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KCTS 9 Connects

Radiation Danger - April 1, 2011

April 2, 2011
Although the nuclear crisis in Japan is unfolding over 5,000 miles away from the Pacific Northwest, the impact of the fallout may be closer than we realize. In this episode of "KCTS 9 Connects," we talk with Hamish Robertson, Director of the Center for Experimental Nuclear Physics and Astrophysics at the University of Washington, and Janet Eary, Director of the Nuclear Medicine Program at University of Washington Medical Center, about the recent discovery of radiation from Japan's nuclear plants in the U.S., and what the real dangers are for people living in the Pacific Northwest.

Producer's Notes

Producer's Notes Radiation...It’s All Around Us

So I’m on the phone with a friend the other day, and he says “Now don’t get upset, but…” So what’s the first thing I do? I brace myself to get upset, because I know he’s about to tell me something unpleasant. And the hardest thing to do is remain calm and just listen and find out that it’s really not that bad.

That’s kind of how it was this week when we heard that radiation from Japan had made its way to Washington. First, researchers at the University of Washington found traces of radiation in air filters at the Physics Building on campus. Then later in the week, they found radiation in milk in Spokane.

Now don’t get upset, but…

Radiation in the air? In our Milk? Hard to hear that and not get upset. But remain calm, listen, and you’ll find out it’s really not that bad.

Turns out, radiation is all around us. It’s coming out of the ground and bombarding us from space. It’s in the air, in our water, and in our food. Unless you live in a lead box, you’re pretty much exposed to it everywhere, but in such minute amounts, it doesn’t generally cause harm.

Which is the case with the radiation they’re finding from Japan. Yes, it’s here, but at such trace levels, it poses no health threat. There’s more naturally occurring radiation in one banana (bananas contain potassium) than there is in the Spokane milk. And the kind of radiation they’re detecting has a really short half life. Just days.

But in order to know this, you have to have looked beyond this week’s headlines and done a little digging. So in this episode of "Connects," we’ve done the digging for you. We’re talking with the head of the UW’s Center for Experimental Nuclear Physics and Astrophysics, to get the no-hype truth about what scientists have discovered and what health risks we really face.

It’s the second part of the conversation – the part where you remain calm, listen, and find out it’s really not that bad.

Ethan Morris, Senior Producer