In all the “Russia, Russia, Russia!” insanity leading up to March, I completely missed the anniversary of Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011. It was March 11, 2011, and of course the thing that people remember today is the damage done to the Fukushima Diiaichi power plant.
But not to worry, the media are still fear-mongering. Radioactive contamination from Fukushima has drifted as far north as a remote Alaskan island, scientists discover.
That’s a scary headline! Let’s all go hide in our fallout shelters. Or maybe not.
Cesium-137 levels some 3,000-times higher than those found in the Bering Sea are considered safe for human consumption under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency drinking water standards, officials said.
Say it again. Levels would need to be 3000 times HIGHER than they are to cause a health concern.
Now this is the Daily Mail, and that is as close to any real information that they want to get. Report the ACTUAL levels of radiation detected? Why would they do that? You might figure out there is nothing to be alarmed over.
Luckily there are more detail oriented media sources, like The Anchorage Daily News.
The tell-tale sample contained 2.4 becquerels per cubic meter, an “extremely low” amount that is thousands of times lower than what the EPA considers unsafe for drinking, Sea Grant’s statement said.
A becquerel is a unit of radioactivity in which 1 atom decays per second. The background radiation for Cesium-137 in that part of the world is ≤ 2.0 becquerels per cubic meter. (Which isn’t in the Anchorage article but in the scientific paper they link to.)
So before you jump head first into the “Radiation!!!” insanity – instigated by the linear no-threshold dose theory – consider that we can detect stupidly small amounts of radiation.
Some other links for your consideration.
- The banana equivalent dose
- Fear, Uncertainty, and Government Policy
- Fear Killed After Fukushima Daiichi. Radiation, Not So Much
That last one is telling.
1600 people died as a result of the panic. And the stress it induced. Panic on the part of the government. On the part of the people. And on the part of Americans and Europeans. Because it is easier to cave into fear than convince you that you don’t know squat about radiation.
Hospital ICUs were evacuated, and people died. Not from radiation. From the evacuation, which was panic driven, because people don’t understand the least little thing about radiation, and they don’t want to. In part, because talking about radiation involves math. It is easier to be afraid. It is easier for the media to try and make you afraid than it is for them to do anything useful.
Radiation is a matter of degree. A little or a lot makes a difference.
We live in a nuanced world of degree. Eating a scoop of ice cream is fine, eating a gallon at one time is bad. Jumping off a chair is no big deal; jumping off a cliff is really stupid. The numbers matter. It’s the dose that makes the poison. There is a threshold to everything.
But then most of the reporting, and most of the government actions surrounding Fukushima Diiaichi have been stupid.
If you don’t look at anything else, you should look at the chart put together by Randall Munroe of XKCD. He published that shortly after the earthquake and tsunami, in the middle of the media insanity. It points out the stupidly small amounts of radiation we can detect, the naturally occurring sources (like the granite counters in your kitchen) and relative size of exposure from Fukushima Diiaichi.
Aside from the links in the list above there are also The Radioactive Tuna, which sounds like a good name for a rock and roll band, The never-ending mission to scare you to death, and to convince you that water is unsafe. There is more, but they get repetitive (and I wrote them.)