In movies, Japan tends to be the stomping grounds for monsters such as Godzilla, Mothra and Gamera who bring destruction. However unlike these fictional characters, Japan has dealt with real monsters that actually kill and bring destruction.
First on Friday March 11, an earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale occurred, which is the most powerful earthquake to hit their country with over 100 aftershocks subsequently. If that was not enough a tsunami finished what the earthquake did not. Then finally after those monsters died down a new one monster emerged: radiation.
Japan now faces the worst nuclear disaster since World War II. Three of the six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station exploded and leaked radioactive gas. The plant has endured partial meltdowns, during which fuel rods at another reactor overheated and caught fire, emitting radioactive material directly into the atmosphere.
The fallout has spread significantly over Honshu which is the main island of Japan. In response to this, Japanese officials has warned their citizens not to consume 11 different types of vegetables which contain higher than legal amounts of radiation as wells as milk from the surrounding regions of the plant.
Water, which was once a luxury, is now a necessity. According to the New York Times, highly contaminated water is escaping a damaged reactor from the plant which could soon leak into the ocean, where some radioactive materials have already been detected.
The Washington Post states that Tokyo officials dispersed 240,000 water bottles to households with infants, who are more at risk to radioactive iodine-131. The U.S. Embassy distributed potassium iodide pills to American citizens because potassium iodide blocks radioactive iodine from building up in the thyroid gland.
Due to the lack of power, the Tokyo Electric Power Company has implemented rolling blackouts since March 14 to the 29. However, they have started up again on March 31 and will continue until April 5 where the actual blackout period for each group is planned to be maximum of three hours. Each blackout period for each group differs every day and starting and ending time of blackout periods might differ.
However Japan is not the only country affected by this disaster. A radioactive plume cloud drifted across the Pacific all the way to the west coast first targeting Alaska and California.
In Sacramento, faint traces of very low levels of radiation were detected. There were concerns of the radioactive cloud causing thyroid cancer hence the demand for potassium iodine.
However according to the New York Times, health experts state that due to the thousands of miles separating Japan from the U.S., the plume’s radiation has been diluted hence low concentrations therefore there should not be any health consequences.
Although what the U.S. can control is the imports. The Food and Drug Administration has put a halt of imported foods from Japan including all milk and milk products, vegetables and fruits.
In response to the disaster, President Obama stated on the White House website, “The United States stands ready to help the Japanese people in this time of great trial. The friendship and alliance between our two nations is unshakeable and only strengthens our resolve to stand with the people of Japan as they overcome this tragedy.”
Unlike other natural disasters that have occurred in the world, Japan faces a long and challenging recovery that will take years to overcome.
If you want to help the people of Japan but are unsure how to provide support, visit the American Red Cross website at www.redcross.org.