With Japan’s disastrous earthquake and stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant making news worldwide, I invited Dr. Alfred Tinger, a radiation oncologist with 21st Century Oncology, to come on “Back Talk Live!” last Sunday to discuss what the public needs to know about radiation. Specifically, I asked him to address the dangers of airborne radiation and contrast that with radiation therapy, which is a safe and important medical treatment.
The first most pressing question I asked was: Do Americans need to be concerned with the radioactive fallout from Fukushima? Well, unless you are living in Japan, within a 50-mile radius of Fukushima, you can consider yourself safe. To date, only miniscule amounts of radiation from the nuclear power plant were detected in the western United States.
When considering radiation risk, you should be aware of how it is measured. The dose of radiation that a person receives is counted in units called rem. At its peek, Fukushima was releasing 40 rem per hour into the nearby environment, one tenth of the dose that causes death in 50 percent of people at 60 days.
When you compare that figure to what you receive from some medical radiation procedures, you’ll see how low the doses you receive are, and take a big sigh of relief. For example, an average x-ray exposes you to 10 millirems (mrem) of radiation, while a CT scan of the chest exposes you to 700 – 1800 mrem. When you look at the average annual US dose of background radiation – just from living and breathing – at 100-200 mrem, it shows just how low medical radiation in practice is.
According to Dr. Tinger, medical radiation has proven to be 99.995 percent safe. With that in mind, isn’t your health worth it?