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Radiation suits from South Florida sent to help Japan

March 17,2011
Sun Sentinel

As Japan's nuclear crisis escalates, emergency workers are finding protection in a unique safety suit created in South Florida.   More than 200 full-body nuclear radiation protection suits manufactured in Medley have been donated to aid power plant workers and rescue teams in Japan, and the company, Radiation Shield Technologies, is working full-time to keep up with orders from companies in Japan.  

The suits are in high demand because of their unique material, called Demron, invented by Coral Gables anesthesiologist and pain-management specialist Dr. Ronald DeMeo. The radiation-blocking material offers protection against infrared radiation, extreme heat, nuclear fallout, and biological and chemical agents.   DeMeo has been selling Demron products to military and rescue staff around the globe for several years, but he invented the fabric for medical personal. After using a continuous X-ray machine with his patients, he saw sunburn-like skin damage on his arms and hands. And he also saw many colleagues in his field afflicted with different types of skin cancers.  

"I didn't think we were taking this X-ray machine seriously enough. I started to look into better shielding," said DeMeo, who runs the medical practice Meridian Pain & Diagnostics in Coral Gables. "I didn't realize I was venturing into something that hasn't been invented before."  

After nuclear reactors in Japan were damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, DeMeo directed his Hong Kong distributors to send suits in stock to Japan. They are expected to arrive this weekend.   DeMeo made calls to donate the gear as soon as he saw footage of first responders who lacked protective clothing.  

Rescue workers from Miami-Dade County, New York City and elsewhere have been customers of the Demron products. But with the Japan crisis, orders for the suits spiked. He said he plans to expand his staff of 30 in Medley to keep up with growing demand from Asia and the Middle East, as well as an increase of interest from the U.S. West Coast. The company can make about 500 suits a month.  

The all-black suits, valued at $1,700 each, weigh nearly 10 pounds and can be put on without assistance — which can't be done with other radiological suits, according Dan Edward, in charge of business development at Radiation Shield Technologies.   DeMeo said it's wrong to say the radiation leak isn't too dangerous.   "I really think it's the wrong message. We really have to take this seriously," DeMeo said. "Even low-dose radiation exposure can increase your risk of cancer. Some people act like it's a food group and it's harmless. It's not."

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