Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Radiation covers 8% of Japan - Japan's science ministry says 8 per cent of the country's surface area has been contaminated by radiation from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant which went into meltdown after the massive earthquake and tsunami hit the country in March. More than 30,000 square kilometres of the country has been blanketed by radioactive caesium. Most of the contamination was caused by four large plumes of radiation spewed out by the Fukushima nuclear plant in the first two weeks after meltdowns. The government says some of the radioactive material fell with rain and snow, leaving the affected areas with accumulations of more than 10,000 becquerels of caesium per square metre.
Last week tests found unsafe levels of radioactive contamination in recently harvested rice from the Fukushima region. The levels of radioactive caesium were measured at 630 becquerels per kilogram, above the maximum allowable level of 500 becquerels. Officials from Fukushima prefecture have now asked all rice farmers in the district to suspend shipments. There have been a series of scares over radiation in food in Japan in recent months; in products such as beef, mushrooms and green tea, but never before in the country's staple, rice. Authorities have also begun testing soil in some Tokyo playgrounds and schools for traces of radioactive contamination. Many people in Japan have purchased their own Geiger counters to monitor radiation levels around them.

**With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.**
Eleanor Roosevelt

This morning -

Yesterday -
11/22/11 -


Chile volcano ash disrupts air travel for hours - Flights were cancelled for several hours in Uruguay and Argentina on Tuesday due to volcanic ash from the four-month-long eruption of the Puyehue volcano in Chile.

Researchers in Costa Rica have launched drone flights into volcanic clouds in a groundbreaking bid to help predict major eruptions. The project is sponsored by the US space agency NASA and the University of Costa Rica.

In the Pacific -
Category 4 Hurricane Kenneth was located about 810 mi. (1305 km) SSW of the southern tip of Baja California. Kenneth could weaken to a tropical storm by Thursday.

Hurricane Kenneth is THE STRONGEST LATE-SEASON HURRICANE ON RECORD IN THE EASTERN PACIFIC. Kenneth is weakening some but is still a Category 4 storm. There is no threat to land.


Australian doctors prepare for possible disaster - A summer of global disasters has emergency doctors preparing to cope with possible emergencies when hospitals are already at capacity. A team of six emergency physicians have devised a ready reckoner to help new doctors cope with a sudden influx without having to work it all out themselves. The Christchurch earthquake, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, Pakistan's floods, Queensland's floods and cyclone, and Victorian fires and floods have made doctors aware they may have to deal with disaster closer to home. Normal practice is for patients to see a registration clerk or nurse first and eventually a doctor, who assesses them individually. But when a department is overwhelmed doctors will have to learn to make other choices and some privacy, and cups of tea, may have to be sacrificed.


Psychiatric Trouble May Start in Thyroid - In patients with depression, anxiety and other psychiatric problems, doctors often find abnormal blood levels of thyroid hormone. Treating the problem, they have found, can lead to improvements in mood, memory and cognition. Now researchers are exploring a somewhat controversial link between minor, or subclinical, thyroid problems and some patients’ psychiatric difficulties. Treating the condition, which affects about 2 percent of Americans, could alleviate some patients’ psychiatric symptoms and might even prevent future cognitive decline. Patients with psychiatric symptoms “tell us that given thyroid hormones, they get better.”
The thyroid, a bow-tie-shaped gland that wraps around the trachea, produces two hormones: thyroxine, or T4, and triiodothyronine, known as T3. These hormones play a role in a surprising range of physical processes, from regulation of body temperature and heartbeat to cognitive functioning. Any number of things can cause the thyroid to malfunction, including exposure to radiation, too much or too little iodine in the diet, medications like lithium, and autoimmune disease. And the incidence of thyroid disease rises with age. Too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) speeds the metabolism, causing symptoms like sweating, palpitations, weight loss and anxiety. Too little (hypothyroidism) can cause physical fatigue, weight gain and sluggishness, as well as depression, inability to concentrate and memory problems.
“In the early 20th century, the best descriptions of clinical depression were actually in textbooks on thyroid disease, not psychiatric textbooks." It is common for people with thyroid problems to be given a misdiagnosis of psychiatric illness. “Normal” levels of thyroid stimulating hormone, or TSH, range from 0.4 to 5. (The higher the TSH level, the less active the thyroid.) Most endocrinologists agree that a score of 10 or over requires treatment for hypothyroidism. But for people with scores between, say, 4 and 10, things get murkier, especially for those who experience such vague psychiatric symptoms as fatigue, mild depression or just not feeling like themselves. Some doctors believe these patients should be treated. “If somebody has a mood disorder and subclinical hypothyroidism, that could be significant." Doctors have used thyroid hormones to treat performers with debilitating stage fright; one high-level musician recovered completely.
The idea of treating subclinical hypothyroidism is controversial, especially among endocrinologists. Thyroid hormone treatment can strain the heart and may aggravate osteoporosis in women. On the other hand, failing to treat the condition can also stress the heart, and some studies suggest it may increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. And then there is the misery quotient, which is hard to quantify. “People tend to discount the quality-of-life issues related to residual depression and anxiety." Women are far more likely to develop thyroid problems than men, especially past age 50, and some experts believe that gender accounts for some reluctance to treat subclinical disease. “There’s a terrible bias against women who come in with subtle emotional complaints. These complaints tend to be pushed aside or attributed to stress or anxiety.” Psychiatric symptoms can be vague, subtle and highly individual.
Another complication: It’s not clear to many experts what “normal” thyroid levels really are. “A patient might have a TSH of 5, which many clinicians would say isn’t high enough to be associated with symptoms. But if that person’s set point was around 0.5, that 5 would represent a tenfold increase in TSH, which might very well represent disease for that individual.” “I personally feel patients with TSH between 5 and 10, especially with psychiatric symptoms, warrant a trial of thyroid medication." [Site note - From personal experience, I can't stress enough that if you have any of these symptoms, insist on having your thyroid tested!!]