USM professor explains radiation damage

By Colleen Donovan - bio | email

HATTIESBURG, MS. (WDAM) - The nuclear crisis in Japan has many folks in the Pine Belt wondering about the health effects of radiation exposure and what levels of radiation are safe.

One physics professor at Southern Miss, Chris Winstead, studies atmospheric radiation and said the specific types of radiation likely being emitted from the damaged nuclear power plant in Japan can effect people's health if they are close enough to the site.

Winstead explained that the radioactive iodine can concentrate in people's thyroid. However, Winstead said it's not necessary for people in the United States on the West Coast to purchase iodine as a precautionary measure.

People in Japan further away from the damaged power plant like in Tokyo are at last report experiencing radiation ten times above normal levels.

"Which what people probably ought to understand also though is that we are always bathed in a sea of background radiation. Right now as we stand here there is natural radiation that is hitting our bodies right now and so something ten times natural background, that is not really alarming," said Winstead.

Winstead said it will be a long time before a full assessment of the radiation damage in Japan is determined.

Copyright 2011 WDAM. All rights reserved.