Hi Jessica: This is a tough time. One wants to give people information that is useful and that can protect them from radiation exposure, rather than scaring them. But there is the risk that people will get too complacent, thinking that all they have to do is take a pill and everything will be fine. Your choice about what to write, but here is a short list: POTASSIUM IODIDE (remember "iodide" not "iodine" - many make this mistake). This is a chemical that blocks radioactive iodine from penetrating the thyroid gland. It comes in pill form, and depending on the area, it can be obtained from a pharmacy. The problems with potassium iodide is that it must be taken BEFORE iodine enters the body; and that it only protects one organ of the body - it does nothing for the bone, brain, lung, soft tissues, etc.
2. Does stripping and hosing down someone exposed to radiation actually make any difference?
HOSING DOWN is a technique that can reduce radiation (external exposures) that would otherwise enter the body through skin penetration. But it does nothing to prevent INTERNAL exposures, i.e. those that enter the body through breathing, food, and water. There are some things that can be done to reduce radioactive intake through food and water. People talk about drinking condensed milk in a can, bottled water, and other measures. But I shudder to think about if/when the radiation gets to California, where the large majority of vegetables (and some fruits) in this country are produced. Again, there are limits. I don't know if this is helpful. Keep in touch.
Radiation and Public Health
Note: The link above, which is radiation.org, has many good articles on it, particularly those specifically about radiation from nuclear power plants.
Japan Disaster Relief
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