Author Archive

Japan’s radioactive worry: Is a pill for our prevention equal to a pound of cure?

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Author: Debbie Kim APRN, MSN, Sr. Health Care System Analyst, IEM

Once again, the evening news has me scratching my head and wondering if it is time to call my healthcare provider to secure a prescription for Potassium Iodide or even Prussian Blue?  As a nurse and healthsystem analyst, I want to protect my family.  But wait!  I have a shellfish allergy, and one television medical expert said that I might not be able to take Potassium Iodide at all.  Are the drugs safe for all my family members? What about my dog, Oscar?  Time to revisit some facts.

There are several pharmacological agents that are being mentioned as being important to limit the effects of internal contamination from radioactive materials. Standard planning and response activity around a nuclear reactor includes a variety of activities, including issuing Potassium Iodide (KI) to those individuals who may have been exposed  to Iodine 131 (I-131). Another drug, Prussian blue, is a “chelating” agent that can remove radioactive materials from the body by binding with them.  Prussian blue is effective for treating exposure to Cesium and Thallium. Cesium-137 (Cs-137) has been detected from the smoke coming out of the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan.  (Prussian blue is also a paint color well known to artists, but medical Prussian blue is formulated differently – so please don’t eat the paint!)  A third drug, Diethylenetriamene pentaacetate (DTPA), is also a chelating agent. DTPA is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for chelation of Plutonium, Americium and Curium. None of these radioisotopes (Plutonium, Americium or Curium) have been associated with the nuclear reactor fires in Japan. (more…)

Nuclear Terminology: Getting It Right, Part II

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Author: Debbie Kim APRN, MSN, Sr. Health Care System Analyst, IEM

This morning on National Public Radio, I heard reports of the third reactor fire in Japan, and a fire now in a storage area. They are reporting an hourly release of radiation into the environment. To follow up on Gary Scronce’s previous blog post (Nuclear Terminology: Getting it Right), I wanted to discuss radiation measurement. The CDC Radiation Emergencies website explains it all very clearly. As Gary wrote, there is a difference between emitted radiation and absorbed radiation dose. To measure both, a sensor needs to be in place to provide that measurement. As a nurse, part of what I have always done is to teach patients and their families about treatments and their effects.

Just to make things more confusing there are different naming conventions for describing radiation that is emitted into the environment—radiation dose and radiation risk. There are “conventional units” (or terminology) that some of us old-timers remember such as the Curie (Ci), rad and rem. Then there is the newer System Internationale (SI) that uses the terms becquerel (Bq), gray (Gy) and sievert (Sv). Reporters have been using both versions of the terminology to describe the events surrounding the fires around the reactor site in Japan. (more…)