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Fukushima’s Potential Fallout for North America

This is from the Norwegian Institute for Air Research for April 14 through 18. You can adjust the model to run for radioactive Iodine, Cessium, etc. Here. There is no “safe” dose of radiation, according to Dr. Helen Caldicott

28 Comments

Nodnetni

about 9 years ago

But Fox News told me radiation is good for me.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FNFF61E_Dg&feature=player_embedded

Rougement

about 9 years ago

Meh. What are you going to do?

pH

about 9 years ago

New advisory issued for Europe, with some suggestions:
 
http://www.euractiv.com/en/health/radiation-risks-fukushima-longer-negligible-news-503947

John LaForge

about 9 years ago

Every federal agency that regulates industrial releases or the medical uses of radiation warns that any external or internal exposure to radiation, no matter how small, increases one's risk of cancer. There is no safe level of exposure to radiation, only legally "allowable" or "permissible" doses.

However, when a radiation accident happens major news organizations are often quick to down-play or outright misstate the potential health and environmental consequences. The second or third sentence in reactor accident or radiation release stories often include the phrase "no danger to the public" or the like.

A case in point is a New York Times report on increased cancer risk from low dose radiation: "But even the new estimate that radiation is a more potent carcinogen than previously believed should cause no concern for the average person, experts said, because the public is not exposed to enough radiation to exceed levels considered safe."(1) This is false. Today radiobiologists all agree that "one can no longer speak of a 'safe' dose level."(2) What should have been reported is that the public is not supposed to be exposed to doses that exceed allowable levels.

Following are the official U.S. government regulatory agency assessments:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
	"Based on current scientific evidence, any exposure to radiation can be harmful (or can increase the risk of cancer)... In other words, it is assumed that no radiation exposure is completely risk free.(3)

"[T]here is no level below which we can say an exposure poses no risk. ... Radiation is a carcinogen. It may also cause other adverse health effects, including genetic defects in the children of exposed parents or mental retardation in the children of mothers exposed during pregnancy.(4) 
	"Current evidence suggests that any exposure to radiation poses some risk, i.e. there is no level below which we can say an exposure poses no risk."(5)

U.S. Department of Energy
	"[T]he effects of low levels of radiation are more difficult to determine because the major effect is a very slight increase in cancer risk. However, U.S. Government regulations assume that the effects of all radiation exposures are cumulative and should be limited as much as reasonably possible."(6)

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
	"[T]he radiation protection community conservatively assumes that any amount of radiation may pose some risk for causing cancer and hereditary effect, and that the risk is higher for higher radiation exposures. A linear no-threshold dose-response relationship is used to describe the relationship between radiation dose and the occurrence of cancer. ... any increase in dose, no matter how small, results in an incremental increase in risk."(7)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
	"Ionizing radiation is invisible, high-frequency radiation that can damage the DNA or genes inside the body.
	"Some patients who receive radiation to treat cancer or other conditions may be at increased cancer risk. ... it is possible that there is a small risk associated with this exposure.
	"... children whose mothers received diagnostic X-rays during pregnancy. ... were found to have increased risks of childhood leukemia and other types of cancer, which led to the current ban on diagnostic X-rays in pregnant women."(8)

National Academy of Sciences
	The National Academy of Science's 7th book-length report on the effects of ionizing radiation exposure concluded that "there is a linear dose-response relationship between exposure to ionizing radiation and the development of radiation-induced solid cancers in humans. The committee further judges it unlikely that a threshold exists for the induction of cancers..."(9) In other words, as committee member Herbert L. Abrams of Harvard said, "There appears to be no threshold below which exposure can be viewed as harmless."(10)

National Council on Radiation Protection
	"... every increment of radiation exposure produces an incremental increase in the risk of cancer."(11)

________________________________ 
1. Philip Hilts, "Higher Cancer Risk Found in Low-Level Radiation," New York Times, Dec. 20, 1989.

2. Ian Fairlie & Marvin Resnikoff, "No dose too low," The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Nov/Dec 1997, p. 54

3. U.S. EPA, "Ionizing Radiation Series," No.2, Air & Radiation, 6601J, EPA 402-F-98-010, May 1998.

4. U.S. EPA, "Radiation: Risks & Realities," Air & Radiation, 6602J, EPA 402-K-92-004, Aug. 1993.

5. Ibid.

6. U.S. Dept. of Energy, DOE/NE-0074, "Understanding Radiation," p. 8 & 9. 


7. U.S. NRC, "How Does Radiation Affect the Public?" www.nrc.gov/what-we-do/radiation/affect.html.

8. U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, "Cancer and the Environment: Ionizing radiation," p. 10. .

9. National Academy of Sciences, "Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation: BEIR VII, Phase 2," Committee to Assess Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation, National Research Council, June 29, 2005.

10. Sharon L. Daniel, Stanford Report, Stanford University, Oct. 25, 2005.

11. National Council on Radiation Protection, "Evaluation of the Linear-Non-threshold Dose-Response Model for Ionizing Radiation," NCRP report 136, Bethesda, MD, June 4, 2001, cited in Science for Democratic Action, IEER, June 2005.

ozone bhaguan

about 9 years ago

Well, you can book a reservation at this spa, if you think radiation is good for you.

http://www.radonmine.com/resource.html

ozone bhaguan

about 9 years ago

But what I want to know is, is the sushi safe to eat in Duluth? Or will today's sushi help fight cancer?

Pune

about 9 years ago

The problem with the radiation literature is the dose response curves are drawn as a straight line from Hiroshima dose data, back to zero.  Second, is the fact that proving a cancer was radiation induced (vs. genetic, environmental, other....) is difficult, except in high dose exposures.  There is not always a single factor for any one disease.

German Chris

about 8 years ago

Thanks for scaring us again John and Dave. Make sure for all of us the stop using CRT TVs and stop sleeping next to someone (both give off radiation).  After all since a report says even small amounts of radiation is harmful then you must cancel all radiation possible. There cannot be an amount that a person can reasonably survive.

How about posting a comprehensive way how a lay person can learn and then judge for themselves whether the radiation from your simulation of 1000 Bq/m2 is dangerous or not.  But perhaps keeping your side of the argument shrouded in mystery and behind complicated links, terms and studies (quoting the BEIR VII study? come on) is your way of winning.

After looking for 2 minutes on the interwebs I found this graphic explaining radiation doses quite informative. 

http://xkcd.com/radiation/

It still cannot explain the complicated relationship between radiation releases and potential resulting radiation doses.  But it does give insight on radiation doses and how they relate to human health according to current science.

Lufthansa

about 8 years ago

Sensationalism at its finest.  GFR.

LMR

about 8 years ago

Let's take a closer look at this.  First, let's look at the link where the data comes from.  The first thing I saw was the following disclaimer: "ATTENTION: These products are highly uncertain based on limited information for the source terms. Please use with caution and understand that the values are likely to change once we obtain more information on the overall nature of the accident. The products should be considered informational and only indicate 'worst case scenario' releases. From what we've learned recently, it seems releases of this magnitude have not yet occurred. Furthermore, these modeling products are based on global meteorological data, which are too coarse to provide reliable details of the transport of the plume across Japan."

So this is a worst-case-scenario model -- not actual measured data.  Let's keep that in mind.  Next, the simulation shown in the post is the one that shows the highest *possible* activity -- the simulations for the other isotopes mentioned barely even register above 1 Becquerel.  And, this is only the plot for a predicted *total column* in the atmosphere activity level -- the predicted (again, worst-case-scenario) activity level on the surface barely registers.

Okay -- but let's run with these worst, worst-case-scenario numbers for the isotope Xenon-133.  (Half life of 5 days.)  One becquerel (Bq) means there is one decay per second.  But what we really need to know is how much energy this corresponds to.  Xenon-133 decays via beta decay which means it gives off electrons and those electrons can have a range of energies.  At the very maximum (again, we're going for worst, worst-case scenario), one Xe-133 decay releases 6.8x10^-14 Joules of energy in the form of an energetic electron.

The biggest activity level predicted on the plot is around 300 Bq way up in the Canadian Arctic.  So that means that there is a predicted release up in the atmosphere of about 2.04x10^-11 Joules of energy per second due to radioactive decay.  

Okay -- now let's say that somehow a 70-kg person is hanging out in the upper layers of the atmosphere.  The effective radiation dose s/he would receive is:
2.04x10^-11 Joules / 70kg = 2.91x10^-13 sieverts/sec.

If they hung out up there for a full day (somehow...), the dose would be 2.53x10^-8 Sieverts or 0.025 microsieverts over the day.  That's the worst-worst case scenario if your up in the atmosphere.  Every other isotope and everything at ground level is predicted less than that and has actually been measured **WAY** less than that.  This is the same amount of radiation energy a person would receive if they ate 1/4 of a banana that day instead.  (Yes, the radiation energy provided by a banana is 4 times more than this dose.)

So let's just keep things in perspective...

German Chris

about 8 years ago

LMR, maybe I am looking at the wrong data, but doesn't the graph use Bq/m2 as a unit? So it is an activity per area. I am still confused how you can get an effective radiation dose, unless this person in the atmosphere inhabits a certain amount of area.

Just wondering.

pH

about 8 years ago

So... it's kind of like killer bees loose inside the Mariner Mall?

LMR

about 8 years ago

Hi German Chris,

Yes -- the number is Bq/m^2.  But what that means is that its the predicted total amount of activity in a 1 meter square column of air reaching up to the edge of the atmosphere.  (The base of the column is 1 m^2, the height is 600 kilometers.)

So I've really *overestimated* the numbers -- I basically said that somehow this person who is standing in this 1 sq. meter column is absorbing *all* of the energy from *all* of the radiation that is occurring *all* the way throughout the atmosphere.

And even with that crazy over estimate, it's still just a quarter of a banana.  :-)

zra

about 8 years ago

i can visualize pH's summation...

the other stuff makes my head hurt.

how can we relate this to something like...say...

a 53 foot semi's worth of pingpong balls dumped down...mesaba.

Dj mouse

about 8 years ago

I'm not afraid of their radiation....that should be the least of our concerns....
As for the Sushi in Duluth....I would imagine that selling Japanese cuisine may include ingredients of product component of foodstuffs from Japan.  - Seaweed, Sake, or rice and spices - just be aware.

Dave Sorensen

about 8 years ago

Radioactive iodine 181 times drinking water limits was found in San Fransisco rain water in April. How hot was our recent snow fall? I don't know, but the latest optimistic forecast from Japan says they might get the plants under control 9 months from now, and the all-powerful nuke industry and the toady media are presenting the dangers of nuclear disaster as being about on  par with the dangers associated with herbal supplements or lightning strikes. When cancers take 20 - 30 years to appear, radioactive polluting can be the perfect crime. There is an epic media white-wash in progress, and though I can't argue with you about nuclear radiation or its medical effects, I posted that video as a response to all the happy-talk we've been hearing. The cumulative effects from low-level radiation are something we need to think about.

secretseasons

about 8 years ago

Dave Sorensen, the video you posted shows America being blanketed by the radiation of **bananas** and you think this is a rebuttal to "happy talk" from an "all powerful nuke industry" (that somehow, despite being all-powerful, hasn't kept a new reactor running since 1974 [1]). Stop fear-mongering.

[1] http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/07/nuclear-renaissance-is-short-on-largess/

Dj mouse

about 8 years ago

Half of the people are afraid and concerned. The other half - seems to think that radiation is not a big deal.
I happen to know the dangers of radiation. I am on the afraid and concerned viepoint. 

Even though mice are fairly radiation hardy...

Dj mouse

about 8 years ago

@pH " Killer bees loose in the Mariner MAll." LMAO! That is too funny....can I use that on my radio show.....sad I know of many people that died from Africanised HOney Bee Stings ( aka killer bees)

Dj mouse

about 8 years ago

@ GermanChris  - Your logic is absolutlely Stellar my lad ! Stellar!

BeastOfBurden

about 8 years ago

What if I eat a banana from Japan?  Please provide at least fourteen paragraphs of data coupled with sensational claims of what could happen to my goiter and nodules, because I need to know what could happen if I happen to encounter Japanese bananas here in Duluth.

Dave Sorensen

about 8 years ago

As the link with comment #3 says; the French research body CRIIRAD is advising pregnant women and infants to avoid fresh milk and leafy vegetables, because the risk is no longer "negligible." Secret Seasons -- the nuclear industry is extremely powerful. Aside from contributing to political candidates, it is hand-in-glove with the nuclear weapons industry. Doesn't get much more powerful than that. They haven't built any new reactors, partly because they are not economically feasible. The NRC has approved all 59 applications to extend operations for another 20 years at our existing, creaky, reactors. Is pointing out that we have reactors in the US built on seismic faults fear-mongering? Is it fear-mongering to point out that though we're told the miniscule amount of radiation in x-rays is harmless, we still avoid x-raying pregnant women? Maybe y'all are naivete-mongering. I'll let all you anonymous internet nuclear experts sort that out. Iodine 131 does not exist in nature. How can you make an analogy between it and the radiation from bananas? And by-the-way, the Banana Equivalent Dose has been shown to be false. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana_equivalent_dose

secretseasons

about 8 years ago

Dave, I was responding to the video you posted, not statements about plants on fault lines or X-rays of pregnant women. (How could have been responding to those statements when you hadn't made them yet?)

The thing is, you posted a video, and then in the comments you and others have made it clear that you don't really understand what is plotted in the video, you don't know whether 0.025 microSieverts/day is a lot or a little radiation, you just think that radiation-with-a-capital-R is dangerous no matter what. But you are bombarded by radiation from cosmic rays, the Sun, natural radioactive elements, etc etc all the time! A couple of us were just trying to put the *quantities* of radiation that are in that plot into perspective.

No one has come in here and said, "Hey, you should X-ray the hell out of all your pregnant friends, and we should store nuclear waste inside active volcanoes, and you should eat salads grown in the front yard of the Fukushima plant!" Can nuclear power be dangerous? Yes. (But compared to what, is the question you should be asking.) 

All I have said is that it's fear-mongering to say that we are in any danger from the airborne fallout from Fukushima as illustrated in your video.

Fine, the BED is not what I thought; bananas indeed contain some natural radioactive potassium, but I didn't realize the point about how the body metabolizes it. See what I did there? That's acknowledging that I didn't understand something. You should try it.

As your wikipedia link says, food sources DO expose us to 0.4 mrem/year on average. A rem is 0.01 Sieverts; so if we just do the simplest calculation possible that's ~0.011 microSieverts per day -- so LMR's worst-case-possible Fukushima exposure is like double the dose you get from a normal diet, ignoring cosmic rays and other background sources.

Once again I have fallen prey to getting into an argument on the internet. I will try to back off now. Thanks for reading.

Dave Sorensen

about 8 years ago

OK- the topic was not the potential for a massive disaster in the US, as would occur if one of our reactors situated on a fault line should be hit with an earthquake. I grant you that. I brought up x-raying pregnant women to make the point that even miniscule amounts of exposure hold risks. Now please tell me that rainwater in California which is 181 times the limit for radioactive iodine, is safe , and that the cow's  milk it's being concentrated in is safe. And please differentiate between external and internal exposures, and also between naturally occurring radiation and the products of nuclear fission. You're right- I can't do the math, but it's not paranoid to suspect that both the Japanese and US governments are not telling us the whole truth. If the Norwegian video was meaningless, I apologize. They thought it was important enough to post, and the disclaimers were there for all to read. I hope you skeptics re: the dangers are right, but, as with Chernobyl, the jury is still out on Fukushima's ultimate toll.

TimK

about 8 years ago

But Ann Coulter said radiation exposure was good for you! And she said it on Fox, so you know her statements were vetted for accuracy.

secretseasons

about 8 years ago

Internal vs external exposure is complicated; it depends on whether the radiation is alpha particles, beta decay, or gamma rays. It also matters whether the element is something your body holds onto (like iodine) or not (like the potassium that I didn't realize your body passes). In general, though, the amount of radiation coming from a speck of radioactive stuff falls off quickly as you move away from it; thus, having it inside your body means it's way way closer to your organs and you can't as easily get away from it. The details are of course more complicated than that, but it's not magic or mysterious; it's not like an insignificant amount of radiation becomes instant death if you move it inside your body.
I'm not sure what else to say about that.

Natural vs artificial is a red herring. When a gamma ray is passing through your body, your cells do not stop it and ask it whether it came from a natural element or not. It's not like the "natural" gamma rays are organic and free-range and harmless while the "unnatural" gamma rays are harmful. They're all radiation, and what matters is the energy, the absorption, your proximity, etc etc. All radiation behaves the same because it's all the same physics. All a particle has is its energy and momentum; it doesn't also come with a "label" that says it's "artificial" or whatever.

Dave Sorensen

about 8 years ago

And here's a bunch of stuff related to radiation levels being thousands of times above recommended limits. Something for the Sock Puppets to chew on.

http://blog.alexanderhiggins.com/

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