Red Sky Morning! Blue Sky Day?
Posted on January 27, 2012
Sailors use “Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning. Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.” The American saying of “Blue Skies” generally describes “Good Times”.
Today, we can correlate Red Sky Warning to the radiation disaster originating from the meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plants. Tomorrow’s Blue Skies depend upon how humanity reacts to the reality of the nuclear fallout presence. Preventative concepts must be available and adopted to deal with this ubiquitous problem that one cannot see, smell, nor taste. Without action, the general health and genetic future of life on Earth is at risk. The focus of this article is the continual accumulation of radioisotopes in the environment and how the presences of both radioactive and stable iodine affect the thyroid gland.
HOW MUCH FALLOUT IS HERE?
Since March of 2011, the jet stream has been depositing Fukushima radioactive particles on the North American continent. Those same radionuclides will continue to persistently rain onto Earth into the foreseeable future. These radioactive particles contaminate the environment as dust, through precipitation, and by ocean currents. A Recent world wide collaboration of radiation monitoring data confirms the presence of Japanese 131I in Europe, Russia and North America.
When considering 131I’s relatively short half-life of 8 days, it suggests that Fukushima is actively releasing radioactive Iodine along with other radioisotopes. When the three Tepco uncontrolled corium meltdowns reach the ground water table, the subsequent hydro-explosions will most probably result in the increase of environmental radioactivity that has never before been experienced. Already, recent shallow earthquakes centered under the damaged nuclear power plant site have been confirmed. And what of the Plant 4 plutonium rod reactor’s eminent explosion, which would send another deadly plume skyward? Hopefully, the four day travel time across the Pacific Ocean will provide the people of North America ample time to “duck and cover”.
There are few sources correctly reporting the continual contamination of fallout in our environment. The absence of accurate data should not correlate to the general public’s perceived lack of radionuclide presence in the air, land and sea. Due to the media’s omission of radiation news, “no or almost no fallout” is the tacit message being presented to the public. The fallout data has been sequestered by those who have access to sophisticated instrumentation and the current readings.
Thankfully, the amount of internet websites that utilize personal radiation meter data are becoming more numerous as radioactive awareness and meter presence grow. Soon all on Earth will know of the daily Fukushima radionuclide accumulation that constantly compounds the current unstoppable radiological disaster. It would make sense to answer the question, “How much fallout is here?” by assuming North America has Minor Fallout, Fukushima has Acute Fallout, and Moderate Fallout being present in The Pacific. The discussion below focuses on solutions to these different levels of contamination.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Historically, potassium iodide as well as other forms of iodine have been used for radionuclide treatment and are well known by the public. Based on the ongoing environmental devastation from Fukushima, new guidelines and allowable levels of contamination/radiation are being drafted by government agencies. Below, the Potassium Iodide dosing for the U.S. population in an ACUTE radioactive fallout environment is cited from the existing Federal Drug Administration (FDA) regulations and policy.
Potassium Iodide (KI) is important:
to North Americans: A typical daily 130 mg of Potassium Iodide is only ideal
when in close proximity to a Fukushima-like event! Short-term use would not be harmful to most,
though the 100 mg of Iodine (30 mg being Potassium) is excessive, except in an Acute fallout environment.
are no threshold concentrations that radionuclides begin to harm an organism,
including radio-iodine (131I).
In spite of this, the Government has standardized policy and regulations
to certain identified thresholds.
FDA defined adult dose absorbed threshold for the thyroid gland is 500 centigray
(cGy) which equals 500 rads of radiation from radioactive 131I. Per FDA instruction, if one receives or
expects to receive more than the 500 cGy of radioactive iodine in your thyroid
gland, Potassium Iodide doses based upon gender and age should be administered
for a duration of two weeks. This is to
assume one’s ability to be removed from the ongoing 131I fallout
- Cesium (137Cs), Strontium (90Sr) and other radio-isotopes are not affected by dosing with iodine and will be the topic of future discussion.
THE THYROID’S IODINE
The average adult man has approximately 50 milligrams (mg) of stable iodine (125I) in his body, depending upon the source cited. But, there is agreement that the thyroid gland holds about 10 to 12 mg of the body’s iodine; the remaining being in the gastric mucosa, lungs, salivary glands, ect.
130 mg Potassium Iodide tablet consists of 100 mg of iodine and 30 mg of potassium.
Broken in half, each piece contains 50 mg of iodine which is the same as the
total amount of iodine in an adult’s body.
- Shaving off 1/400 of the half tablet yields 120 micrograms (µg) of iodine, which is the same as the Recommended Daily Intake (RDA) amount of iodine for an adult male. The body uses iodine to both manufacture and replenish many compounds and hormones. Up to 90% of it will go to the thyroid gland for processing. Eating iodine rich/enriched foods usually satisfies this small iodine requirement.
In an Acute fallout environment, the radioactive iodine present in the body can be utilized or excreted out. The length of time that a radioactive 131I ion can be held within the body is 100 days or more. The amount of retention time predominantly depends upon how dilute the 131I ion amount is compared to the quantity of stable good 125I ions that are available for the body to use.
Using the adult male as an example: In the 12 milligrams of stable thyroid gland 125I, there are about 5 × 1019 ions (the number 5 followed by 19 zeros), which is the same as 50,000 quadrillion ions.
[(12 mg/1000 mg per gm)/(125 gm per mole)](6.02 × 1023 ions/mole) = 5 × 1019 stable 125I ions
The FDA’s Acute Threshold of 500 cGy (centigray) absorbed thyroid dose of radioactive iodine (131I) is equal to 333 µCi (microcuries). This equates to 1.23 × 107 Becquerel (Bq [decays per second]) emitting from the thyroid gland. Using the half-life decay formula, there are approximately 1 million ions present per Becquerel of 131I. Thus, at the Acute 131I contamination threshold level, there would be 1.2 × 1013 (12 trillion) 131I ions in the thyroid gland. This quantity is determined by the following equations:
(500 cGy) (1 µCi/1.5 cGy) = 333 µCi [NCI,
(333 µCi) (3.7 × 104 Bq/µCi) = 1.23 × 107 Becquerel
(1.23 × 107 Bq) (~106 131I ions/Bq) = 1.2 × 1013 131I ions [using (N/N0)=e-kt]
12 trillion 131I ions are equivalent to a particle sum of a 40,000 times smaller volume than the above shaved 1/400 of the ½ KI tablet (5 × 1017 /1.2 × 1013 =͂ 4 × 104 ). This amount is barely visible to the naked eye.
HOW MANY GOOD vs. BAD IONS
5 × 1019 125I ions versus 1.2 × 1013 131I ions in the thyroid gland: (5 × 1019)/(1.2 × 1013) = 4 × 106/1 = 4,000,000 per 1. That is 4 million good 125I ions for each single harmful 131I ion in the contaminated adult thyroid gland with the FDA acute threshold limit of 131I ions.
Children have a lower FDA acute threshold of 5 cGy (vs. adult’s 500 cGy). Depending upon age and size, this equates to 100,000,000 or more good 125I ions for every 1 bad 131I ion in the child’s thyroid. This is equivalent to 10 ppb (parts per billion) bad vs. good ions. The beta particles that are being ejected from the decaying 131I ions tear through the body’s cellular structure, inflicting local damage which can result in tumor growth.
The message being conveyed is that very little contamination can cause severe health effects.
Add the daily 130 mg of Potassium Iodide Acute Threshold treatment and the body will be flooded with extra inorganic iodine. Being one thousand times the RDA, the good 125I ions in the bloodstream dilute the radionuclide concentration, thus lessening 131I uptake by 90% or more. The ratio of good vs. bad ions for the thyroid to pick from in the bloodstream can be calculated:
[(100 mg/1000 mg per gm) / (125 gm per mole)] (6.02 × 1023 ions/mole) = 5 × 1020 125I ions
5 × 1020 125I ions versus 1.2 × 1013 131I ions: (5 × 1020)/(1.2 × 1013) = (4 × 107)/1 = 40,000,000 to 1
A bloodstream concentration of 40 million good 125I ions per 1 bad 131I ion is the FDA “acceptable” adult thyroid contamination level, achieved with KI supplementation. This ratio of 40,000,000 to 1 assumes that the (1.2 × 1013) 131I ions have entered the body at the same time and are available for the thyroid to use. Contamination is usually experienced over a period of time, thus a ratio of 400,000,000 to 1 or greater is a more accurate estimated safe limit of good vs. bad ions. In general, for 131I contaminated thyroid treatment, iodine supplementation is used to drastically dilute the bad ion concentration present in the bodily fluids.
Potassium Iodide dosing for a reduced contamination level can be ascertained from the dosing upper limit set by the FDA. If one hundredth of the radioactivity is present in the body (say 5 cGy instead of the 500 cGy), then it would suggest using 1/100 the KI dose, or 1 mg of Iodine (1.3 mg of KI) daily for an adult. The Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) of the Institute of Medicine set a tolerable upper level of intake (UL) for iodine at 1.1 mg/day for adults. This amount is safe for daily use; side-effects are minimal and temporary for most. Those who are iodine sensitive or might be taking a drug that reacts adversely with iodine are the exceptions. It is important to note that even when considering the stated exceptions, per the National Cancer Institute, hundreds of millions 300 mg/day KI doses are administered each year with less than 1 in a million having any side-effects.
MAKING SENSE OF IT ALL
The FDA guideline for an ACUTE radioactive 131I environment recommends an adult take 100 mg of stable iodine (130 mg KI) per day to protect the thyroid gland. Begin taking the KI after being instructed to do so by health authorities, who have stockpiled KI for public use in case of an emergency.
It is suggested by the calculations above that in a MINOR radioactive environment (expected or actual) of 131I thyroid contamination (expected or actual) one hundred times less than the acute levels, an adult take 1 mg of stable iodine (1.3 mg of KI) per day. This amount is below the UL and will achieve the same dilution of good versus bad iodine in the body as the FDA Acute dosing does in the ACUTE situation. In MINOR radiation environments, older children can safely take 0.65 mg of KI (0.50 mg of Iodine) per day for 131I radiation thyroid protection. This is below UL maximum iodine intake and can be taken with no adverse effects in most cases. Based on the UL, those under the age of 7 to 8 years old take a reduced KI dose of 0.375 mg/day or 0.65 mg every 2nd day. Children should be under the care of a health professional while taking KI, especially if levels are greater than the MINOR fallout contamination level. Optimally, all should be under the care of a health professional when dealing with radiation and fallout.
How much KI to take if the environmental contamination levels were MODERATE or 10 times less than the FDA acute levels? The suggested dose is 13 mg of KI per day. This is based on the adult’s acute threshold diluted concentration of 131I ions. The FDA threshold schedule also gives the ACUTE dosing of KI for children (65 mg) and women (130 mg). For MODERATE levels the same linear reduction of KI dose would apply: 13 mg for women, 6.5 mg for older children and 3.75 mg per day for children under the age of 7 to 8 years old. People of all ages and gender should be consulting a health care professional while dosing for MODERATE levels of 131I contamination.
The key to protecting the thyroid gland in a nuclear environment is to actually know the true 131I exposure level. In North America, 131I has not been detected in significant concentrations since April of 2011. A maintenance dose of stable iodine (KI) not exceeding the UL maximum daily intake is suitable for current 131I contamination treatment. But, other radioisotopes present in the Fukushima fallout are also contaminating our food, water and air. The effects upon the environment are far greater because of the longer half-lives and deadly decay chains. The ongoing crisis on the Japanese Island of Honshu is far from over. The planet is currently in a period of increased frequency of earthquakes, volcanic activity and extreme weather events. In the United States, any one of the 103 nuclear power plants is capable of going “Fukushima”, at any time, releasing catastrophic amounts of radionuclides. Mankind must engage the challenges of nuclear fallout or we will forsake our children and grandchildren’s Blue Skies of tomorrow.
Sailor take warning, it’s a Red Sky Morning!
Copyright 2012 by Michael Eckert, P.E.
Re-print only with Sources included.
FDA 2001 Guidance Potassium Iodide as a Thyroid Blocking Agent in Radiation Emergencies: http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/Guidances/UCM080542.pdf
Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, 1970
Iodine Toxicological Profiles: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/ToxProfiles/tp158-c3.pdf http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/ToxProfiles/tp158-c6.pdf
RDA and UL of iodine intake: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/iodine/