Radioactive Iodine and why you don’t need to be ‘that’ concerned

The information about the use of potassium iodine for radiation protection would be easier to understand with a few facts.

Radioactive iodine, specifically iodine-131 is a product of an operating nuclear reactor or a nuclear bomb. That’s about the only place you will find it. It has an 8 day half-life in which it decays to Xenon 131, a stable isotope. Keep that 8 day half-life in mind. It is a very important fact.

During a nuclear event, radioactive iodine is produced and iodine can easily go airborne. While airborne, the body can easily absorbs it. The body sends that iodine directly to the thyroid where it can concentrate and do much damage.

Now here’s where the potassium iodine (KI) becomes useful. The thyroid holds a maximum quantity of iodine, something like 5 milligrams. If a person takes a dose of 100 milligrams before the radioactive iodine is absorbed from the air, then there is no room for it in the thyroid. (All the parking spaces are filled.) All excess iodine is eliminated from the body through the urine. That’s why KI is called a ‘blocking agent’.

Now, about that 8 day half-life: The clock on the half life begins at the moment of the reactor shutdown or the bomb explosion. From that time on, the amount of iodine-131 drops in half every eight days. Notice that the packs of KI tablets includes only 14 tablets. After 14 days, most of the iodine is gone or been so diluted in the air that it is no longer a problem.

The accident at Three Mile Island did not release iodine-131 to the environment because the staff had added chemicals to the coolant water to catch it, also, silver control rods in the reactor combined with the iodine to form silver iodine. (They didn’t plan it that way—it was just a lucky coincident.) Chernobyl did release iodine. One week after the accident in Idaho we were able to measure it with sensitive instruments. We didn’t worry. The quantity was so small that exposure was insignificant. Besides, we were getting much higher exposures from naturally occurring radon gas, which we also monitored.

I was retired when the Fukushima accident occurred so I can only guess that the guys measured that iodine but I’m sure it wasn’t something to be concerned about. Now, three years later, you can be sure all the iodine-131 is gone.

There was one time when I did find a significant iodine-131 source. I happened to walk into the office of an operating nuclear reactor with my radiation meter under my arm. It started to make a lot of noise. One of the staff leaned over my direction and asked if anything was wrong. The rad level shot up and the other people in the room started to laugh. As it turned out this guy measured 85 millirem (850 microsievert) due to a medical injection of iodine-131 which he had received to treat a medical problem. That’s when I joined the laughter.

E R Haroldsen, retired Health Physicist (radiation control)

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Food Storage Planning

If you don’t have room for food storage in your house, use your garage.

Heh, heh, heh, heh. What a stupid suggestion.

Church recommendations have included advice on growing gardens, having orchards, and raising livestock. When I lived in Idaho, our extended family had all of these things. I’m not part of that any more. I’ve tried growing stuff around my house and failed miserably. Technically, I could move to Idaho. There is room for me on the family farm. I don’t have employment that holds me in Pennsylvania, but I’m not going to go. My work is here.

There are people who do not have money or space for an extensive food storage program, but that’s okay. The Lord who understands all things will bless those who do all that they can do to keep his commandments.

Remember how the Lord fed the five thousand. This has happened for real in our generation.

I was living in Idaho Falls in 1976, when the Teton dam broke and poured billions of gallons of water into the Snake River Valley. In Rexburg at Ricks College (now BYU Idaho), people stood on the hill and watched houses float by. Ricks College was not in session but the school opened the cafeteria and fed everybody that showed up. There wasn’t enough food but they did it anyway:

They had a donations of juice, bread, lunchmeat and milk stacked on the dock. Workers proceeded to dispense these items, as well as fresh fruit to thousands, yet the stacks of food did not diminish. That happened for days. One dock worker said he was going to count the milk, bread and juice and check it against what they were giving out. He was advised against it for fear that the Lord might suddenly withhold his blessing.  (Page 174-5, That Day In June, Reflections of the Teton Dam Disaster, Edited by Janet Thomas and others, Ricks College Press, 1977).

In April 1976, Vaughn Featherstone spoke in general conference about getting a food supply. He told several ways to do it. He also answered some other significant questions:

Do we share our food?

No, we don’t have to share—we get to share! Let us not be concerned about silly thoughts of whether we would share or not. Of course we would share! What would Jesus do? I could not possibly eat food and see my neighbors starving. And if you starve to death after sharing, “greater love hath no man than this …” (John 15:13.) (Featherstone, Ensign, May 1976)

Do we have to have weapons to protect our food?

Now what about those who would plunder and break in and take that which we have stored for our families’ needs? Don’t give this one more idle thought. There is a God in heaven whom we have obeyed. Do you suppose he would abandon those who have kept his commandments? He said, “If ye are prepared, ye need not fear.” (D&C 38:30.) (Featherstone, Ensign, May 1976)

What about laws against food storage.

From what I’ve read, the ban against food storage exist mostly in tropical climates where a large amount of food is a source of infestation.

So in the end, you evaluate your own situation. You start with a 3 day supply, then a month supply, then 3 months, etc.

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How To Start Your Home Food Storage

There are three approaches to getting a food supply. The correct plan for your family is probably a combination of the three.

 1-         Buy about 450 pounds of wheat, oats, beans and rice per person. This will give you enough calories to keep you alive and that is about all. These can be stored almost forever provide you protect it from heat and insects. If you still have it in 40 years, you can throw it out and think of it as the insurance policy that you didn’t collect on.

 2-         Buy freeze dried food, MRE’s and such from companies specializing in food storage. This is expensive and I’ve done very little of it.

 3-         Buy what you eat and eat what you buy. This provides the most palatable solution. It is more complicated and impossible to do perfectly.

 When I go to the grocery store, I’m always looking for specials. The other day, Walmart was selling Hormel chili for a very low price. I bot two cases.

 When finding a bargain, I check the ‘sell by’ date, realizing that this date doesn’t mean the food will self-destruct on that day. It means some nutrition is lost. Then I do some math.

 Let’s say a can of tuna fish has an expiration date of December 2015. That’s about two years away. Let’s also say that our family eats about two cans per week. I’d be safe buying 200 cans of tuna.  That would be a bit much. For one thing, the store doesn’t have 200 cans of tuna and I don’t have space for them. I can see that 50 cans would be a good step forward and it would last me half a year.

 There are a few problems with this last method. If in two months, I might decide I don’t like tuna. What, then, am I going to do with those remaining 35 cans? Also, in a survival situation, I probably won’t limit myself to two cans per week.

 Beware—when a store sells food at extra low price, they are probably trying to clear out space for the next year. If I buy grain or beans in May, it is stock from the previous year.  That doesn’t mean I won’t buy it.

 Obviously, you won’t want to concentrate on one particular food. You want things to give you a more balanced diet plus. You’ll also want to consider soap, detergent, toothpaste, matches, batteries, garbage bags, duck tape and other nonfood items.

 On my computer I have a spread sheet listing key foods, a column for the count, a column for the number of calories in the can/box/bag. (Multiply the number of servings times the calories per serving). The spread sheets totals the number of calories and divides it by 4,000. (I assume 2,000 calories per person per day). The answer is roughly the number of days of survival.

 In the end, it is not so much what you do as that you do it. A poor choice is better than nothing, plus, you can always barter and trade your two cans of tuna for a can of Hormel chili.

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What’s He Up To?

  Some years ago, I was reading my scriptures when I got to wondering, “What is God up to?” I know the scriptures say that his work and glory is to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” Okay, but what is he “up to”? What does he do for fun? What makes him smile?

  At that moment, my grandson, Riley was playing with Grandma. We have a kitchen, connected to the dining room, which is connected to the living room, which is connected to the hall and then to the kitchen. It serves as a race track and Grandma and Riley were using it. He’d chase her and catch her, then she’d chase him and catch him. Sometimes one would double back and surprise the other, all mixed in with hysterical and loud laughter

  And suddenly, I knew exactly what God was “up to”. Basically, he’s a Dad and he likes doing thing with his kids. He smiles as they have fun and when they learn something. He doesn’t get to discover anything—he already knows everything but he likes to see us go through discovery, to grow and to progress. He likes to see us succeed and do well.

  That’s what makes him smile.

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Going Up or Going Down

Some years ago, when I ran the training program for some radiation control technicians, I ran simulated emergencies. For instance, a worker would pour simulated radioactive water into his boot, and the technicians had to correct the situation without contaminating the entire work area. We had vacuum cleaners break open, bottle shatter and bags explode, all with radiological consequences.

We ran these drills every week for a year and we kept score of people’s actions and the number of errors made. After several months, I noticed that the better people got better at responding to these contrived emergencies, the more errors they made. By the score card, we were getting worse. When we started, we might finding ten errors but as we progressed, we were finding 30 or 40 even 50 errors.

Puzzling. Upon closer review I saw we really were getting better.

For instance, if someone dropped the patient (a rubber dummy) down a flight of stairs, no drill observer would notice that he had been wearing the wrong gloves. Hence, one big error prevented people from noticing the many little errors. After months of drills, the technicians were handling the big problems correctly, which left the drill observers more time to note little errors, such as whether a person was called by his last name or if the proper numbers were on the report. We were picky, picky, picky.

Life is like that. While we strive to do better, at times we seem to be getting worse. Perhaps we now notice the little errors because we have advanced to where the little errors are the biggest things we need to worry about.

Maybe we really are getting better.

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National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers

I like to watch National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers, though, I sometimes I laugh as some of the things I see. I’ll say to myself, “What an idiot. That couldn’t happen.” Strangely enough, if I were to ever meet that person, I’d probably never voice my opinion to him, but, rather, I’d tell him he doing a good thing.

Why the dichotomy?

Consider in season one, the man in New York City who was preparing for a Yellowstone volcanic caldera—a cluster of volcanoes inside the park. It is theoretically possible but is so improbable, that it strains the imagination, and if it did happen, what real impact would it have on New York City?

Now move the clock ahead about one year to Superstorm Sandy that smashed the east coast and New York City. In my mind, I can imagine him standing in front of his closet full of MREs and I can imagine that despite the devastation, he must might have laughed.

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Serve Where You Are Needed

It was in October of 1999, when we took our son and some friends to the Washington DC temple so he could receive his endowments prior to his departure for a mission in Perth Australia. As is normal, the Temple President met with those going through for the first time. He talked with them and gave some fatherly advice.

The endowment ceremony was wonderful, not so much from what we saw or heard but because of what we felt. When it was over, we went to the cafeteria. As we went through the food line, we found the Temple President serving food along with the other cafeteria staff.

“This is not the place I would expect to see you,” I said.

He replied, “I serve where I am needed.”

One of the staff added, “And he seem to know when we need him.”

Over the years, I’ve served in many positions, some impressive and some almost invisible. I’ve often thought of that Temple President’s comment, “I serve where I am needed,” as being a good guide to all forms of church service.

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