Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sensitivity To Radiation - Things We Find When We Look For Them

One of the fall outs of Three Mile islands was there is more radiation in our lives than we ever knew. Radiation understandably freaks people out. So when things like TMI, Chernobyl and now Fukushima happen, everyone starts checking things to see if they have anything to worry about. Nothing particularly unusual about that, it is human nature.

Since most of us don't walk around with Geiger counters most of the time, it is a little bit of a shock to see how much radiation is around us. Following TMI, abnormally high levels of Radon gas were found. They were abnormally high, because we had never really tested for them. That sparked a massive Radon testing program, mitigation programs and played hell on property values for a while. Many people were freaked out that their homes had, at the time, high levels of radiation.

In some cases the high levels were a real problem. New energy efficient homes are tighter. That means they are better insulated and had fewer drafts. Vapor barriers were installed to keep condition air in, but they kept other things in too, like radiation, mold, carbon dioxide, formaldehyde, all sorts of stuff that were always there, just not captured so well by home construction improvements before.

Thanks to energy efficient building designs, energy inefficient remedies had to be designed to protect ourselves often from ourselves. It was frustrating for me at the time because I had to test buildings and adjust systems to prevent what was called "tight building syndrome".

It was frustrating because the cures often led to more problems. There were new control devices at the time to monitor the concentrations of gases. With those, it was fairly simple to open or close air dampers (like a valve for air) to purge the bad stuff when needed and to save energy when purging was not needed. Unfortunately the control monitors were expensive, so the simplest solution was to just let the buildings breath more. That didn't fly with most building owners and architects. They wanted everything perfect in our imperfect world. So instead of installing an inexpensive attic fan or roof turbine, they wanted the air forced in and measured. Mold was a particularly bad problem. A small water leak in a tight building caused mold to grow which could not naturally dilute itself because the building was tight.

It is not surprising to me, that asthsma cases have been steadily rising since all the wonderful energy saving building designs have taken off. Anytime man tries to create a more sealed bio-verse for himself, he screws up. It is all a learning experience. Unfortunately, people die from well intentioned actions.

There are quite a few studies (I'll let you Google your pet issue), were overly protective parents have children that are more susceptible to different diseases. Common measles is one that hits the news from time to time. In the bad old days, kids caught the measles and other childhood diseases in school or daycare or on the playground, suffered through it and then were immune for the rest of their lives. Parents, wanting only the best for their kids, forced them to lead more sterile lives. Childhood vaccinations were developed, but with anything, there is always a small chance of complications. So a fairly large number of parents avoided the vaccinations, purely because they wanted only the best for their kids.

The problem is that, the viruses that caused childhood diseases still existed. There were much fewer cases, because of the vaccination programs, so some kids started getting the measles at older ages. Younger children, with their developing immune systems, are better able to develop the antibodies needed to protect them than older kids. So while there are fewer cases of childhood diseases, the cases started to have more complications.

There are a lot of things little kids do that just plain gross parents out. They eat dirt, stick every damn thing they find in their mouths, even pet poop. Well, there have been studies that have found that eating dirt may help infants and toddlers develop antibodies. I think I would do my best to stop them from tasting the cat poop, but who knows. The dirt eating thing is interesting. Dirt has all kinds of microbes. Tiny traces of bacteria and fungus are kind of like natural inoculations. Dirt even has radiation in it.

You can Google the things I have typed so far, but this is my own thought. Small amounts of radiation exposure in childhood is probably a good thing. That small amount is probably more than most would think. While there are still plenty of ongoing studies, "normal" background radiation is not really that normal. There are huge variations from place to place and diet to diet. The confounding thing in doing radiation studies is that huge variation. Overly protected children may be much more likely to have adverse reactions to radiation than the average public schooled, dirt eating toddler living in a house which by most standards does not have a floor you can eat off of. A little parenting sloth, may not be a bad thing.

Don't take my word for it, do your own research. It is in my mind better to be truly informed, than just getting your parenting education from the tube and trendy books. Still, until more research is available, try to keep them out of the cat poop.

1 comment:

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