Health effects of Japan's radiation crisis

Published: March, 2011

Battered by an earthquake and a tsunami, Japan now faces a third monumental problem: the release of radiation from crippled nuclear power plants. How that radiation will affect the health of the Japanese people — and the health of others around the globe — is a developing story. Recent posts on the Harvard Health Publishing blog explain connections between radiation and health, explore why we fear nuclear power so much, describe what potassium iodide pills do and who needs them, and put the radiation risks in perspective.

Radiation risk in Japan: Understanding radiation measurements and putting them in perspective

By Peter Wehrwein, Editor, Harvard Health Letter

News from Japan is full of talk about radiation risk and millisieverts. Harvard Health Letter editor Peter Wehrwein explains radiation doses and compares what's happening in Japan with other exposures to radiation, from medical testing to Chernobyl and more. Read more »

Why Japan's crisis causes worry, fear of radiation risk in the U.S.

By Ann MacDonald, Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Your perception of risk depends on many factors, including whether the risk is natural or man-made, imposed or voluntary, and how it affects you and your family. Harvard Health Publishing editor Ann MacDonald explains why Japan's radiation crisis from earthquake-damaged nuclear power plants makes us worry on many levels. Read more »

Potassium iodide pills and prevention of thyroid cancer from Japanese nuclear power plants

By Peter Wehrwein, Editor, Harvard Health Letter

Japanese officials are preparing to distribute potassium iodide pills to people living near the nuclear power plants crippled by last week's earthquake. Harvard Health Letter editor Peter Wehrwein explains what these pills do and who needs them. Read more »

Thyroid cancer a hazard from radioactive iodine emitted by Japan's failing nuclear power plants

By P.J. Skerrett, Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

One of the most abundant ingredients released by Japan's failing nuclear power plants is radioactive iodine-131. It can get into the air, water, and food supply. Once in the body, iodine-131 accumulates in the thyroid gland and significantly increases the risk of developing thyroid cancer. Read more »

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