When it comes to protecting yourself from a potential radioactive fallout situation, like the one occurring at the Japanese nuclear reactors, you have three things going in your favor – time, distance, and mass.
I saw a report a few minutes ago (Monday, March 14, 2011) on a local TV news broadcast that supplies of Potassium Iodide were running out.
As a radiation panic starts, most people are going to swarm their local pharmacies, online sources and emergency preparedness stores. If you wait until then, it is unlikely you are going to find any Potassium Iodide left on store shelves but all is not lost.
The general public will be focused on finding Potassium Iodide pills but I’ll let you in on a little secret: You can get the same substance from chemical supply warehouses. Instead of pills, you can purchase Potassium Iodide in its crystallized form – Potassium Iodide is just a salt. It will look like a white powder. Simply dissolve it in water and drink it. You will get the same protection as those people who overpaid for the convenience of obtaining Potassium Iodide in pill form.
What makes Potassium Iodide so important in protecting yourself from radioactive fallout? It is simple, really. Potassium Iodide floods the thyroid gland thus preventing radioactive iodine-131 from lodging in the thyroid. It makes for a strong defense against thyroid problems. When particles of radioactive iodine-131 get into the bloodstream you are facing the problem of internal contamination. This radioactive iodine finds its way to the thyroid gland and unless the gland has already been filled to capacity with Potassium Iodide it lodges within the thyroid – which is very bad from a medical standpoint.
The thyroid gland cannot tell the difference between stable iodine (Potassium Iodide) and radioactive Iodine-131. Thus we are faced with a situation of whatever reaches the thyroid first, wins. Once Potassium Iodide floods the thyroid gland your thyroid gland is protected for 24 hours. It takes the thyroid gland 24 hours to flush the Potassium Iodide. Therefore, take a second dose within 24 hours and keep doing so until there is no more threat of internal contamination – Which brings me to my second point in preparations to survive a radioactive fallout scenario.
You will need a Geiger counter to be absolutely sure your place of refuge is free of radioactive contamination. I bought a used counter several years ago off of E-Bay for $12 that runs on D-size batteries. I would assume that capitalism is hard at work and sellers, aware of the public’s sudden obsession with radioactivity, are going to inflate the price. Each of you will have to make a decision as to whether or not paying an inflated price for a Geiger counter is worth it.
We are fortunate that we do not have to prepare shelters against the effects of a nuclear blast at this time. We only have to prepare to deal with the effects of radioactive contamination. You still have time to do so. What I described above is how to protect your thyroid gland against internal contamination by radioactive Iodine-131. However, Potassium Iodide only protects your thyroid gland. It does nothing to protect the rest of your body against radioactive isotopes. Your first line of defense is time. Radioactive Iodine-131 only has a half-life of a little more than eight (8) days. It can take up to ten (10) days for radioactive particles in the stratosphere to go from Japan to the United States. This is the protection of time and distance mentioned at the beginning of this article. In such a scenario, many of these radioactive particles may circle and earth several times to many times before falling to earth. But some of those will fall to earth on the first pass. Those are the particles we are most concerned with.
Remember: time, distance, and mass. In the case of the reactors in Japan those of us in North America have the advantages of time and distance on our side. So, how do you protect your home against radioactive fallout? Once again, it is a simple process. Get in your vehicle and go to your local hardware store and buy yourself several rolls of painters plastic. While you are at it be sure to also purchase a large supply of painter’s or masking tape. You can use other types of tape but masking tape won’t peel the paint off of your walls later on when you remove it. When you get back home your job is going to be to place plastic over every possible entrance into your home. This includes windows, electrical outlets, clothes dryer exhausts, doors, light fixtures in the ceilings, cable TV coaxial cables entering the house, etc. In other words, if there is ANY possibility that air can move between the interior of the home and the outside world, then it needs to be sealed off with the plastic sheeting and masking tape.
Sealing a house can be a time-consuming process. Therefore, I recommend that you perform an inspection of your residence and make a list of the dimensions of plastic sheets that you need for each room. Then, go to the trouble to pre-cut the shapes and sizes needed for each room. Label the sheets and separate by room so that you can quickly access exactly what you need when you need it. I recommend sealing off as large of a space as possible because you will then have a greater volume of oxygen at your disposal. You will know when to seal off your house either by listening to news reports or by monitoring the level of radioactivity in your home with your newly-purchased Geiger counter. Once sealed inside your home or other places of refuge you will find that you need various supplies in order to survive. I have spent many years assembling both emergency 72-hour kits as well as a year’s supply of food, clothing, and fuel. Actually, I now have approximately a four-year supply of food and supplies. I whole-heartedly recommend that you do the same. Remember, when an emergency occurs the time for preparation is past. You may have discovered that principle for yourself as you vainly searched for Potassium Iodide pills over the past few days.
You will need food, clothing, medical supplies, communications, water, sanitary products, and fuel. Below are links to governmental resources and private companies than can assist you in your preparations. I am not affiliated with any of them and will not participate in any financial profit derived from your business. I simply am offering them up to you as a public service.
There are a multitude of other sources. A simple search on Google, Bing, or any other internet search engine will give you more sources than you could ever utilize.
I quote from Nuclear War Survival Skills:
The public’s exaggerated fears of extremely small amounts of radiation also are worsened by the media’s use without explanations of very small units of radiation measurement, including the picocurie. (The picocurie is used to measure the radiation of milk, water, etc., and is only one millionth of one millionth [1/1,000,000,000,000] of a curie.) One episode in which fears of radiation were thus worsened occurred shortly after the invisible fallout cloud from the Chernobyl disaster first reached the United States. Some listeners were frightened when a radio announcer merely stated that milk samples in northwest Oregon showed 118 picocuries per liter of radioactive iodine. Few Americans know that they will not be advised to stop using fresh milk unless its contamination if 15,000 picocuries or more per liter – as specified in the Food and Drug Administration’s very cautious “Protective Action Guidance”, published in the Federal Register of October 22, 1982.
The maximum measured radioactive contamination of milk in the United States by iodine-131 from the Chernobyl disaster was in milk produced by cows grazing on pasture in Washington: 560 picocuries per liter. The much greater potential danger from trans-Pacific war fallout is brought out by the fact that the approximately 300-kiloton Chinese test explosion of December 28, 1968 resulted in worse iodine-131 contamination of milk produced by a cow grazing on pasture near Oak Ridge, Tennessee: 900 picocuries per liter. Even a small overseas nuclear war with only 20 or so kiloton-range nuclear explosions could cause high enough contamination of milk to result in the Government’s warning Americans to refrain from using fresh milk. Most Americans would heed this warning and would not drink or otherwise use fresh milk for weeks. In addition, a small overseas nuclear war possibly would cause a few American casualties years to decades later.
The one thing we haven’t yet discussed is the protection of mass. Radioactive particles emit radiation.
There are many types of fallout shelters. Remember, mass is your protection. Perhaps the simplest thing to do is to go to your basement if you have one, and pile dense, high-mass objects in such a way as to make a shelter you can climb in to. The best place for the shelter would be in a corner since two sides, and the floor already are protected by lots of mass. I actually use my food storage for this purpose. Any radioactive particle that wants to reach me and my family is going to have to first go through tons of wheat, beans, rice, sugar, water, meat, cooking oils, refried beans, and corn, etc. The radioactivity won’t harm the food. In fact, it will simply have the effect of sterilizing it! Protected by mass, few of those radioactive emissions will reach the people inside the shelter.
So, how do you know you need to proceed to your fallout shelter? One of two ways – either listen to instructions from local civil defense authorities or just consult your personal Geiger counter. I am fortunate in the fact that I live in a county where much of our nation’s stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons are stored. You simply would not believe the resources and sophistication of my local civil defense organization. They are well prepared! As a HAM radio operator, I am part of their network and I can be activated in times of emergencies to provide communications services on behalf of the public. I suggest you purchase a short-wave receiver so that you can tune into news broadcasts, government transmissions, HAMs, and other transmissions on a global basis. This will give you the ability to hear for yourself what is happening in Japan from Japanese radio broadcasts. This way you do not depend on local news sources – which filter the news to fit their own needs – not yours.
Above all else do not panic. If you perform the simple measures I have outlined above, you will most likely be well-protected in the event of radioactive fallout in your area. Remember, you have the advantages of time, distance, mass, and Potassium Iodide. You can easily but the plastic sheeting and masking tape required to seal off your home from radioactive Iodine-131. You still have approximately one week before any winds carrying radioactive particles could even conceivably reach the United States. In all likelihood, you have even longer than that.
Don’t panic, prepare yourself, and become a source of strength for yourself and your neighbors. Hopefully, we won’t experience a major radioactive fallout situation within the United States. But if you are prepared for it, it won’t matter to you. Remember – when an emergency occurs, the time for preparation is past. Prepare now and you have no reason to fear. Don’t prepare and you could very well face the consequences of your poor choice.