the Fukushima disaster. Some substances will have very short half lives, seconds in some cases, and some will have much longer-term impacts. For example, the evacuation zone around Chernobyl is still radioactive, a ghost town. Let us hope this is not the case in Japan because a far larger number of people have been displaced.

Last night, I studied some meteorological sites and noted that no one can yet say with certainty where the winds are heading, but averaging the speeds, if they head towards Southern California, the time it takes to reach the coast from Japan would be about eleven days. Seattle is a bit closer so the winds would reach here sooner, but the fact is no one knows yet where the releases will be carried. However, with every day that passes, we realize that the releases will occur and that there are so many variables still that most bets are off the table. Obviously, the difference between the best and worst case scenarios is great.


This said, it is probably true that those who are farther from the plants are at less risk. Surely, it is true that my risks are lower than those living in Tokyo, so what are the risks? Initially, we cannot expect anything dramatic, but as noted, the incidence of birth defects can increase, but it will drop off after a surprisingly short time. If we can trust the Chernobyl figures, the spike in defects lasted less than two years. The greatest known risk is a higher incidence of cancer. Childhood leukemias apparently only spike in the areas with significant fallout. Other types of cancer seldom appear within the first decade of exposure, and some sources blamed failure of patients to adhere to recommended preventative protocols. What I was seeing in the clinic in Bavaria were a few cases that might have been related to radiation exposure but there were other compounding factors that also needed to be considered. Officially, there were about a million deaths attributed to fallout from Chernobyl, this over a 25-year period. My guess is that the numbers are washed up a bit in order to downplay the inherent risks of nuclear energy, but ignoring other cancer risk factors, such as smoking, makes it very difficult to draw straight lines.

Regardless, the bottom line is that in the best case, the power plants are designed to be retired after 40-50 years and there will be a lot of spent uranium and perhaps other decayed metals when plants are taken out of service. This nightmare is almost bigger than the routine safety issues since most depleted radioactive material has found its way into weapons and some healthcare products, like the lovely zirconium put in mouths that are a few centimeters from the brain!


Radioprotective Herbs

The damage caused by radiation is not exactly cumulative, more like compounding because of the instability of the atoms. This is, in fact, what is meant by "radioactive". There are herbs and herbal formulas that are radioprotective. Among the more interesting of these is Ginkgo biloba, a very ancient plant having no family members. It has been cultivated for centuries in monasteries in East Asia and the oldest known tree is in a botanical garden in Shanghai. It is believed to be 3000 years old. My first encounter with ginkgo was in Japan in 1962, but ginkgo's claim to fame is that four trees that were very close to the Hiroshima A-bomb explosion survived when nothing else in the vicinity remained. It is this property that intrigues. What scientists found was the 40 mg. of Gingko biloba, three times a day, when taken orally provided adequate protection for recovery workers at the Chernobyl nuclear site. This is hugely significant because these are the very people deemed to be most at risk. The workers took this amount for two months, not excessive at all. Pacifi Ka is, of course, based on ginkgo. At the suggested dose level, a bottle lasts an adult one month.

I will leave this for now, except for some philosophical notes. When overtaken by strange feelings while passing through Nevada, I stopped the car to contemplate. The sand was white. Except for some yucca, I felt the entire expanse had been sterilized, left barren, by human folly. As I studied the various yucca and could not find even two that looked alike, the idea of mutation rooted itself; but then one asks what is it about the plant that is resilient. At the time, I thought the ability to retain moisture was one saving grace whereas the saponins must also be important. As said, this is a good place for a break . . . to be continued, of course.



Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2011






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Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2011

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