Long Life, Short Life

When I heard about Americans buying fistfuls of iodine tablets to stave of the effects of radiation poisoning I wondered: are these the same folks who refuse to immunize their children against childhood diseases?

I don’t know.

It’s just irrationality weaving threads between folks here, six thousand miles from Japan, worried about irradiation, and parents who believe vaccines will harm their kids. The pills are recommended for folks who live near nuclear fallout zones, and the pills flood the thyroid temporarily making it more difficult for the radiation to affect the thyroid.

Somehow I blew out my thyroid and now I have to take pills every morning to have a normal level of energy.

I have no idea how this happened, except that I’ve always been energetic, so I figure that, like a timepiece, the parts just wore out. One of my sisters has the same problem: a thyroid gone haywire.

After trying to find out if thyroid diseases affect American Indians, I learned that they do. The cause? Seems that all that exposure to toxic dumps in the Northeast have left Indian populations prone to thyroid disease, cancer and immune problems.

Scientists have found abnormally high levels of PCBs in Indian mothers’ breast milk, a direct result of PCBs leaking in soil and water.

In some communities where Indian populations are high, the life expectancy is jaw-dropping low. Take South Dakota, where non-Indians live to be about 79. But if you’re American Indian? It’s 58.

Go figure.


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in health, Indian, Native Science, risk, science, science communication and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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