Under the U.S. legal definition, I am not a “down-winder”,
But as a small child I lived in southern Utah during the tail end of the nuclear testing in Nevada. According to my parents, there were days that the dairy farmers (who produced the milk I drank as a toddler) had to dump all their milk into the river, causing it to flow white, because the milk was “too radioactive to sell” that day. I’ve always wondered how big the difference was between the days when it was “too radioactive” and the days it wasn’t.
Am I the picture of perfect health these days? Not at all. Are my health problems attributable to my radiation exposure as a child? Possibly some of my risks are higher, but I don’t see that my health difficulties are much worse than others my age, and they are likely due more to lifestyle choices than anything else.
I say all this in light of the nuclear nightmare that is currently happening in Japan. I feel great sorrow and compassion for those in the immediate area who have lost lives and loved ones and I hope that the engineers can find a way to stop the reactors that are still causing danger. I also see that there appears to be a great deal of panic and fear in the world about more distant and larger populations suffering due to nuclear drift and fallout. I have to say that I doubt any of us, who are not scientists closely monitoring all things nuclear, are likely to notice any difference in our health or our environments. Even for most of the people living in Japan, the after-effects of the earthquakes and tsunami are far more likely to have an impact on their health than the effects of the radiation from the damaged power plants.
This article at Forbes website explains it pretty well: “For perspective: Chernobyl was emitting about 240,000 rem/hour; Fukushima Daiichi was emitting 40 rem/hour at peak for a short period of time, but it is down to .06 rem/hour; a chest x-ray will give you about 0.1 rem; and just living in Pennsylvania will give you about 0.36 rem (background radiation)…. In Ibaraki the radiation levels spiked after the most recent fire at reactor 4, then drifted down to slightly above 1200 nGy/hour (nanograys per hour). In nuke geek speak, that’s about 0.18 millirems per hour… You can get at least ten times that much radiation exposure flying from New York to L.A.”
My advice? Eat healthy, exercise, and get the sleep your body needs rather than fret uselessly over this. For even greater peace of mind, find a reputable charity giving aid and donate.
winner-winner, chicken dinner 🙂
Note: This is not to make light of the trauma of true “down-winders” who suffered chronic, long-term exposure to significant levels of nuclear fall-out with no help or regard by the U.S. government. (Do you know how good it feels to be able to write those words without worrying that I could be snatched from my house by the police and thrown in jail for an undetermined amount of time? In spite of her challenges – God Bless America!!!)