Meltdown in Japan could produce multiple health problems

Even as the situation worsened at a Japanese nuclear-power complex, levels of radiation in the area eased off from their weekend highs, the Wall Strett Journal reported.

But the situation is volatile, and a full meltdown could produce a range of health problems, including birth defects, thyroid and other cancers and immune-system damage.

The danger stems particularly from inhaling, ingesting or absorbing through the skin radioactive chemical elements including iodine-131, strontium-90 and cesium-137.

One precaution: iodine pills, which prevent the thyroid from taking up the radioactive iodine that’s in the air.

In the meantime, the New York Times reported that crew members on the deck of an aircraft carrier in the Pacific were exposed to “a month’s worth of radiation in about an hour,” as winds carried material from the troubled reactors out to sea.

No health problems were associated with the exposure, the paper said.

Other military personnel who were helping to rescue earthquake survivors were also exposed to low levels of radioactivity. They were decontaminated and again, aren’t expected to suffer any health problems.

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