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Cancer from radiation develops at lower doses than government-stated safe exposure limit

July 28, 2011 at 10:12 pm By Roz Potter

From the Mainichi Daily News, Japan,  Link

Excerpts:

Of 10 nuclear power plant workers who have developed cancer and received workers’ compensation in the past, nine had been exposed to less than 100 millisieverts of radiation, it has been learned.

The revelation comes amid reports that a number of workers battling the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant were found to have been exposed to more than the emergency limit of 250 millisieverts, which was raised from the previous limit of 100 millisieverts in March.

According to Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry statistics, of the 10 nuclear power plant workers, six had leukemia, two multiple myeloma and another two lymphatic malignancy. Only one had been exposed to 129.8 millisieverts but the remaining nine were less than 100 millisieverts, including one who had been exposed to about 5 millisieverts.

To read more,  Link.

Radioactive contamination and testing of meat and milk

July 25, 2011 at 1:09 am By Roz Potter

This information is from the IAEA and FAO (International Atomic Energy Agency and the Food and Agricultural Agency of the United Nations). A future post from the same source will focus on the effects of radioactive contamination on soil and crops.  Link

Excerpts:

Reports from the Government of Japan indicate that several radionuclides of consequence to human health have been found in the soil, vegetation and in animals, or their products. These include Iodine-131 and Caesium-137 that have both been found in the soil, in milk and in leaf vegetables such as spring onions and spinach.

Some of the samples have been reported to be above the levels allowed by the Japanese food hygiene law for emergency monitoring criteria for intake of vegetables.

Where these radionuclides have contaminated grazing land, milk from livestock is affected, so it is possible that any beef cattle will begin to show radionuclides in the muscle tissues.

***

Caesium-137 spreads readily in the environment in soil, water and in the air. It can be ingested or inhaled and locates in muscle tissue, bones and fat. It has a half-life of 30 years and is extremely toxic.

Iodine-131 is a volatile radionuclide that emits beta and gamma rays and combines easily with organic materials and soil minerals. Water, grass, vegetables and animal fodder become contaminated. The half-life is 8 days, but in the thyroid it can last for 100 days potentially causing malignant tumors.

***

Sampling for measurement of radioactivity

Various procedures can be used for monitoring levels of radionuclides in milk and meat, and although there are no standardized methods it is essential that surveys take into account all aspects of contamination in relation to the environment, likely exposure, the animal species and their foraging habits. The following list indicates some of the procedures used to monitor animals exposed to radiation.

Live animals – cattle, sheep, goat, poultry

  • Live sampling with a hand held, battery operated monitor e.g. Canberra 10, calibrated for use with live sheep (as used in UK, Norway etc.). For cattle – place monitor on hindquarters for one minute. Small birds can be monitored by whole body measurement.

Meat:

  • Meat – slaughter animals – samples 1.5×1.5×1.5 cm taken from muscle of two legs. Measurements of muscle samples from different parts of the same animal does not differ by more than 10%
  • Fresh meat samples from cattle of 20 – 100g
  • Fresh muscle samples of 20 – 25g from wild deer
  • Samples of 250 – 500g lean caribou meat collected and air dried in the sun, or by infra-red before analysis
  • Muscle sample from wild boar of at least 500g; samples frozen after collection

Milk:

  • Milk – bulk milk samples collected daily to average out physiological differences in the dietary habits of individual cows
  • In affected and sensitive areas – daily monitoring of milk for Sr-90/Cs-137/I-131
  • In areas at risk but not contaminated – sample as often as possible, but not less than 14 day intervals

Mitigating the effects of radionuclide contamination

Radioactive Contamination and Animal Production and Health Contamination can be mitigated by taking measures to the transfer of radioactive pollutants. It is important to reduce exposure wherever possible, especially in the immediate aftermath of contamination, i.e. by bringing livestock in from pasture and confining them to pens to prevent their grazing on contaminated pasture.

Animals should be fed with uncontaminated feed as soon as possible. Changing land use is effective in reducing transfer to man. A switch from milk production to beef or pigs can reduce radionuclide transfer by 5-fold.

To reduce radiocaesium in milk, cattle can be supplied with a caesium-binding compound such as ammonium ferric cyanoferrate (or AFCF, “Prussian Blue”) as a bolus into the rumen, in compounded concentrate feed, in salt licks, or simply sprinkled on the diet. AFCF reacts with consumed radiocaesium in the intestine to form a complex that is eliminated in the faeces.

In the case of meat-producing animals, moving to uncontaminated pastures and feeding uncontaminated feed may only be necessary close to the time of slaughter since the biological half-life of radiocaesium, for example, is of the order of two to four weeks depending on the species. In the case of wild boar meat, brining in sodium chloride and potassium nitrate can reduce caesium-137 levels by >70%.

Radioactive Contamination and Animal Production and Health The most salutary lesson learned in the past 25 years has been the need for the regulatory authorities in countries affected by contamination to take a much broader view of the environmental consequences and adopt a more holistic approach in addressing the situation.

Thus, the international scientific community has a more fundamental understanding and greater insight into the way in which different ecosystems are affected by nuclear contamination, which will provide the basis for predicting the risk to, and likely impact on, agriculture in the Fukushima incident.

More radioactive cesium contamination of Japan’s food supply

July 24, 2011 at 9:24 pm By Roz Potter

From Bloomberg News: Link

Excerpts:

More than 2,600 cattle have been contaminated, Kyodo News reported July 23, after the Miyagi prefectural government said 1,183 cattle at 58 farms were fed the tainted hay before being shipped to meat markets.

Coming after the government banned cattle shipments from Fukushima on July 19, the latest discoveries signal efforts so far haven’t been sufficient to protect Japan’s food chain.

***

No Testing System

Japan has no centralized system to check for radiation contamination of food. Prefectural authorities in cooperation with local farmers conduct voluntary tests. Products including spinach, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, tea, milk, plums and fish have been found contaminated with cesium and iodine as far as 360 kilometers from Dai-Ichi.

***

Prolonged exposure to radiation in the air, ground and food can cause leukemia and other cancers, according to the London- based World Nuclear Association.

A growing concern is that the release of radiation into waters near the Fukushima plant may multiply through the seafood chain.

Levels of cesium-134 in seawater near the Fukushima plant’s No. 3 reactor rose to levels 30 times the allowed safety standards last week, according to tests performed by Tokyo Electric Power Co, national broadcaster NHK reported.

The heat is on

July 22, 2011 at 11:21 pm By Roz Potter

From NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Link

Heat: A Major Killer

Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States, resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year.

On average, excessive heat claims more lives each year than floods, lightning, tornadoes and hurricanes combined.

In the disastrous heat wave of 1980, more than 1,250 people died. In the heat wave of 1995 more than 700 deaths in the Chicago area were attributed to heat. In August 2003, a record heat wave in Europe claimed an estimated 50,000 lives.

The Hazards of Excessive Heat

When the body heats to quickly to cool itself safely, or when you lose much fluid or salt through dehydration or sweating, your body temperature rises and heat-related illness may develop.

Heat disorders share one common feature: the individual has been in the heat too long is exercised too much for his or her age and physical condition.

The severity of heat disorders increase with age. Conditions that cause heat cramps in a 17-year-old may result in heat exhaustion in someone 40, and heat stroke in a person over 60.

Sunburn, with its ultraviolet radiation burns, can significantly retard the skin’s ability to shed excess heat.

Acclimatization has to do with adjusting sweat-salt concentrations, among other things. The idea is to lose enough water to regulate body temperature, with the least possible chemical disturbance/salt depletion.

Children, Adults and Pets Enclosed in Parked Vehicles Are at Great Risk

Each year children die from hyperthermia as a result of being left in parked vehicles. Hyperthermia is an acute condition that occurs when the body absorbs more heat than it can dissipate.

Hyperthermia can occur even on a mild day. Studies have shown that the temperature inside a parked vehicle can rapidly rise to a dangerous level for children, adults and pets.

Leaving the windows slightly open does not significantly decrease the heating rate. The effects can be more severe on children because their bodies warm at a faster rate than adults.

Shown below is a time lapse photo of a thermometer reading in a car over a period of less than an hour. As the photograph shows, in just over 2 minutes the call went from a safe temperature to 94.3 degree F. These photos demonstrate just how quickly a vehicle can become a death trap for a child.

This   graph shows                hyperthermia deaths from 1998 through 2004

Courtesy of Golden Gate Weather Services. Use of this graph does not imply NWS endorsement of services provided by Golden Gate Weather Services.

Hyperthermia deaths aren’t confined to summer months. They also happen during the spring and fall. Below are some examples.

  • Honolulu, HI, March 07, 2007: A 3-year-old girl died when the father left her in a child seat for an 1.5 hours while he visited friends in a Makiki apartment building.  The outside temperature was only 81 degrees.
  • North Augusta, SC, April 2006: A mother left her 15 month old son  in a car. He was in a car for 9 hours while his mom went to work. She is now serving a 20-year prison sentence.
  • Denver, CO, August 2008: Two kids that died in an overheated car may have been on their own for more than 3 hours as their mother slept after working a night shift.  The kids died in a closed but unlocked car. Investigators believe the temperature in the car may have reached 123 degrees F.

Adults are in danger too. On July 12, 2001, a man died of heatstroke after falling asleep in his car with the windows rolled up in the parking lot of a supermarket in Hinds County, MS.

How Fast Can the Sun Heat A Car?

The atmosphere and the windows of a car are relatively “transparent” to the sun’s shortwave radiation (yellow in figure below) and are warmed little. This shortwave energy, however, does heat objects it strikes. For example, a dark dashboard or seat can easily reach temperatures in the range of 180 to more than 200 degrees F.

These objects (e.g., dashboard, steering wheel, childseat) heat the adjacent air by conduction and convection and also give off longwave radiation (red) which is very efficient at warming the air trapped inside a vehicle.

Objects Heated by the Sun Warm Vehicle’s Air

parked vehicle

CLICK HERE FOR ANIMATION (700K)
( Hi-Res ~ 2.5 mb.WMV file)
Individual Frames:
0 min, 10 min, 20 min, 30 min, 40 min, 50 min, 60 min
Animation Courtesy of General Motors and Golden Gate Weather Services. Use of this animation does not imply NWS endorsement of services provided by General Motors and Golden Gate Weather Services.

Heat Safety

Child Safety Tips

  • Make sure your child’s safety seat and safety belt buckles aren’t too hot before securing your child in a safety restraint system, especially when your car has been parked in the heat.
  • Never leave your child unattended in a vehicle, even with the windows down.
  • Teach children not to play in, on or around cars.
  • Always lock car doors and trunks–even at home–and keep keys out of children’s reach.
  • Always make sure all children have left the car when you reach your destination. Don’t leave sleeping infants in the car ever!

Adult Heat Wave Safety Tips

  • Slow down. Reduce, eliminate or rescheduled strenuous activities until the Thermometer reads 110 degreescoolest time of the day. Children, senior and anyone with health problems should stay in the coolest available place, not necessarily indoors.
  • Dress for summer. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing to reflect heat and sunlight.
  • Put less fuel on your inner fires. Foods, like meat and other proteins that increase metabolic heat production also increase water loss.
  • Drink plenty of water or other non-alcohol or decaffeinated fluids. Your body needs water to keep cool. Drink plenty of fluids even if you don’t feel thirsty. Persons who have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease, are on fluid restrictive diets or have a problem with fluid retention should consult a physician before increasing their consumption of fluids. Do not drink alcoholic beverages and limited caffeinated beverages.
  • During excess heat period, spend more time in air-conditioned places. Air conditioning in homes and other buildings markedly reduces danger from the heat. If you cannot afford an air conditioner, go to a library, store or other location with air conditioning for part of the day.
  • Don’t get too much sun. Sunburn reduced your body’s ability to dissipate heat.
  • Do not take salt tablets unless specified by a physician.

Heat Disorder Symptoms

SUNBURN: Redness and pain. In severe cases swelling of skin, blisters, fever, headaches. First Aid: Ointments for mild cases if blisters appear and do not break. If Example of a woman with severe sunburn on her back and armsbreaking occurs, apply dry sterile dressing. Serious, extensive cases should be seen by physician.

HEAT CRAMPS: Painful spasms usually in the muscles of legs and abdomen. Heavy sweating. First Aid: Firm pressure on cramping muscles or gentle massage to relieve spasm. Give sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue water.

HEAT EXHAUSTION: Heavy sweating, weakness, skin cold, pale and clammy. Pulse thready. Normal temperature possible. Fainting and vomiting.

First Aid: Get victim out of sun. Once inside, the person should lay down and loosen clothing. Apply cool, wet cloths. Fan or move victim to air conditioned room. Offer sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue water. If vomiting continues, seek immediate medical attention.

HEAT STROKE (or sunstroke): High body temperature (106° F or higher). Hot dry skin. Rapid and strong pulse. Possible unconsciousness.

First Aid: HEAT STROKE IS A SEVERE MEDICAL EMERGENCY. SUMMON EMERGENCY MEDICAL ASSISTANCE OR GET THE VICTIM TO A HOSPITAL IMMEDIATELY. DELAY CAN BE FATAL. White waiting for emergency assistance, move the victim to a cooler environment Reduce body temperature with cold bath or sponging. Use extreme caution. Remove clothing, use fans and air conditioners. If temperature rises again, repeat process. Do not give fluids. Persons on salt restrictive diets should consult a physician before increasing their salt intake.

For more information contact your local American Red Cross Chapter. Ask to enroll in a first aid course.

Community Guidance: Preparing for and Responding to Excessive Heat Events

The Excessive Heat Events Guidebook was developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2006, in collaboration with the National Weather Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and theDepartment of Homeland Security. This guidebook provides best practices for saving lives during heat waves in urban areas, and provides a menu of options that communities can use in developing their own mitigation plans. Beat the Heat is also available in Spanish/Espanol.

This page was produced as a cooperative effort of the National Weather Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross.

Dengue Fever: CDC advisory for travelers – it’s worse than you think

July 20, 2011 at 11:58 am By Roz Potter

From the CDC, (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention),  Link

Map of Dengue Fever distribution in the western hemisphere

Increased Potential for Dengue Infection in Travelers Returning from International and Selected Domestic Areas

This is an official CDC HEALTH ADVISORY

Summary

Dengue virus transmission has been increasing to epidemic levels in many parts of the tropics and subtropics. Travelers to these areas are at risk of acquiring dengue virus and developing dengue fever (DF) or the severe form of the disease, dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly advises that health care providers in the United States should: 1) consider DF and DHF when evaluating patients returning from dengue-affected areas–both domestic and abroad–who present with an acute febrile illness within two weeks of their return, 2) submit serum specimens for appropriate laboratory testing, and 3) report all presumptive and confirmed cases of DF and DHF to their local or state health department.

Background

Dengue transmission has been increasing to epidemic levels in many parts of the tropics and subtropics where it had previously been absent or mild. Dengue-affected areas are widely distributed throughout Africa, Asia, Pacific, the Americas and the Caribbean.

This calendar year, more than 50 countries have reported evidence of dengue transmission; including 17 countries in Asia, 17 in the Americas, 10 in Africa, seven in the Caribbean, and one in the Pacific.

With an extensive dengue outbreak occurring in Puerto Rico and evidence of continued transmission in Key West, Florida, travel to certain domestic locations may also pose a risk for the traveler. The mosquitoes known to transmit dengue virus, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, are present throughout much of the southeastern United States and infected returning travelers may pose a risk for initiating local transmission.

Symptoms

Dengue virus infections can manifest as a subclinical infection or DF, and may develop into potentially fatal DHF.

DF is a self-limited febrile illness that is characterized by high fever plus two or more of the following: headache, retro-orbital pain, joint pain, muscle or bone pain, rash, mild hemorrhagic manifestations (e.g., bleeding of nose or gums, petechiae, or easy bruising), and leukopenia. Because the incubation period for dengue infection ranges from 3 to 14 days, the patient may not present with illness until after returning from travel.

Clinical management of DF consists of symptomatic treatment (avoid aspirin, NSAIDS and corticosteroids, as they can promote hemorrhage) and monitoring for the development of severe disease at or around the time of defervescence.

A small proportion of patients develop DHF, which is characterized by presence of resolving fever or a recent history of fever, lasting 2–7 days, any hemorrhagic manifestation, thrombocytopenia (platelet count ≤100,000/mm3), and increased vascular permeability, evidenced by hemoconcentration, hypoalbuminemia or hypoproteinemia, ascites, or pleural effusion. DHF can result in circulatory instability or shock.

Adequate management requires timely recognition and hospitalization, close monitoring of hemodynamic status, and judicious administration of intravascular fluids. There is no antiviral drug or vaccine against the dengue virus. Updated guidelines for the management of dengue can be found at http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2009/9789241547871_eng.pdf

  • Health care providers seeing patients with dengue-like illness who have recently traveled to Puerto Rico, Key West, Florida or international dengue-affected areas (See world distribution of dengue maps at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2010/chapter-5/dengue-fever-dengue-hemorrhagic-fever.aspx) should report cases to the local or state health department and send specimens for laboratory testing.
  • DF and DHF are now nationally notifiable conditions in the United States. Please remember that apart from individuals traveling for tourism, individuals responding to international disasters (e.g., Haiti earthquake), participating in medical or religious missionary work, and visiting friends and relatives are often returning from dengue-affected areas and should be evaluated for dengue infection if they present with dengue-like illness during or after their travel.
  • Reporting to local public health officials and consideration of hospitalization to initiate supportive care should not be delayed pending test results. Reporting suspected dengue cases will trigger a public health investigation and the implementation of prevention measures.
  • Specimens from patients with acute febrile illness, who returned from dengue-affected areas within the past 14 days, should be submitted to their local or state health department, if the health department laboratory offers dengue testing. State health departments with the capacity to test for dengue include: AZ, CA, CT, FL, NY, PR, and TX.
  • If the local or state health department does not perform dengue testing, submit specimens directly to CDC laboratories in San Juan, Puerto Rico (address below). CDC offers free diagnostic testing for health care providers and confirmatory dengue testing for health department and private laboratories. A completed CDC Dengue Case Investigation Form (http://www.cdc.gov/Dengue/resources/DCIF_English_ColorSept1508_FINAL_.pdf) must accompany the specimens for the appropriate testing to be performed.

Whenever possible, submit paired acute and convalescent specimens (2 ml of centrifuged serum.) Accuracy is increased when both acute and convalescent specimens are available for testing. But providers should not wait and should submit acute specimens as soon as available; a convalescent specimen can be submitted when available.

Type of sample Interval since onset of symptoms Type of Analysis
Acute until day 5 RT-PCR for dengue virus
Convalescent 6 to 30 days ELISA for dengue IgM

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Dengue Branch
1324 Cañada Street
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00920
Tel: (787) 706-2399; fax (787) 706-2496

For More Information:

  • Call CDC’s toll-free information line, 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348, which is available 24 hours a day, every day.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protects people’s health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong partnerships with local, national and international organizations.

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


Extreme heat vulnerability – it’s a matter of life and death

July 20, 2011 at 10:55 am By Roz Potter

From the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Link

Extreme Heat: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety

From 1979-2003, excessive heat exposure caused 8,015 deaths in the United States. During this period, more people in this country died from extreme heat than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined. In 2001, 300 deaths were caused by excessive heat exposure.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Elderly people (65 years and older), infants and children and people with chronic medical conditions are more prone to heat stress.
  • Air-conditioning is the number one protective factor against heat-related illness and death. During conditions of extreme heat, spend time in locations with air-conditioning such as shopping malls, public libraries, or public health sponsored heat-relief shelters in your area.
  • Get informed. Listen to local news and weather channels or contact your local public health department during extreme heat conditions for health and safety updates
  • Drink cool, nonalcoholic beverages and increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level.

People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves. The body normally cools itself by sweating. But under some conditions, sweating just isn’t enough. In such cases, a person’s body temperature rises rapidly. Very high body temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs.

Several factors affect the body’s ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather. When the humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, preventing the body from releasing heat quickly. Other conditions related to risk include age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use.

Who’s at greatest risk of heat-related deaths?

Heat-related deaths are preventable. People need to be aware of who is at greatest risk and what actions can be taken to prevent a heat-related illness or death.

The elderly, the very young, and people with mental illness and chronic diseases are at the very highest risk. However, even young and healthy individuals can succumb to heat if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather.

Air-conditioning is the number one protective factor against heat-related illness and death. If a home is not air-conditioned, people can reduce their risk for heat-related illness by spending time in public facilities that are air-conditioned.

Summertime activity, whether on the playing field or the construction site, must be balanced with measures that aid the body’s cooling mechanisms and prevent heat-related illness. This pamphlet tells how you can prevent, recognize, and cope with heat-related health problems.

What Is Extreme Heat?

Conditions of extreme heat are defined as summertime temperatures that are substantially hotter and/or more humid than average for location at that time of year. Humid or muggy conditions, which add to the discomfort of high temperatures, occur when a “dome” of high atmospheric pressure traps hazy, damp air near the ground. Extremely dry and hot conditions can provoke dust storms and low visibility. Droughts occur when a long period passes without substantial rainfall. A heat wave combined with a drought is a very dangerous situation.

During Hot Weather

To protect your health when temperatures are extremely high, remember to keep cool and use common sense. The following tips are important:

Drink Plenty of Fluids

During hot weather you will need to increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. During heavy exercise in a hot environment, drink two to four glasses (16-32 ounces) of cool fluids each hour.

Warning: If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot.

Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol, or large amounts of sugar—these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.

Replace Salt and Minerals

Heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body. These are necessary for your body and must be replaced. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, non-alcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. However, if you are on a low-salt diet, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage or taking salt tablets.

Wear Appropriate Clothing and Sunscreen

Wear as little clothing as possible when you are at home. Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool itself and causes a loss of body fluids. It also causes pain and damages the skin. If you must go outdoors, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) along with sunglasses, and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels) 30 minutes prior to going out. Continue to reapply it according to the package directions.

Schedule Outdoor Activities Carefully

If you must be outdoors, try to limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours. Try to rest often in shady areas so that your body’s thermostat will have a chance to recover.

Pace Yourself

If you are not accustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment, start slowly and pick up the pace gradually. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, STOP all activity. Get into a cool area or at least into the shade, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak, or faint.

Stay Cool Indoors

Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library—even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area. Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off. Use your stove and oven less to maintain a cooler temperature in your home.

Use a Buddy System

When working in the heat, monitor the condition of your co-workers and have someone do the same for you. Heat-induced illness can cause a person to become confused or lose consciousness. If you are 65 years of age or older, have a friend or relative call to check on you twice a day during a heat wave. If you know someone in this age group, check on them at least twice a day.

Monitor Those at High Risk

Although anyone at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others.

  • Infants and young children are sensitive to the effects of high temperatures and rely on others to regulate their environments and provide adequate liquids.
  • People 65 years of age or older may not compensate for heat stress efficiently and are less likely to sense and respond to change in temperature.
  • People who are overweight may be prone to heat sickness because of their tendency to retain more body heat.
  • People who overexert during work or exercise may become dehydrated and susceptible to heat sickness.
  • People who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure, or who take certain medications, such as for depression, insomnia, or poor circulation, may be affected by extreme heat.

Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent watching.

Adjust to the Environment

Be aware that any sudden change in temperature, such as an early summer heat wave, will be stressful to your body. You will have a greater tolerance for heat if you limit your physical activity until you become accustomed to the heat. If you travel to a hotter climate, allow several days to become acclimated before attempting any vigorous exercise, and work up to it gradually.

Do Not Leave Children in Cars

Even in cool temperatures, cars can heat up to dangerous temperatures very quickly. Even with the windows cracked open, interior temperatures can rise almost 20 degrees Fahrenheit within the first 10 minutes. Anyone left inside is at risk for serious heat-related illnesses or even death. Children who are left unattended in parked cars are at greatest risk for heat stroke, and possibly death. When traveling with children, remember to do the following:

  • Never leave infants, children or pets in a parked car, even if the windows are cracked open.
  • To remind yourself that a child is in the car, keep a stuffed animal in the car seat. When the child is buckled in, place the stuffed animal in the front with the driver.
  • When leaving your car, check to be sure everyone is out of the car. Do not overlook any children who have fallen asleep in the car.

Use Common Sense

Remember to keep cool and use common sense:

  • Avoid hot foods and heavy meals—they add heat to your body.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and replace salts and minerals in your body. Do not take salt tablets unless under medical supervision.
  • Dress infants and children in cool, loose clothing and shade their heads and faces with hats or an umbrella.
  • Limit sun exposure during mid-day hours and in places of potential severe exposure such as beaches.
  • Do not leave infants, children, or pets in a parked car.
  • Provide plenty of fresh water for your pets, and leave the water in a shady area.

Hot Weather Health Emergencies

Even short periods of high temperatures can cause serious health problems. During hot weather health emergencies, keep informed by listening to local weather and news channels or contact local health departments for health and safety updates. Doing too much on a hot day, spending too much time in the sun or staying too long in an overheated place can cause heat-related illnesses. Know the symptoms of heat disorders and overexposure to the sun, and be ready to give first aid treatment.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. The body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Body temperature may rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.

Recognizing Heat Stroke

Warning signs of heat stroke vary but may include the following:

  • An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F, orally)
  • Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness

What to Do

If you see any of these signs, you may be dealing with a life-threatening emergency. Have someone call for immediate medical assistance while you begin cooling the victim. Do the following:

  • Get the victim to a shady area.
  • Cool the victim rapidly using whatever methods you can. For example, immerse the victim in a tub of cool water; place the person in a cool shower; spray the victim with cool water from a garden hose; sponge the person with cool water; or if the humidity is low, wrap the victim in a cool, wet sheet and fan him or her vigorously.
  • Monitor body temperature, and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101-102°F.
  • If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instructions.
  • Do not give the victim fluids to drink.
  • Get medical assistance as soon as possible.

Sometimes a victim’s muscles will begin to twitch uncontrollably as a result of heat stroke. If this happens, keep the victim from injuring himself, but do not place any object in the mouth and do not give fluids. If there is vomiting, make sure the airway remains open by turning the victim on his or her side.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids. It is the body’s response to an excessive loss of the water and salt contained in sweat. Those most prone to heat exhaustion are elderly people, people with high blood pressure, and people working or exercising in a hot environment.

Recognizing Heat Exhaustion

Warning signs of heat exhaustion include the following:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Paleness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting

The skin may be cool and moist. The victim’s pulse rate will be fast and weak, and breathing will be fast and shallow. If heat exhaustion is untreated, it may progress to heat stroke. Seek medical attention immediately if any of the following occurs:

  • Symptoms are severe
  • The victim has heart problems or high blood pressure

Otherwise, help the victim to cool off, and seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or last longer than 1 hour.

What to Do

Cooling measures that may be effective include the following:

  • Cool, nonalcoholic beverages
  • Rest
  • Cool shower, bath, or sponge bath
  • An air-conditioned environment
  • Lightweight clothing

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps usually affect people who sweat a lot during strenuous activity. This sweating depletes the body’s salt and moisture. The low salt level in the muscles may be the cause of heat cramps. Heat cramps may also be a symptom of heat exhaustion.

Recognizing Heat Cramps

Heat cramps are muscle pains or spasms—usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs—that may occur in association with strenuous activity. If you have heart problems or are on a low-sodium diet, get medical attention for heat cramps.

What to Do

If medical attention is not necessary, take these steps:

  • Stop all activity, and sit quietly in a cool place.
  • Drink clear juice or a sports beverage.
  • Do not return to strenuous activity for a few hours after the cramps subside, because further exertion may lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
  • Seek medical attention for heat cramps if they do not subside in 1 hour.

Sunburn

Sunburn should be avoided because it damages the skin. Although the discomfort is usually minor and healing often occurs in about a week, a more severe sunburn may require medical attention.

Recognizing Sunburn

Symptoms of sunburn are well known: the skin becomes red, painful, and abnormally warm after sun exposure.

What to Do

Consult a doctor if the sunburn affects an infant younger than 1 year of age or if these symptoms are present:

  • Fever
  • Fluid-filled blisters
  • Severe pain

Also, remember these tips when treating sunburn:

  • Avoid repeated sun exposure.
  • Apply cold compresses or immerse the sunburned area in cool water.
  • Apply moisturizing lotion to affected areas. Do not use salve, butter, or ointment.
  • Do not break blisters.

Heat Rash

Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather. It can occur at any age but is most common in young children.

Recognizing Heat Rash

Heat rash looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters. It is more likely to occur on the neck and upper chest, in the groin, under the breasts, and in elbow creases.

What to Do

The best treatment for heat rash is to provide a cooler, less humid environment. Keep the affected area dry. Dusting powder may be used to increase comfort.

Treating heat rash is simple and usually does not require medical assistance. Other heat-related problems can be much more severe.

This information provided by NCEH’s Health Studies Branch.

ilities (NCBDDD)

Union of Concerned Scientists: What happened at Fukushima – can it happen here?

July 18, 2011 at 6:41 pm By Roz Potter

A video presentation by David Lochbaum the Union of Concerned Scientists and Arnie Gunderson, of Fairwinds Association.  Both are nuclear scientists.  Link

They walk, step-by-step, through the events of the Japanese meltdowns and consider how the knowledge gained from Fukushima applies to the nuclear industry worldwide. They discuss “points of vulnerability” in American plants, some of which have been unaddressed by the NRC for three decades. Finally, they concluded that an accident with the consequences of Fukushima could happen in the US.

This is an illuminating and fascinating presentation that becomes more interesting as it progresses. Don’t miss the slow-motion video of the hydrogen explosion.

Beef contaminated with radioactive cesium enters Japan’s food supply

July 18, 2011 at 5:40 pm By Roz Potter

From the Daily Yomiuri, Japan Link

Excerpt:

Officials of the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry have admitted they did not consider the possibility of cattle ingesting straw contaminated by radioactive substances emitted from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

“This is nothing less than a colossal blunder by our ministry. It was beyond our expectations that straw would become a source of radioactive contamination,” a ministry official said.

A total of 143 beef cattle suspected of being contaminated with radioactive cesium after ingesting straw that was stored outdoors have been shipped from Fukushima Prefecture and distributed to wholesalers, retailers and consumers in various prefectures.

Editor’s note: The importance of this contamination source should not be underestimated.  Beef is just one food source. The amount and variety of  foods and drinks potentially contaminated by radioactivity could add up to a large amount of internal radiation exposure over time, as an unsuspecting public ingests a variety of foods and drinks contaminated by radioactivity.

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