TUESDAY, March 15 (HealthDay News) -- The crisis at Japan's stricken complex of four nuclear reactors deteriorated dramatically Tuesday as explosions continued to rock the site and reports emerged that water in a pool used to cool spent fuel rods may be boiling.
More radiation was released from the complex that was devastated by Friday's earthquake and resulting tsunami, and Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the radiation had leaked from the four reactors, the Associated Press reported.
"The level seems very high, and there is still a very high risk of more radiation coming out," he said.
To combat health risks to residents, government officials were planning to distribute potassium iodide pills -- to prevent thyroid cancer, the most immediate risk. However, in a worst-case scenario -- large amounts of released radiation -- the result could be many other types of cancers years later, the AP reported.
Radiation experts said the threat to North America was virtually non-existent because any escaped radiation would dissipate before it crossed the Pacific Ocean.
One radiation expert, Jacqueline Williams, a research professor in the department of radiation oncology at the University of Rochester in New York, said high levels of radiation -- potentially like those experienced by workers at the nuclear complex -- can be lethal because "radiation disrupts your cells and you die."
The danger to people outside the immediate area could come from inhaling radioactive particles, Williams said. The type of radiation released into the air would depend on the type of fuel used at a plant, she added.
Often the big components of released radiation are radioactive iodine and radioactive cesium, Williams said.
Breathing in or eating food contaminated with radioactive iodine can cause thyroid cancer. Food can become contaminated as the radioactive d
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