Iodine-131 is a radioactive form of the element, iodine, released in abundance in the cloud of radioactive steam released by a failing nuclear power. Thyroid cancer develops when thyroid cells absorb excessive radioactive iodine , either through the air or through contaminated food. Babies and toddlers are at the highest risk as their thyroid glands are most radiation-sensitive whereas those over age of 40 are at less risk. By referring to the diagram above, thyroid sits below the voice box and it controls how fast every cells in the human body changes food into energy. Thyroid hormone released from thyroid gland regulates many functions of the body which includes function of digestive tract, brain, heart, nerves, muscles, bones, and skin.
Iodine is necessary for the formation of thyroid hormone and the main sources of iodine are from fishes and shellfish, dairy and eggs, and fruits and vegetables grown in iodine-rich soil. The human body absorbs iodine and stores it in the thyroid gland. Unfortunately, our thyroid glands are also radiation-sensitive and will store harmful iodine-131 that is released into the atmosphere.
Thyroid gland stores iodine-131 as readily as natural, non-radioactive iodine. As iodine-131 builds up in the thyroid gland, it emits clouds of radiation which damages DNA and subsequently mutation. As this proceeds, normal cellular growth and division mechanism are altered, unchecked growth of thyroid tissue can be referred as thyroid cancer. Iodine-131 enters the human body via few mechanisms:
Iodine-131 are absorbed into the body when human breath in radioactive steam released by a nuclear power plant, from fallout of radioactive particles into atmosphere and from consumption of radioactive iodine contaminated water and crops.
Safety of Japanese Seafood to Thyroid and Health:
Debates have been ongoing about the safety of Japanese seafood, the concerns are due to dumping of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean by Japan's Tokyo Electric Power Co. people are feared of the radioactive iodine-131 that dissolves in water, and experiments have shown that the iodine tends to concentrate in algae which worsen the situation when iodine-131 gets concentrated as it works its way up the food chain.
Several countries have stated that they will strengthen checks of Japanese food for radioactivity, which was decided only hours after the World Health Organization announced that the detection of radiation of some foods in Japan was a more serious problem than expected.
Are you worried? Below are some evidence of the health conscious society:
Malaysia's largest sushi restaurant chain claimed that they had stopped importing raw seafoods from Japan over fears of radiation contamination. In Hong Kong, some luxury hotels including the Shangri-La hotel and Four Seasons Hotel have stopped imports of seafoods from Japan. New Delhi supplier and some restaurants had also stopped imports of Japanese foods.