In March of 2011, the largest earthquake in the history of Japan struck. The earthquake, recorded at a magnitude of 8.9, caused a 23-foot-tsunami and more than 50 aftershocks, many of which were greater than a 6.0 magnitude. People are still reeling in the aftermath, from the 18,000 deaths to the millions of dollars in damages and massive amount of radiation exposure.
Additionally, the disaster set off what is known to be the world’s worst nuclear crisis in 25 years. The Fukushima Daiichi plant had meltdowns at three of the plant’s six reactors after one unit exploded and another had a fire. Elevated levels of radiation sparked concern. Officials issued warnings for residents not to go outside and to close windows. Nearly 180,000 people were evacuated from the plant and were submitted for testing for radiation exposure. In addition, the plant leaked about 45 tons of highly radioactive water from a purification device and a quantity found its way into the ocean.
Not all radiation is harmful. There are two types:
Non-ionizing: Includes infrared radiation, radio waves, cellphone radiation, and the radiation used to cook food in a microwave.
Ionizing radiation: X-Rays, gamma rays, and the alpha or beta particles emitted by radioactive elements as they decay.
Initial symptoms of exposure to ionizing radiation include nausea and fatigue, then vomiting. Hair loss and diarrhea follows. Heavier exposure can include destruction of intestinal lining, dehydration, central nervous system damage, loss of consciousness, and inevitably death. A bomb such as the one that occurred in Hiroshima will produce X-rays and gamma rays that can kill immediately or aggravate injuries.
Furthermore, radioactive material can collect on skin and clothing, where it can emit radiation that will pierce skin. The material can also find its way to food, milk, water, and other products, which can eventually cause cancer. Though Fukushima does not emit gamma or X-irradiation, its exposure can still cause the aforementioned side effects (nausea, hair loss, cancer, etc.)
A person can’t see, hear, smell, or touch radiation, and therefore workers must be made aware of its dangers. Regulations according to the OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.1096 require employers to post caution signs, labels, and signals whenever radiation is present. The section establishes the standard radiation colors as magenta or purple on a yellow background along with the radiation caution symbol of three blades revolving around a circle.
OSHA requires that the following signs for the various types of hazards:
- Radiation areas must have conspicuous signs posted with both the radiation caution symbol and the words, “CAUTION, RADIATION AREA.”
- High radiation areas must have conspicuous signs posted with the caution symbols and the words “CAUTION, HIGH RADIATION AREA.”
- Areas with airborne radioactivity must have conspicuous signs posted with the caution symbol and the words “CAUTION, AIRBORNE RADIOACTIVE AREA.”
- Areas or rooms that are used to store radioactive materials, or areas or rooms in which natural uranium or thorium is used or stored, shall be posted with signs bearing the radiation caution symbol and the words, “CAUTION, RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS.”
MyRadiationSign.com is an excellent source for top-of-the-line radiation signs. These Radiation Area Signs and Symbols include messages such as “Caution: Radioactive Equipment in this Area.” Other important items are DOT Radiation Placards that comply with DOT identification rules and Radiation Tags. The signs and labels are comprised from an array of the best materials available, such as hefty aluminum, strong plastic, and laminated vinyl. These signs are guaranteed to last at least ten years and withstand weather damage, chemical spray, and abrasion.
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On a more current note, another dangerous leak from the Fukushima Daiichi plant happened on December 5th, 2011. Though final data is yet to be determined, as much as 220 tons is estimated to have leaked. Now more than ever, properly reinforcing radiation warnings are essential in order to save lives.