Japanese nuclear crisis draws attention to dangers of radiation sickness.
Explosions at nuclear reactor sites have rattled Japan, a nation already traumatized by a powerful earthquake and massive tsunami.
The fear is real, but so far the actual radiation exposure to the area around the sites appears to be quite low, estimated at less than ten percent of a typical chest X-ray.
Exposure to workers in the reactor building itself has been much higher and many of those people have been quarantined.
In the event of a large meltdown the Japanese government has distributed 230,000 doses of stable iodine to evacuation centers.
Those pills would prevent radioactive iodine from accumulating in the thyroid, one of the biggest fears because it could lead to cancer.
Nuclear medicine specialists say those living in the areas closest to the reactor sites face far bigger health threats than a radiation leak.
"The lack of clean water, the lack of safety, the risk of additional earthquakes, fire, explosion, everything else is many many times higher to the population than the risk of radiation," notes Dr. James O'Donnell.
The American Red Cross estimates more than half a million people have been displaced.
Their health problems are real and immediate.
"Many of them have medical needs ranging from minor first aid to more serious trauma," says the Red Cross' Mark Preslan.
Needs that, for now, seem to surpass the threat of radiation.
In the event of further radiation leaks.
Japanese meteorologists say winds are headed east into the Pacific, which would help dissipate any contamination.