This isn’t news I want to post. or believe.  Summer is my favorite time of year, and I’d love to spend every moment of it outdoors.  However, thanks to the persistence of Nathan Leal (4-5-11 broadcast here), I’ve decided to at least consider the fact that we may currently be receiving radioactive fallout over the entire United States.  What’s worse, this radioactive fallout may continue to drop over the U.S. for months.

(The current event has now been upgraded to a level 7 event (4/11/11).)

I recently took the time to watch a documentary on the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. (I couldn’t find the same YouTube channel where I watched it, but this is the same video.  It’s 1.5 hours long and is called ‘The Battle for Chernobyl’)  It is good ‘background’ for understanding the challenges we may be facing.

The thing to note now, is that the Fukushima nuclear plant has ten times the radioactive fuel that Chernobyl had, so its potential effect is much greater.

I’ve heard it said that simply ‘pouring concrete over’ the Fukushima plant (as they ended up doing at Chernobyl) is not as easy as one might imagine.  From watching the Chernobyl documentary, it became apparent that such an endeavor was both very risky and very complex.  Add to that, I have heard that Japan has no cement mixers and lacks the raw materials for making cement, and that such things would have to be imported before any such construction could begin.

I don’t claim to be your best source of news on this nuclear disaster.  In fact, I only occasionally look for info. on the situation.  As well as the links above, here is another source to investigate, as you seek out the truth for yourself:

Suite 101.com :   April 9, 2011 West Coast Radiation Update and Urgent Warning

(Update:  here is a site with continuing credible, honest analysis–by a nuclear scientist without any apparent agenda–of what is happening at Fukushima.)

There is plenty of info out there, about what supplements you can take, etc.  I’m not going to get into that.  You can seek out the information and pray as to what God would have you do for yourself and your family.  What I am going to do–hopefully–is help you learn  how to ‘visualize’ the radiation that may be falling into your environment.  Once you are aware of it, you can decide what you will do to minimize your exposure.

I will use Iodine 131 to explain.  In many ways, Iodine 131 is the least harmful of the radioactive elements that may reach us from Fukushima.  It is not the only radioactive element that may impact us though. But, for the sake of simplicity, I will just talk about this one.

According to Wikipedia, the ‘half life’ of iodine 131 is about 8 days.  Here is what that ‘half life’ means, in practical terms:

  • Day zero:
  • ——-  particles are 100% radioactive
  • Day 8:
  • ——-  50% radioactive  (half of day zero’s radioactivity is gone)
  • Day 16:
  • ——-  25% radioactive  (half of eight days ago’s radioactivity is gone)
  • Day 24:
  • ——-  12.5% radioactive (half of eight days ago’s radioactivity is gone)
  • Day 32:
  • ——-  6.25% radioactive (half of eight days ago’s radioactivity is gone)
  • Day 40:
  • ——-  3.125% radioactive (half of eight days ago’s radioactivity is gone)

The length of time for the radioactivity to drop to a ‘safe’ level depends on how much radioactivity you begin with.  Someone in your family is going to have to do the math.

So, for simplicity’s sake, lets say there was one event that released radiation and you received fallout one time.  You did the math and determined that, for it to be ‘safe’, you needed the radiation to be reduced to 25% of what it was on the day your received the fallout.  In that case, you would need to avoid the radiation for 16 days.

How would you avoid the radiation?  According to my understanding (and I am not an expert), these are some of the things you’d need to consider (we will assume the fallout came as rain):

  • You will not want to get the rain on you, or drink it (that goes for Fido too).
  • If you get it on you, it would be best to take off your clothes before coming inside–and leave them outside.
  • It would be best to dry off outside, and leave the towel outside.  (You do not want to leave a wet, radioactive trail through the house.)
  • Come inside and shower and shampoo.

Now you are safe inside your home–pretty much.  If you can stay inside for the next 16 days–great, not much to worry about!  That includes not having anything from outside coming in during that time–no pets or visitors tracking in,  no rain leaks, and no fresh breezes.

Now, curl up with a warm drink and look out the window.  Lets remember when it was raining and bringing down the radioactive fallout . . .

Here’s what happens outside:  Every where the rain falls is becoming covered with radioactive fallout.  Wherever puddles form, the radioactivity is higher.  If you collect rain in a rainbarrel, it will become a big radioactivity emitter until the radiation inside it has died down (decayed).

Notice that almost everything gets wet in the rain . . . every table, every chair, every wire, every leaf, every bird, every window, every inch of your roof, etc.

Now, imagine that everything that is wet is glowing orange.  Even after it dries, it continues to glow orange . . . because ‘drying’ just means that the water  has evaporated, but the radioactive dust remains.  Imagine everything that was wet as if it is now covered with a glowing orange dust.

When the wind blows, orange dust blows. Now, even places that didn’t get wet have their share of radioactive dust–this includes your porch.  (And inside your house, if the windows are open.)

All this radioactive dust, that is so easily blown around, is why you do not want Fido to go out, if it can be avoided.  If he must, imagine him afterwards, covered in orange, glowing dust (fur, feet, inside lungs now, etc.) .  Meet him outside the door and clean him up as best you can, then take him to the tub and rinse him down.

While in the bathroom, put your clothes in a trash bag. Take the bag of clothes, and Fido’s wet towel to the door, wiping the imaginary glowing orange dust off the floor behind you as you go.  Put the towel and the bag of clothes outside the door and plan to leave them there until ‘safe’ day.  (You’ll be doing lots of laundry that day!)  Go back in and take a shower.  After all this trouble, you may decide to give Fido just one meal a day for awhile!

Back to looking out the window . . . Notice again, that the orange glowing dust is everywhere.  Even when you are in the house, some of that glowing orange dust is not far away from you–because the radioactivity simply goes through walls, roof, windows, etc.  Not much is actually on the walls or windows–but if you have a big tree close to the house, notice that every single leaf is glowing orange and sending radioactivity towards you.  The ground is also glowing orange and sending up radioactivity.  The roof is glowing orange as radioactivity shines down on you from above.  And if water typically runs into your basement, orange radioactivity is shining up on you from there too.

Now, take stock of everything that is near your house–bushes, trees, rainbarrel (temporary radioactivity emitter), etc.   Imagine your walls are just a thin sheet of plastic, and visualize what is on the other side of the walls.   Now that you know where the radioactive particles are resting outside, you may want to consider finding a sitting place that  is as far away from radioactivity as possible.  (A room with no windows may not be the best place, if there are bushes and trees close to the walls outside–conversely, a room full of windows may be ok, if the floor is above ground level and there is nothing outside near the walls or windows of the room.)

So, this is how you live until ‘safe day’ . . . which is great, if there is only one ‘event’ and you receive fallout only once . . .  But lets say the threat is ongoing, and you receive another rainstorm on day 10 . . .  all of a sudden things get really complicated.

Now, the previous, partly decayed (no longer 100%) radioactive dust is washed off surfaces by the rain (new, contaminated rain).  Imagine it glowing radioactive red.  The old dust isn’t gone, it’s just mixed in with the rain, and ends up on the ground, making it the most radioactive surface–imagine it glowing and swirling red and orange.  Everything else is glowing red and tomorrow will be a radioactive red dust that will begin its process of decay.

The ground (and your rain barrel) now have the highest radioactivity.  Time to find out how much fallout you were exposed to this time and ‘reset’ the clock for how long you’ll need to stay inside before it’s ‘safe’.  Now the math is getting complicated, because you have to keep track of the old fallout and the new fallout.  And, every time it rains, it gets harder to figure out.

This is just one scenario.  It may not be that bad.  It may be that you are only getting trace amounts each time–but if you don’t know how much, and you aren’t doing the math: how do you know when you’ve had too much and need to stay inside awhile and take precautions?  Is it when it has rained twice?  Ten times? Twenty times?  Or is it when you’ve gotten two inches of rain?  Six inches?  Sixteen?  It is virtually impossible to know if you are not getting accurate information about what you are being exposed to and how much.

Lets say though, for the sake of argument, that by the grace of God we DO only get trace amounts throughout the summer, that it is only Iodine 131,  and that they are able to stop the radiation leakage soon.  This is an absolute best case, most optimistic scenario . . . and in my opinion, not likely.  But, if we are this fortunate, what do you need to do, to minimize your risk?

  • Rather than open windows, use  a/c.
  • Use good filters, and change them often.
  • Leave contaminated things outside the house.
  • Minimize what contamination you track and carry into the house.
  • Shower and shampoo after coming in from outdoors.
  • Wash your pets (very) often.
  • Keep pets in as much as possible.
  • Stay in as much as possible so you aren’t breathing in radioactive dust.
  • Wear a dust mask (over  mouth and nose) when outdoors.
  • Don’t collect rainwater unless you know it isn’t contaminated.
  • Wait a month or so to use rainwater you’ve recently collected.

If you really need to grow food outside, here are some ideas:

  • Plan to use a lot of tap water this summer–for cleaning the plants often, and for watering them.
  • Rinse the plants (and especially the edible parts) daily, taking care not to splash mud back onto the plants.
  • Consider covering the ground with plastic and planting through holes in the plastic.  If you use big staples or rocks to hold down the plastic, you can lift it up when you water (with tap water). This will help to reduce the amount of radioactive water the roots take up.
  • Plant things that don’t need to be eaten right away (like dried beans, dried corn, etc.).
  • Plan to can your produce and wait a few months to eat it.
  • Skip the greens, for now.  If you really want to eat vegetables fresh from the garden, grow something that can be washed and peeled.  Be sure to rinse the plants daily while they’re growing, and wash and peel before eating.
  • My guess is that root vegetables (carrots, turnips, potatoes, radishes, etc.) are probably not a good choice.  But, if you insist–cover the ground with plastic (as mentioned above) and be sure to wash the leaves of the plants daily, because plants do absorb things through their leaves.
  • Realize that you are increasing your risk by being outside.  Wear a dust mask.  Wear a hat.  Clean yourself up as much as possible before going inside.   Leave your clothes at the door.  Don’t track into the house.  Shower and shampoo.

Remember, like I said–this is a BEST case scenario and these suggestions are just a starting point, because things may not go this well at all.

You saw that for Iodine 131 (whose half-life is 8 days) to decay to 3% takes about 6 weeks.  The other possible radioactive contaminants have half-lives of many years–that means many years to be reduced from 100% just to 50%.

Most of the precautions listed above are not going to be anywhere near sufficient if we receive fallout of anything other than Iodine 131–or if we receive more than trace amounts of it (Iodine 131).

(Perhaps now it is a bit easier to understand why some people are so opposed to nuclear energy–and why some people are making such a ‘big fuss’ about what is going on now.)

For now, not much is being said.  For now, most people prefer to believe everything is ok (and those who may potentially have legal liability prefer it that way too).  But that doesn’t mean nothing is happening! That is precisely how the Chernobyl event was handled (and the BP spill . . .?).

For a nation that is prone to denial, an invisible, unreported danger is the easiest of all to ignore!

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