Jon Hamilton | KUNC

Jon Hamilton

Jon Hamilton has served as a correspondent for NPR's science desk since 1998. His current beat includes neuroscience, health risks, behavior, and bioterrorism. Recent pieces include a series on the chemical perchlorate, which is turning up in California's water supply; a government effort to find out just how many autistic children there are in the U.S.; and an exploration of "neuromarketing."

Before joining NPR in 1998, Hamilton was a media fellow with the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation studying health policy issues. He completed a project on states that have radically changed their Medicaid programs for the poor by enrolling beneficiaries in private HMOs.

From 1995-1997, Hamilton wrote on health and medical topics as a freelance writer, after having been a medical reporter for both The Commercial Appeal and Physician's Weekly.

Hamilton graduated with honors from Oberlin College in Ohio with a B.A. in English. As a student, he was the editor of the Oberlin Review student newspaper. He earned his master's degree in journalism from Columbia University where he graduated with honors, won the Baker Prize for magazine writing, and earned a Sherwood traveling fellowship.

Events at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan have people as far away as California worrying about exposure to radiation. But experts say they shouldn't. Right now, the only people in danger are the ones who actually work at the nuclear plant itself.

That still hasn't stopped people on the U.S. West Coast from stocking up on potassium iodide pills to protect themselves from radiation.

Problems at three nuclear reactors in Fukushima, Japan, have led to news reports that range from reassuring to terrifying. But experts on nuclear accidents say there's plenty of cause for concern, not for alarm.

The benchmarks for nuclear mishaps were set by incidents at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979 and Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union in 1986, and most experts think what's happening in Fukushima will end up somewhere in between those two. But the trouble with comparisons like these is that leaves a lot of wiggle room.

Dangerous levels of radiation are leaking Tuesday from the earthquake-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant north of Tokyo and levels are rising, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Tuesday.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan ordered everyone within 20 kilometers (about 12 miles) to evacuate. He told everyone within 30 kilometers (about 19 miles) to go inside. Japan's NHK television said most residents inside the 20-kilometer radius have already evacuated.

Some businessmen and scientists in Austin, Texas, are trying to change the way consumers think about plastic.

They say it's not enough to buy a water bottle or sandwich bag that's free of BPA, the chemical consumer groups have criticized because, at least in animals, it acts like the hormone estrogen. They say BPA is only part of the problem, and they think they have a solution that involves a new approach to making plastic.

Mike Usey, the CEO of PlastiPure, says people need to stop focusing on BPA.

Most plastic products, from sippy cups to food wraps, can release chemicals that act like the sex hormone estrogen, according to a study in Environmental Health Perspectives.

The study found these chemicals even in products that didn't contain BPA, a compound in certain plastics that's been widely criticized because it mimics estrogen.

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