Following the Chernobyl disaster In 1986, I wrote the first edition of Radiation Protection Manual, Concerns about the dangers of radiation – both ionizing and non-ionizing, are still present, despite plans for building more nuclear reactors, using spent uranium in weapons, and in spite of threats of building more nuclear weapons.
Thinks have not changed much since 1989. Contrary to what many people believe, radiation is far more toxic than any chemical, pesticide or other poisonous substance. Why? Any form of energy sufficient to break a chemical bond can produce free radicals. Ionizing radiation is sufficient to rip electrons out of their orbits. According to Dr. Ernest Sternglass, each electron emitted by a radioactive nucleus has several million electron volts of energy, “sufficient to disrupt millions of organic molecules in living cells. Thus, radioactive isotope which concentrate in specific organic (such as iodine 131 in the thyroid gland) are much more damaging than ordinary chemical toxins such as lead or teratogens such as thalidomide.” (Ernest J. Sternglass, Ph.D., “The Implications of Chernobyl for Human Health,” Int. J. of Biosocial Research, 8 (1):7-36, 1986).
Next, radiation doesn’t go away quickly. It is not biodegradable like your everyday garbage. Instead, each radioactive substance has its own half-life, the time it takes for one half of it to disintegrate via emission of radioactive particles. This can occur inside your body if you breathe radioactive air, eat radioactive food or drink radioactive water.
Radioactive isotopes are dangerous because they emit radioactive products as they “decay” to a more stable mass and because certain isotopes tend to concentrate in certain organs. See chart. Inside the target organ, the isotope decays, causing cellular damage such as toxin production, enzyme destruction, cell membrane damage, DNA destruction, and abnormal cell division (inhibited, retarded or cancerous).
Here are half lives of common radioactive elements. Radioactive strontium (Sr 90) has a half life of 28 years. To find the full life of a radioactive substance, multiple its half life by 20. So strontium 90 will be around for 28 X 20 = 560 years. Plutonium 239 with its half life of 24,400, will be around for 500,000 years.
The isotope most feared is iodine 131 (I 131) which tends to concentrate in the thyroid gland and the ovaries. It has an eight day half life (560 day full life) which is a rapid decay rate but it also means that the iodine releases heavy doses of radioactivity. Radioactive iodine is especially dangerous to the unborn and to young children whose growth depends upon a healthy thyroid gland.
Also, children absorb other toxic metals, such as lead five times faster than adults until they are past the age of vie. (David L. Watts, M.D., “Prevalent of Lead in the Environment Threatens Children,” Health Freedom New, Oct. 1985)
It is important to know that the absorption of toxic substances is inhibited in well nourished children and adults, and increased in malnourished people, including those who eat processed (junk), commercial foods.
Download my complete guide to Radiation Protection Nutrition here.