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Monday, January 23, 2012



I was lucky enough to get the valuable advice of several prominent nuclear physicists and scientists over the last month. I have publicly thanked them at the end of this blog. The following are some excerpts from what they wrote in response to my concerns about radiation levels in our world changing after Fukushima.

  1. The ocean and radiation pollution:
    "THE SOLUTION TO POLLUTION IS DILUTION" ... in this case the ocean is so large in comparison to the amounts of contaminants that it is safe to say they are infinitely diluted away... that is not to say there will be a local gradient or plume within a few meters/ kilometers of the plant... but don't forget that nowadays we have very sensitive mechanisms for measuring things, especially radioisotopes, but just because we can measure something and put it on a map doesn't mean it's significant... we can also measure radioactive fluxes in galaxies zillions and zillions of light years away and none of that is significant to us... yet we can measure it and place it on maps...”

    The World Radiation Monitoring Center has placed monitoring points around the world, including our oceans for the detection of radiation.

  2. Radiation in our food:
    “Yes, seaweed is showing radioactivity - as are the bananas, milk, eggs etc that you eat every day. This comes from the radioactive Carbon, Potassium and Uranium/Thorium isotopes that are present in the environment. Sometimes there may be trace amounts of other nuclides as well (Cesium, Beryllium, Tellurium, Cobalt, ...) that are detectable if you measure the samples long enough (24h or longer). It all depends on which elements are biologically absorbed by the plant. In the case of seaweed, it is known that it bioabsorbs Uranium next to other heavy metals. Some people have even thought to use algae to 'harvest' uranium from the sea.” 

    3. What dose of radiation is safe?
    If you google “no safe dose of radiation” you will find page after page of articles talking about the view that there is no safe dose of radiation. One study followed patients who had myocardial infarctions requiring various radioactive low dose scans. After five years there was a significant increase in cancer in those patients receiving the scan(s) versus the control group that did not receive the low dose radioactivity.  But if you have had a heart attack (myocardial infarction) wouldn't you want a scan to see the condition of your heart and which vessels are blocked? How about if you take a fall and hit your head – wouldn't you want a scan to see if there were bleeding in your brain?
And the scientific community argues that if the dose of radiation is low enough (lower than the study above) it could be beneficial. Radiation homeostasis is the theory that low doses of ionizing radiation (around natural background levels) are beneficial, stimulating the activation of repair mechanisms that protect against disease, and those repair mechanisms would not be activated in absence of ionizing radiation. While this is just a theory, there are many scientists strongly arguing for it. It is said that sunshine stimulates the production of Vitamin D in our bodies.
In the evolution of life,...the first one-celled life (bacterial films, pond scum) existed and evolved in a high ultraviolet radiation environment (without the ozone layer we have today) so adaptive mechanisms were established in cells from the very beginning in order to survive. Of course, they also mutated in form, (perhaps from the radiation) or we wouldn't be here today.

My thanks to Clemens Scholl, Nuclear Physicist at LIGA.NRW. (Consulting in radiation protection & monitoring and defense against nuclear hazards.Cologne Area, Germany) and Louis Pena, Senior Scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory for taking the time to address my questions and expand my knowledge base.

And finally I did a brief survey (very unscientific) asking the question – Are you comfortable enough with the radiation levels in Japan's air, water, and food to live there for the next year?
Not one person answered yes.
How about you?

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