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Nursing students and faculty may develop a renewed interest in the effects of radiation contamination as we watch the population of Japan struggle to recover from the effects of a devastating earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear power disaster. Would we be prepared to react to a similar disaster? In late March, more than 13 states in the United States reported the presence of radioactive particles from the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan.1 Can we explain the significance of this discovery to our students or clients?


The EPA provides resources related to the health effects of radiation at This site includes up-to-date information related to the Japanese crisis along with explanations of the health consequences resulting from radiation exposure. Stochastic health effects are more often associated with cancer, whereas the effects of acute radiation exposure include burns and radiation sickness.2


The World Health Organization (WHO) also provides Internet resources related to radiation accidents and emergencies at The WHO provides discussions of radiation and radiation protection, a Manual for First Responders to a Radiological Emergency, and a 2005 guideline to medical responses for a nuclear or radiological emergency.3


Reviewing these resources will help us answer questions presented by students, patients, and perhaps even friends or family related to the consequences of a nuclear event.



1. Clayton M. Traces of Japanese radiation detected in 13 US states. The Christian Science Monitor. March 28, 2011. Available at Accessed April 8, 2011.


2. Environmental Protection Agency. Understanding radiation: health effects. March 24, 2011. Available at Accessed April 11, 2011.


3. World Health Organization. Ionizing radiation. Available at Accessed April 8, 2011.


Submitted by: Robin E. Pattillo, PhD, RN, CNL, News Editor at [email protected].