"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Radiation, Part 4: Personal

     This is ironic. I personally believe my thyroid is already compromised from living in Hiroshima for three years so soon (six years) after the A-bomb; later I had to have half the gland removed because of (non-malignant) nodules.
     When the Japanese nuclear plants blew, I made a half-serious, unsuccessful effort to track down potassium iodide to take in case radiation started to drift toward California. Even before Fukushima I had been trying to avoid additional exposure to radiation of any kind. (Haven't had my last two regularly-scheduled mammograms. I'm not saying you should not have yours.) 
     When Jerry and I went on our walk yesterday it was chilly enough to wear a warm jacket and I pulled it up over my nose and mouth hoping people wouldn't realize that was because I was paranoid about radiation and didn't want to give that fact away by wearing a mask. I used to scoff at pictures of people in Japan wearing paper masks to prevent exposure, thinking them totally ineffective--until a friend said radiation is carried in "particulate matter." Masks probably do keep out particles, I guess, or at least collect them on the outside. Anyway, yesterday I covered my nose and mouth although it did steam up my glasses when I breathed so I couldn't see where I was walking.  I had to have Jerry steer me along.
     But today I had a dentist appointment for a toothache and I knew they would take X-rays. They took three. It was worth it because I got a lot of interesting information to pass on to you. Liz, who took the X-rays, assured me that the digital ones they now take eliminate 75% of the radiation the old-style X-rays put out. (The chemicals they had to use to develop those X-rays were also hazardous to their health.) She said that in the course of conversation with other dental assistants and X-ray techs she found many of them have had "thyroid issues." I found that significant. Has anyone researched that connection?
     Then my dentist, whom I will just call Dr. M., told me he had recently attended a conference on radiation as it relates to dentistry. He told me rads are units used to measure energy emitted  (given out) by a radioactive source and sieverts (micro, milli) are units used to measure what the body has absorbed (taken in). I don't know why the terms have to be different but they are.
    He said one digital X-ray is about 5 microsieverts, that from my three I would have received 7.5-8 microsieverts (micro- meaning less than the milli- I spoke of in my last post on radiation, the one where I ran out of everything I knew about the subject)--showing that, as with everything else, you get a discount if you buy in quantity.  He said a full set of digital dental X-rays would be 45-50 intra-oral microsieverts. 
     By comparison (he said), flying from coast to coast, 5-6 hours, exposes each passenger to 200 of those little units, because of the altitude. (I thought we breathed recycled ground-level air in planes, so altitude wouldn't affect that--but maybe the radiation comes right through the metal fuselage. (Jerry gave me that word; as a former sailor I wanted to use "hull." Intra-oral and fuselage--wow, sounds like I know what I'm talking about!)
    Dr. M.said a cone beam (digital) catscan for the mouth is 40-50 units, whereas a regular medical catscan for any other part of the body is 500-1,000 units. He said having a set of the old-style X-rays for the mouth was "like living in Colorado, outside, for four hours."

     When I asked him more specifically about that he claimed it was because of the thin air exposing us to more radiation from the sun. "If you live in Colorado," he said, "you're screwed." That was his direct quote; I wrote it down. He said it was even worse to live in Australia because it's under the hole in the ozone layer (which I thought had healed). "Australians have more skin cancer," he said.
     I know seven Australians and I don't think any of them have had skin cancer. Which just proves--absolutely nothing.
     Dr. M. proceeded to prod the tooth that hurts and concluded that the molar next to it needs a crown.
     I was so manic in his office (and I'm not even bi-polar), babbling questions about radiation, taking notes, sharing info about Hiroshima, my dad's research, my blog with everyone on staff as they went about their busy jobs that I looked at myself and thought, I must be really anxious about this stuff.   
     On the way home with Jerry I remembered we had had coffee for breakfast. We usually have tea.


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