UT professor describes radiation sickness symptoms

UT professor describes radiation sickness symptoms

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By JOSH AULT
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The nuclear disaster threat in Japan has a lot of people in the U.S. talking about the possibility here.

Many want to know what would happen if they were exposed to radiation.

Dr. Lawrence Townsend is a professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Tennessee. Before coming to UT, he worked for 15 years for NASA. His specialty was radiation.

Dr. Townsend says he is watching what happening in Japan closely. "At this stage, we don't know completely what's going on," he said.

Townsend says if radiation exposure does get worse, there will be symptoms. "The earliest symptoms you would see would be some changes in your blood cell count," he explained.

At that point, Dr. Townsend says you would not notice anything, but eventually you would start to feel ill.

Depending on their health, radiation sickness may affect some people more quickly than others.

Cancer is another threat of radiation, but usually won't show up for a long period of time.

"If it is leukemia, you usually see it in a couple of years, leukemia being cancer of the blood," Dr. Townsend said.

Tumors would not show up for at least 10 to 20 years.

There has been a lot of talk about iodine pills. Dr. Townsend says those are only effective if you use them immediately after exposure.

"A lot of radiation is non-penetrating," Dr. Townsend said. "If you're inside your house for example, radiation won't be a major concern."

Dr. Townsend adds that if you stay inside you home, it would be a good idea to turn off your central air conditioning.

It's also important if you are exposed to a high amount of radiation to get immediate medical help.

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