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Dangerous Levels Of Radiation Seep Out Of Japanese Plant; Concerns Grow In U.S.

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(Credit: CBS)

(Credit: CBS)

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WJZ general assignment reporter Mike Hellgren came to Maryland's News...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The United States is taking a closer look at radiation fears. Tokyo is seeing normal levels of radiation.

Mike Hellgren reports scientists say it does not pose a health threat, but it’s a different story closer to the plant.

The radiation spewing from the damaged nuclear reactors in Japan could have health effects that last for generations. 

Dr. Stephen Ronson with St. Joseph Medical Center says testing should be able to determine an accurate level of exposure.  Levels now are at least seven times normal. 

“We saw after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, how the health effects were seen for decades later,” said Ronson.

Radiation can be measured in a unit called a millirem.  Between five and 10,000 of them will change your blood.  Fifty- thousand cause nausea, 75,000 hair loss and one million internal bleeding.  Right now, at least one plant worker had exposure at the 10,000 level and more than 100,000 people have been told to stay in their homes.

“If there was a sudden burst of radiation, being behind a cement wall would provide some shielding,” said Ronson.

For comparison, several dozen people died from radiation exposure in the Chernobyl disaster.  Estimates are that people living near Three Mile Island during the partial meltdown in 1979 were exposed to eight millirems.

The average American is exposed to 6,000 millirems in a year—three on a coast-to-coast flight, about one for watching TV, 10 for an X-ray and 28 for living at Baltimore’s elevation.  None of it is like the crisis in Japan.

“Those energies of radiation are multiple-fold, more powerful than any kind of radiation that we are exposed to in our normal lives,” Ronson said.

The U.S. Navy says members in Japan on the USS Ronald Reagan, USS George Washington and at two bases were exposed to low levels, nothing that should cause any health problems.

Click here for more information about radiation and health effects.

Millions in Japan are also experiencing power blackouts because the damaged nuclear plants have reduced the amount of electricity being produced.

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