As the people of Japan continue to deal with an enormous tragedy, both from the tsunami and the dangers of nuclear radiation – and the whole world is concerned that radioactive contamination may affect them through food, sea or air currents – I did what I usually do when faced with the unknown. I researched.
I wanted to find out what a regular person can do if they are exposed to dangerous levels of radiation.
Now the idealist in me thinks, “Oh, the government will tell people how to protect themselves – perhaps even hand out protective supplements.” But the rationalist in me says, “Riiiiiigggght. Not.” Think: Katrina, Gulf oil spill.
What I discovered in my research was actually encouraging. There are simple, inexpensive, natural things you can do to protect yourself and your family if there are high levels of nuclear radiation in your environment. This is not an exhaustive program, but these were the nutrients that I found had the best human evidence of effectiveness. In general, of course, you would want to support your gastrointestinal tract and overall health with antioxidants, minerals like calcium, magnesium, selenium, and zinc, probiotics, and vitamins and to encourage healthy elimination of toxins with normal bowel elimination.
No Geiger counter? Worried about creeping radiation? Get a Spiderwort plant. The stamen hairs of the Spiderwort plant will turn from blue/green to pink after 12-14 days of exposure to nuclear radiation.
Studies done after Chernobyl identified 5 radioactive substances out of 60 that are especially dangerous for humans: iodine-131, cesium-137, strontium-89 and -90 and plutonium. The three most deadly are radioactive iodine, cesium and strontium 90.
What You Can Do
Potassium iodide supplements block the absorption of radioactive iodine. However, unless there is a nuclear accident in your neighborhood, there is no need to take these supplements. They are for emergency use only. Since the normal RDA for iodine is 150 MICROgrams in adults and the Tolerable Upper Intake Level is 1,100 MICROgrams in adults, you can see that the emergency dosage of 130 MILLIgrams (there are 1,000 micrograms in ONE milligram) is quite large and should only be taken in a nuclear emergency.
If you want to support a normal, healthy level of iodine, include kelp, bladderwrack and other seaweed food and supplements in your diet. (Maruyama 1992) If you have thyroid problems, discuss taking any iodine or seaweed supplements with a natural health care practitioner.
Emergency-Only Single Dosage Potassium Iodide:
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the following doses of potassium iodide should be taken as a single dose within three hours of exposure, or up to 10 hours after exposure, although this is less effective.
- Adults: 130 mg
- Adolescents: 12-18: WHO — adult dose; CDC — children’s dose; if adult size (150 pounds or over) they should take the full adult dose, regardless of their age.
- Children ages 3-12 years: 65 mg
- Infants: 1 month to 3 years, 32.25 mg (i.e. half tablet)
- Newborns to 1 month: 1/4 capsule.
Adverse effects: gastrointestinal upset, allergic reactions, skin rashes, salivary gland inflammation, hyperthyroidism, or hypothyroidism.
Apple pectin was used after Chernobyl to help detoxify cesium in contaminated children. The dosage was 5 grams twice a day for a total of 10 grams a day. The average reduction in children receiving pectin was 62.6 percent in one study (Nesterenko 2004) and the mean relative reduction was 33 percent in another study (Hill 2007).
Dosage Apple Pectin: 10 grams a day. No adverse effects.
Alginates from seaweed are the best natural detoxifiers of strontium-90. A study in humans and animals examined sodium alginate preparations from 23 different species of algae and kelp. The most effective was alginate from Sargassum species which reduced strontium absorption in humans by 78 percent and did not have adverse effects on digestion or mineral metabolism. (Gong 1991) Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to identify the specific seaweed source of commercial sodium alginate, but any sodium alginate is better than none.
A study in Germany found that sodium alginate reduced the uptake of ingested strontium from milk by a factor of nine when alginate was added to the milk. I don’t know the dosage in that study. (Hollriegl 2004) A human study used 1.5 g of alginate which reduced absorption of strontium by a factor of two. A larger dose of 3 g had no greater effect. (Harrison 1966) Calcium alginate was also used in some studies and seems to be effective as well. The most likely food to be contaminated with strontium is milk or milk products, so take the sodium alginate with those.
Dosage Sodium Alginate: 1.5 g day. No adverse effects.
What Else Might Help?
The National Center for Scientific Research in Paris reported that the administration of a Ginkgo biloba extract, Egb 761 to workers at Chernobyl helped significantly to decrease radiation damage in blood when given for two months. (Emirit 1995)
Ginkgo biloba (Egb 761) Dosage: 40 mg three times a day. No adverse effects.
A small study of 5 volunteers found that a single dose of 500 mg of hawthorn helped reduce radiation damage to blood cells an average of 44 percent. (Hosseinimehr 2009)
Hawthorn Dosage: 500 mg. No adverse effects.
Montmorillonite and bentonite clay have been used to bind and prevent radiation movement in soil. Clay was given to dairy animals after Chernobyl and was effective in preventing cesium contamination of their milk. (Unsworth 1989) Taking a teaspoon of montmorillonite or bentonite clay may help bind and eliminate radioactive cesium and heavy metals.
Clay Dosage: 1 teaspoon daily in water. No adverse effects.
A Final Note …
Here’s an economical way you can know if your environment is contaminated:
Emerit I, et al. Radiat Res. 1995 Nov;144(2):198-205.
Galland L. Can supplements reduce damage from radiation? The Huffington Post. March 21, 2011. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leo-galland-md/supplements-radiation-_b_837420.html
Gong YF, et al. Biomed Environ Sci. 1991 Sep;4(3):273-82.
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Hill P et al. Radiat Prot Dosimetry. 2007;125(1-4):523-6. Epub 2007 Feb 20.
Hollriegl V, et al. Health Phys. 2004 Feb;86(2):193-6.
Hosseinimehr SJ, et al. Radiat Environ Biophys. 2009 Feb;48(1):95-8.
Maruyama H, et al. Kitasato Arch Exp Med. 1992 Dec;65(4):209-16.
Stephen R. Nuclear accidents and food contamination Part II. Radionuclides and health effects. www.elements.healthspace.com/?p=540
Nesterenko VB, et al. Swiss Med Wkly. 2004 Jan 10;134(1-2):24-7.
Unsworth EF, et al. Sci Total Environ. 1989 Sep;85:339-47.