So, you’re sitting there watching the news and the reporter sagely looks at the camera and says, “The current radiation levels recorded at the #2 reactor was measured to be 100 millisieverts”. It sounds bad. The question is, how bad is it really?
In the SI system, a millisievert (mSv) is a measure of radiation that is equivalent to the average accumulated amount of background radiation a person would be exposed to over the course of a year. Now, it’s going to get a little confusing, but I’ll try to be as clear as I can be. A millisievert is also defined as the dose produced by the exposure to 1 milligray (mGy) of radiation. When discussing radiation risk, therefore, we end up talking about a combination of mSv and mGy.
If we’re dealing with medical x-rays and the like, we tend to be dealing with localized exposure. In the case of nuclear fallout, however, we’re looking at whole-body exposure. It is from this perspective that we’ll be working.
When looking at a dose of radiation, we’re concerned with the fact that it’s cumulative. As such, we always think in terms of dosage per hour. From a whole-body exposure, we run into onset of acute radiation sickness at an exposure of ~500 mGy. Significant gastrointestinal distress occurs at ~3000 mGy. Exposure of ~5000 mGy is considered to be lethal for 50% of the population when not treated for 30 days.
It gets to be tricky talking about this stuff because it’s important to always look at the dose per hour. Cumulative exposure means that the longer you’re exposed, the lower the amount of emitted radiation required to cause trouble. This is one of the reasons why they tell you to stay indoors when you’re in an area that is contaminated. By staying indoors, you reduce your exposure and, therefore, the dose.
When you’re facing a dose of ~100 mSv, you’re okay in the short-term. That said, it’s still a hit to your immune system. By the time you get to a dose of 400 mSv and higher, your immune system becomes compromised, white cell counts are reduced and your lymphocytes are depressed.
There are already a number of articles here that discuss optimizing immune system health, and these are all relevant for those of us who face exposure to increased radiation levels. I encourage readers to browse the site and get up to speed on the various ways we can optimize our immune function.
There’s a lot you can do to make exposure to low levels of radiation less harmful. Chief among them is simply this: DON’T PANIC! Worrying only ever makes things worse. There’s a big difference between being informed and making appropriate decisions versus panicking yourself unnecessarily. The more you worry, the more you depress your immune system, which is already a contraindication to good health.
So, don’t worry. Be happy. And stay tuned for more updates on how you can take care of yourself through the coming challenges we’re all facing.
Love and Light to all.