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April 19, 2011

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Passive smoke radiation hurts kids

DOCTORS from Shanghai pediatric hospitals say parents needn't panic about minimal radiation from the crippled nuclear power plant in Japan after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, but warned that bad habits and lack of awareness of radiation already exposes children to unhealthy levels.

Radiation at home is more dangerous than the radioactivity at the current stage from Japan, doctors say.

The fetus at early stages and growing children are at higher risk because their cells are dividing fast and some radiation can disrupt the division process and affect the DNA; in cases of high exposure this could eventually cause cancer.

"Many radioactive threats in daily life are risky to children's health, such as second-hand smoke, some poor-quality gemstones that parents buy from small stores for their children, and watches with luminous faces," says Dr Zhu Ming, director of Shanghai Children's Medical Center's radiology department and director of Chinese Medical Association's pediatric radiology branch.

Cigarettes release radioactive elements like polonium-210 and lead-210, which enter the respiratory system. The annual radiation for a person who smokes one and a half packs a day is equivalent to receiving 300 X-ray checks.

"Children suffering second-hand smoke are also under the threat of radiation," Zhu said.

Around 180 million Chinese children below age 15 live with second-hand smoke, which is far more harmful than natural radiation and occasional medical X-rays.

Good habits help protect children from radiation, such outdoor exercise, instead of too much time watching TV and playing on computers. Appliances should be unplugged when they are not in use. Wash their hands and bathe when they come indoors.


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