Reading time: 4,142 words, 10 pages, 10 to 16 minutes.
I wish I’d see this sooner, but better late than never. Radioactively contaminated smoke from the recent Chernobyl forest fire has already reached the West Coast of North America according to Bobby’s Blog and will continue falling out of the atmosphere as rain or snow for the next little while. Stay out of the rain as much as you can. If you can’t, then use an umbrella or rain coat. Don’t let the kids play in and don’t let Fido drink from puddles.
The problem with forest fires at Chernobyl, is the fire releases radionuclides that had bioaccumulated in biomass. He also says, “The snow contains up to 5 times as much radioactive particles as the rain.” Click on Bobby’s Blog for continuing information.
I’m still working on my next article on tips for dealing with radioactive contamination so I’m releasing a preliminary outline below that can give you some insight. Keep in mind that the same radioactive releases will occur with forest fires and grassland fires in North America as the biomass has also bioaccumulated radioactive contamination that will be released into the atmosphere by fire.
Tips for Dealing with Radioactive Contamination
First, you need to understand that there is a great difference between ionizing radiation and radioactive contamination. Workers at the contaminated Fukushima nuclear power plants are directly exposed to ionizing radiation be being in close proximity to sources of radioactivity. The rest of us who are far from Fukushima are not exposed to ionizing radiation, but we can be exposed to radioactive contamination in the form of fall-out or ‘hot particles’
That’s not to say direct exposure will never happen to you. There could be another nuclear power plant melt-down near you or, heaven forbid, you are close enough to a nuclear bomb blast to survive the immediate blast but receive intense amounts of ionizing radiation to produce radiation sickness. However, the most likely danger is ‘Hot Particles’: microscopic pieces of radioactive material that wreak havoc on a living body by constantly delivering concentrated radiation.
There is also a difference between ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation has enough “energy so that during an interaction with an atom, it can remove tightly bound electrons from the orbit of an atom, causing the atom to become charged or ionized.” One of the dangers of ionizing radiation is living cells can mutate incorrectly and become cancerous. There are many types of ionizing radiation.
In addition to radionuclides that we are concerned with in this article, there are cosmic rays, X-rays, CT-scans, radon and many others. Examples of non-ionizing radiation which are entirely outside the scope of this article include visible light, microwaves, radio waves, light bulbs, remote controls, cordless phones and many others.
There are some things you can do to limit exposure to radioactive dust BEFORE another disaster occurs.
1) Unless you are in the immediate vicinity of a nuclear event, you will not be exposed to any direct radiation. Radiation does not blow in the wind. The problem will be ‘hot particles (radioactive dust particles) that are carried by wind. In the event of a full-scale alert, you must limit your exposure to dust. You will not be able to see the dust as some may be microscopic in size.
2) Keep a facemask in your car or workplace as a precaution and wear it if a full alert is called.
3) If you are outside when a full alert is called and you don’t have a facemask handy, avoid breathing dust by breathing through your shirt, jacket, coat or other available cloth. Seek shelter as soon as possible but avoid over-exertion and heavy breathing. Listen for official instructions and follow directions.
4) When you get home after a full alert, remove and isolate your clothing as they may contain radioactive dust. Then bathe or shower to remove dust from your skin and hair. Depending on the severity of the alert, you may want to either abandon the clothes you wore outside or launder them. Then wear a face mask like an N-95. The time to buy them is now before a nuclear event empties store shelves.
5) If at home when an alert is called, turn off ventilation systems and close windows, vents, fireplace dampers, exhaust fans and clothes dryer vents. Exhaust fans and clothes dryer vents create negative pressure in your home that allows outside air to leak in through cracks.
6) Seal windows with duct tape. Seal the area where windows slide or contact the frame as this will be the area of greatest leakage.
7) Once everyone is home, duct tape the door frames.
Eventually, you’ll need fresh air. See below for furnace filters and air cleaners.
1) If you change your own vehicle air filter or you are a worker who does, make sure to wear a face mask, take care in disposing the filter and wash your hands afterwards. Vehicles and diesel powered machinery “breathe” large volumes of air so air filters become hotspots by accumulating radioactive dust. Radioactive filters were found in the Western states and provinces after the Fukushima disaster. This does not make the rest of the country safe. It’s a matter of degree. Remember, there is no safe limit for radiation exposure.
2) When you change your vacuum filter bags, also make sure you wear a face mask, take care in disposing the filter and wash your hands afterwards for the same reasons above.
3) Avoid milk and milk products until reports are verified. There are far too many reports about radioactive milk in North America. Milk is greatly over-rated. Macleans article.
4) Avoid California-grown spinach and broad-leafed plants as they collect radioactive particles.
Stay out of the rain – Fukushima spewed radioactive contamination into the atmosphere after the 2011 disaster and TEPCO is still having ‘events’. Also, the Japanese are burning radioactive debris that’s carried world-wide by wind. Rain washes it out of the atmosphere so avoid being outdoors when it’s raining. If you have to go out in the rain then wear a rain jacket or use an umbrella. If you get wet, shower as soon as you can and treat your wet clothing as though they’re contaminated. In other words, launder them before they dry otherwise you’re introducing hot particles into your home. Don’t let kids and pets drink rain water. If you collect and use rain water for whatever reason, consider it radioactively contaminated.
OTHER RECOMMENDATIONS – in alphabetical order
Activated Charcoal – one possible way to remove intestinal contamination is activated charcoal
Air filters – be careful when cleaning or changing the filters on air conditioners, vehicle engines and passenger compartments because they may have accumulated Hot Particles. Wear a face mask when handling them, dispose the filter promptly and wash your hands afterwards.
Air purifiers – If you don’t have a furnace, but other forms of heat such as baseboard heaters, buy a HEPA air purifier appropriately sized to your rooms. Permanent filters can be vacuum-cleaned to save the expense of replacement filters. Wear a face mask when cleaning or changing filters. Avoid burning candles and incense as they rapidly clog filters.
Apartment air leaks – older apartments are notoriously leaky especially around water pipes. Use caulking to seal gaps.
Apartment doors – if you live in an apartment, be aware that apartment doors are also very leaky. Seal the area where the door contacts the frame with foam tape. This may be difficult to find in southern areas but in northern areas it’s used for cold weather insulation, also called weather stripping. Best to use “open cell’ foam as it’s more form-fitting and still allows doors to close easily. Also, consider installing a floor sweep on the bottom of the door for better sealing.
Bank bone marrow – I have not researched this so I cannot recommend it, but I’ve come across suggestions that it’s possible to ‘bank’ some of your bone marrow so when you “crash”, your bone marrow cells can be reproduced. If anyone has any information on this, please leave a reply at the end of this article.
Breathing – If you’re a mouth breather (no disrespect) then stop it! Breathe through your nose. The nose is designed to be a dust filter. Blow your nose several times a day. That’s an easy way to eliminate ‘hot particles’ and prevent ingestion.
Tip: If you hack up phlegm, don’t swallow it. Spit it out or discretely discard it in a tissue. See those dark particles in your phlegm? That’s dust that the cilia sweep out of your lung’s air passages. If phlegm contains ‘hot particles’ (radioactive dust), you want it outside your body not in your digestive system when you swallow it.
Canned fish – Four years ago I advised readers that, “If you like fish and they should be included in a healthy diet, start buying them now, stockpile them and rotate them (use the oldest first). It may be the last canned fish you can safely eat. Fish from the Pacific close to Japan are already radioactive. Ocean currents spread the contamination. Gundersen thinks our Pacific fisheries will be contaminated by 2013. Start stockpiling now until the end of 2012.”
I bought lots and I’m still storing in the fridge so they should last long after the best-before dates. However, if you buy now, you’re gambling. I bought one can each of tuna and salmon in March 2015, opened them, spread them out and tested with my Geiger counter. There were no unusual readings, so they might be safe, but a Geiger counter doesn’t catch everything. Like I said, buying now is a gamble.
Warning: If you eat sushi, you better make sure the fish doesn’t come from the radioactive Pacific Ocean.
Car windows: Yes it’s nice to have a fresh breeze through the car windows especially after a cold winter, but remember you cannot see, taste or smell hot particles (unless you’re heavily contaminated in which case you’ll get a metallic taste). Keep car windows rolled up (most new cars have cabin air filters) and use the air conditioner if it’s hot outside. Would you rather save gas or your life?
Caulking – older homes are especially drafty as they were built at a time when energy was cheap. Caulking now before a nuclear event is a cheap way to reduce air leakage as well as lower energy cost. Caulking window frames and floor sill plates gives you the biggest bang for the buck in terms of energy saving and reduces contaminated air leakage in the event of a nuclear event.
Duct tape – is it possible to have too much duct tape? You’ll need tape to seal windows and cracks when there’s another nuclear event. Buy duct tape to seal windows and doors. In an emergency the stores will be cleaned out quickly. Do you want to fight a mob in the store or be protected and safe at home?
Measure or estimate how much tape you’ll need to do all your windows and frames and then buy extra. You’ll be amazed how much you need. Don’t forget that friends and neighbours may not have any so you may be their only hope.
Note: do not buy duct tape in winter if you live in an area with freezing temperatures. The truck that hauled the tape to the store likely wasn’t heated. Once it’s frozen and thawed, duct tape still adheres but begins pealing after a few days.
Tip: Keep duct tape in its cellophane wrapping to extend its shelf life until you need it.
Exercise – the heavier you breathe outdoors, the greater the likelihood of inhaling Hot Particles so reduce heavy outdoor work and exercise as much as possible. Consider exercising indoors but make sure you vacuum and wet dust regularly.
Face masks – unfortunately they are hot and uncomfortable. However, it’s the best protection you have to minimize inhaling Hot Particles. Those TEPCO fools at Fukushima still have sporadic nuclear ‘events’ that release radioactive contamination into the air and runoff is still contaminating the Pacific Ocean. Fukushima’s Hot Particles are in the air, on the ground and in the water. Various radioactive isototopes have half-lives ranging from days to billions of years. If you don’t have face masks yet, what are you waiting for? When you really need them the stores will be sold out.
Flying – Fukushima continues releasing sporadic airborne contamination with erratic, wind-driven patterns so some airline routes are safe sometimes and dangerous at other times. There has been an increase in air crew and passenger heart attacks, cancers and radiation symptoms. Avoid flying (anywhere) unless absolutely necessary.
Food stockpile – have several weeks of food stored for emergencies. This is a MUST HAVE for any disaster whether it’s an epidemic, ice storm, power outage, earthquake, terrorist attack, etc. For more detailed information, see mt article on Stockpiling
Forest fires – Trees have had years to bioaccumulate radioactive contamination. Forest fires release this contamination to the air where it’s carried by the wind. If you’re downwind from a forest fire, be aware that the air contains ‘hot particles’ (radioactive). This is of special concern because the Western region of North America was radioactively contaminated after the Mar 11, 2011 Fukushima disaster and is presently suffering a massive drought. Wind from grassland and forest fires blows over the rest of North America carrying radioactive contamination that had been sequestered inside biomass.
Fruit & vegetables – if you aren’t already washing fruits and vegetables, why not? You cannot rely on food producers to wash all the dirt, chemicals, pesticides and bacteria off fruit and vegetables. That includes Hot Particles. Don’t use dish soap as the residue is not healthy. Most health food stores carry liquid soap for fruits and vegetables. Wash them in lukewarm water and double rinse in cold water. Even wash the outside of fruits and vegetables that you are going to peal. If the outer skin is contaminated, the knife becomes contaminated when it slices through the skin and then the knife contaminates the inside.
If your radiation detection instrument shows fruits or vegetable have surface radioactive contamination, according to this study, “radioactivity removal by water washing showed no significant difference between boiling water and cold water. There was no significant difference between hand washing and running water washing. The result of chemical removal showed that reducing agents removed radioactivity from vegetables by 70–80% for 131I and more than 80% for 137Cs. In particular, ascorbic acid is promising as a safe and versatile option.” A 1% solution of ascorbic acid “removed radioactivity in vegetable by >75% at 131I and 137Cs.” However, fruit and vegetables grown in contaminated soil or water will probably ‘uptake’ the contamination, so washing will be of no use.
Furnace – If you have a forced air furnace (air ducts) then buy High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters for when the you-know-what hits the fan and then replace the regular filters with these HEPA’s. They will trap more microscopic particles than fibreglass or cheap filters. They come in various ratings. Consider a minimum of 1250. 1500 is better yet. 1750 filters smoke particles, microbes and pet dander.
Yes, HEPA filters are more expensive and cost more the higher the rating but what is your health worth? Yes, they need to be replaced more often because they trap more dust but that’s the whole point of an air filter, isn’t it? Also, avoid burning candles or incense as they clog high efficiency filters fast.
During a nuclear contamination event, if your furnace has a switch to run the fan continuously, then do so. This turns your furnace into a full-time vacuum cleaner. As it’s thermostatically controlled, you won’t waste energy because it’ll heat only when needed. However, do this only during another nuclear event as most blower motors are not designed to be run continuously for long periods. If you’re going to replace your furnace soon, consider buying one with a heavy duty motor that’s designed to run continuously.
Hint: Buy spare filters as well. When the SHTF, stores will be cleaned out.
Tip: Wear a face mask and gloves when changing furnace filters. They contain a lot of dust, some of which may be radioactive so discard the filter carefully by placing it in a plastic garbage bag.
Gardening – wear a face mask if you’re working with dry soil. Essentially, Hot Particles are dust. Always wear a face mask with any activity where you stir up dust. If you use gardening knee pads, avoid bringing dirty knee pads inside your home. This applies to footwear and gloves also.
Handbags, grocery bags, other containers – it’s common knowledge that the bottom of handbags are filthy from resting on floors. The same applies to other containers. Be careful in handling them so they don’t pick up dirt that might contain Hot Particles and damp-wipe the bottoms before setting them on tables or counters.
Hawaii – do you remember hearing about those radioactive plumes safely “blowing out to sea” from Fukushima? First stop was Hawaii. One expert says it’s now uninhabitable. Do you really want to vacation there?
Hemp Oil – I haven’t had time to verify this but I keep hearing that hemp oil has amazing cancer curative and preventive abilities.
House Plants – some house plants are terrific at filtering contaminants out of the air. NASA did a study to find out which plants were best to filter the air of the space station,
thus not only produce oxygen from CO2, but absorbing contaminants including benzene, formaldehyde and/or trichloroethylene.
Japanese products – You can probably trust large manufacturers to ensure their products and containers are not contaminated but without some government monitoring programs you should be concerned about small manufacturers like pottery and china that’s made of clay or wood. On second thought, given government’s propensity for cover-up, even a monitoring program isn’t to be trusted. Avoid small manufactures’ articles made from clay or wood that might contain Hot Particles.
Lawn care – raking or cutting the lawn on a dry day stirs up dust. You guessed it: wear a face mask. Are nosy neighbors wondering about the face mask? Tell ‘em you got allergies.
Milk – reduce or better yet avoid milk and milk products. Their radioactive iodine levels aren’t coming down yet.
Miso soup – it has been known for years that miso soup has a way of “chelating” radiation out of the human body. Many of those who survived after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in WW II, are those who ate miso soup.
Pectin – this was used at Chernobyl and had some success in treating radiation sickness.
Pets – you know Fido is filthier than you care to admit. Wash your best friend more often because his furry coat is a dust magnet and dust may contain ‘hot particles’.
Pineapple – if it’s from Hawaii, don’t risk it. Great pineapple is available from the Dominican Republic. Like all fruits and vegetables, remember to wash before cutting otherwise the knife edge becomes contaminated from the outside and smears it throughout the cut.
Potassium Iodide – buy Potassium Iodide pills when they’re available at health food stores. They’ll protect your thyroid from cancer when another nuclear disaster strikes close to home. Again, buy them NOW. When the stores are sold out, it’s too late! However, they’ll protect ONLY your thyroid from Iodine-131; they won’t protect your other organs or from other forms of radiation.
Radiation Detectors – (aka Geiger counters) a radiation detector is an excellent survival tool. Cheap ones are unreliable and good ones are expensive so consider pooling money from like-minded friends and relatives to buy one.
Radiation Detector Calibration Check – Nu-Salt / NoSalt is a salt substitute available in the spice section of most grocery stores.
I read somewhere that it’s supposed to elicit 100 Clicks Per Minute (CPM) but the NoSalt I bought ranges from 200 CPM to 300 CPM with occasional spikes up to 400 CPM and I’m using a reliable Ludlum Model 3 with a pancake style wand less than two years old. I use NoSalt to check its calibration. You needn’t remove its contents as it reads right through the cardboard container.
Renovations – renovations raise dust. Outside renovations may stir up more hot particles than inside renovations so assume outside renovations are more dangerous. Wear a face mask as a precaution.
Seaweed – although it’s healthy, find out where it came from. Seaweed absorbs radioactive Cesium. If it’s from Japan or the Pacific, forget it. As radioactive currents spread to other oceans, avoid seaweed altogether.
Shoes – it’s not just the soles that pick up Hot Particles. Shoes are an article of clothing closest to the ground and they get dusty. Take them off Japanese-style and don’t wear them in your home. If you have a mud-room or an entrance area for footwear, when’s the last time it was thoroughly cleaned?
Spring clean your car interior – your car interior has had four years to collect hot particles. When’s the last time you vacuumed the carpets and upholstery?
Supplements – check the ingredients of supplements such as calcium, glucosamine, etc. If they are made of shellfish, do not buy them as all Pacific seafood including shellfish are radioactive. Many of these supplements can be made from other ingredients. Four years ago I suggested you examine other supplements you regularly use to determine if they are seafood-based such as Salmon oil and begin a stockpile program. Now it’s too late. Krill oil from Antarctica is likely still safe but eventually they too will become contaminated as ocean currents spread.
Vacuum often – but wear a face mask when doing so because vacuuming also stirs up dust. In Tokyo they found more hot particles indoors than outdoors because it has been tracked inside for years. Also, keep you mask on when changing vacuum filters and wash your hands afterwards.
Water – Buy water containers such as 25 litre (5 gal U.S.) used for camping. Rinse them with cold water and baking soda to ‘set’ the plastic and prevent leaching, then rinse thoroughly before filling them.Calculate a bare minimum of 1 litre (quart) per person per day just for drinking then double that for cooking. Remember this is still a bare minimum and doesn’t include water for washing. Fill them, store them, drain them every 6 months and re-fill. Again, this is a MUST HAVE for any disaster.
Water Filter – consider buying a good quality portable water filter. You want it portable in case the electricity goes out and you need to operate it manually. Once the Hot Particles are “washed away” by the rain, where do they go? If they end up in the municipal water supply, do you want to trust your life to municipal filters? Katadyn make one of the best but they are expensive. On the other hand, the filter is permanent (washable porous ceramic) so you don’t need to buy replacement filters.
Wet dust – do not dry dust (home, car, boat, RV, etc.) as that stirs up dust. Wet dust instead.
Wind – also stirs up dust especially during dry conditions. Avoid the outdoors on dry windy days. Yeah, I know, it’s summer and you want to get out. But, you want to stay alive don’t you?
Windows – many of us were raised to believe sleeping with a window cracked open a little for fresh air was healthy. Not anymore. Also, keep vehicle windows rolled up when driving. If it’s hot, use the air conditioner.
Note: I’m still working on the above with further information and links but I thought it would help to release this in preliminary form for now.
May 10, 2015
Happy Mother’s Day!