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writing for godot

Tuna Blues

Written by Lorian Eades   
Saturday, 02 June 2012 00:12
Headline: "Fukushima radiation seen in tuna off California"

Many sources have reported that radiation in the bluefin tuna sampled measured was 10 times higher than normal!

People interviewed on news channels and posting on the internet are vowing to stop eating tuna!

Vegans adopted a self-congratulating "I told you so" attitude and admonished everyone to eat lower on the food chain.

The more excitable members of the "we are doomed" gaggle warn that this is only the beginning - we will be walking around with tumors sprouting throughout our bodies while bearing three headed children who will live in a world without safe food, water or air while waiting for cockroaches to take over the planet.

My "doomer" contacts have checked out their bug out bags and are prepared to go into survival mode as Tuna troubles topple western civilization. Some even believe that the entire story is a red herring that is supposed to keep us from noticing the predator drones circling our homes while the rich move to their compounds with their catches of gold.

Certainly the intellectual elite (manipulated by bankers and bureaucrats) are lying about acceptable exposure levels to radiation and we will all be glowing in the dark if we eat one more tuna sandwich.

Hot tuna is hot indeed.

Of course the actual scoop was a bit different.

Here is one of the original sources of this news:

Another "So what..."

It was only cesium that was 10 times higher than in previous years.

The cesium measured was about 3% of the normal radiation from potassium found in these tuna. In other words, the tuna contain about 30 times as much naturally occurring radiation as was added by the cesium detected.

How bad is cesium and how scared should we be?

From Wiki

"Caesium compounds are rarely encountered by most people, but most are mildly toxic because of chemical similarity of caesium to potassium. Exposure to large amounts of caesium compounds can cause hyperirritability and spasms, but as such amounts would not ordinarily be encountered in natural sources, caesium is not a major chemical environmental pollutant. The median lethal dose (LD50) value for caesium chloride in mice is 2.3 g per kilogram, which is comparable to the LD50 values of potassium chloride and sodium chloride."

"The isotopes 134 and 137 (present in the biosphere in small amounts from radiation leaks) represent a radioactivity burden which varies depending on location. Radiocaesium does not accumulate in the body as effectively as many other fission products (such as radioiodine and radiostrontium). About 10% of absorbed radiocaesium washes out of the body relatively quickly in sweat and urine. The remaining 90% has a half-life between 50 and 150 days. Radiocaesium follows potassium and tends to accumulate in plant tissues, including fruits and vegetables."

From Radio Australia interview with Daniel Madigan - one of the principle researchers from Stanford

"So actually we looked at two isotopes of caesium and the half-life of one of them is 30 years, at caesium … and the other one is two years. So the breakdown is slightly faster than that, especially for caesium 134. The levels we measured it's very unlikely that it had any effect on the fish, at least the very large fish. Where the caesium was more concentrated near Japan it's possible that higher levels may have an effect on especially maybe smaller fish, but the levels we found in the size of the Bluefin we found really shouldn't have much of an effect on the animals at all."

"It's a tricky issue, people are very concerned about any amount of radioactivity. Like I said according to what's basically been established as safety limits it shouldn't cause any problems. That being said it's clear to me that many people either don't believe the limits or they don't believe that there's any such thing as a safe amount of radiation. So consuming it is really up to anyone, it ends up being really a personal choice of what they want to consume. But again according to research that's been done and the limits that are set, this doesn't pose a safety risk to humans."

From Nicholas Fisher - distinguished professor in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University in New York

"The total amount is very low. It's detectable, but it's not a serious cause for concern."

"I don't want to tell people what they should or should not eat," he later added, "but I personally would not be terribly anxious about consuming fish that are 3 per cent more radioactive than the natural radiation background. That's extremely low levels."

"While this news might convince some to stay away from sushi-grade tuna for a while, it's interesting to note that plenty of the food we eat every day contains radiation.

Bananas, for example, are loaded with potassium, which is one of the fruit's known health benefits. But potassium also contains the naturally occurring radionuclide (or radioisotope) potassium-40, which decays naturally and emits radiation. Potatoes also emit radiation as do nuts (especially Brazil nuts), lima and kidney beans."

Fisher's comment comparing cesium and potassium sourced radiation generated a firestorm of criticism.

Here is the original source document most often referenced to refute Fisher's perspective (Fukushima311watch)

Fukushima311watch is not a mainstream publication. It is not peer reviewed by other scientists. It could be viewed as a propaganda source published by and for frightened people seeking an end to nuclear power and weapons.

The Argonne National Laboratory is a non-profit research lab at the University of Chicago. It is well respected by scientists from around the world.

Here is their summary of cesium

The risks and effects of exposure to cesium are reported as:

"What Happens to It in the Body?

Cesium can be taken into the body by eating food, drinking water, or breathing air. After being taken in, cesium behaves in a manner similar to potassium and distributes uniformly throughout the body. Gastrointestinal absorption from food or water is the principal source of internally deposited cesium in the general population. Essentially all cesium that is ingested is absorbed into the bloodstream through the intestines. Cesium tends to concentrate in muscles because of their relatively large mass. Like potassium, cesium is excreted from the body fairly quickly. In an adult, 10% is excreted with a biological half-life of 2 days, and the rest leaves the body with a biological half-life of 110 days.
Clearance from the body is somewhat quicker for children and adolescents. This means that if someone is exposed to radioactive cesium and the source of exposure is removed, much of the cesium will readily clear the body along the normal pathways for potassium excretion within several months.

What Are the Primary Health Effects?

Cesium-137 presents an external as well as internal health hazard. The strong external gamma radiation associated with its short-lived decay product barium-137m makes external exposure a concern, and shielding is often needed to handle materials containing large concentrations of cesium. While in the body, cesium poses a health hazard from both beta and gamma radiation, and the main health concern is associated with the increased likelihood for inducing cancer.

What Is the Risk?

Lifetime cancer mortality risk coefficients have been calculated for nearly all radionuclides, including cesium (see box at right). While the coefficients for ingestion are somewhat lower than for inhalation, ingestion is generally the most common means of entry into the body. Similar to other radionuclides, the risk coefficients for tap water are about 80% of those for dietary ingestion. In addition to risks from internal exposures, there is a risk from external gamma exposure. Using the external gamma risk coefficient to estimate a lifetime cancer mortality risk, if it is assumed that 100,000 people were continuously exposed to a thick layer of soil with an initial average concentration of 1 pCi/g cesium-137, then 6 of these 100,000 people would be predicted to incur a fatal cancer. (This is in comparison to about 20,000 people from the group predicted to die of cancer from all other causes per the general U.S. average.) This risk is largely associated with the gamma ray from barium-137m. "

I agree that Fukushima was a terrible tragedy for all the earth. I know it will a nightmarish reminder for the remainder of all our lives. I agree that we cannot continue to rely on nuclear power and can never justify building or using nuclear weapons. However, spreading fears that have not been properly vetted, not replicated and are not supported by multiple sources of evidence is something else. Whipping up a frenzy by cherry picking which information is presented and not conveying proper perspective or context is irresponsible and destructive. The sites that publish unsupported opinion pieces are no different than propaganda groups denying climate change, denying the dangers of fracking, denying evolution, fearing same sex marriage, supporting trickle down economics and faith based safety nets...

I'm not saying we should ingest radioactive materials for a good time, but I do think we may need to keep exposure risks in perspective. Of course anyone can decide for themselves as to what is a threat and how to deal with that threat.

A person would have to eat 5,000 to 8,000 pounds of bluefin tuna in a year to be exposed to the amount of radiation that is considered the acceptable annual exposure. At current Tokyo market prices, that could cost about $2 million - a pretty expensive sushi bar tab. Of course, far less poundage would leave the diner relaxing in diapers filled with their own excrement at a custodial care facility, enjoying the fog of dementia, eyes spinning, drooling on their caretakers as their limbs twitch uncontrollably. All from the mercury that had it's source from our best friend forever - coal.

As for giving up on tuna sandwiches, remember that almost no bluefin is canned. The tuna we buy in isle 666 of the Piggly Wiggly never visited Japan.

Given the statistics posited by the Argonne National Library, if everyone on the planet was exposed to a fairly high level of cesium about 39,000 glowing souls currently transpiring would be dispatched to meet their maker because of the radiation. If everyone on the planet simply started washing their hands more often over 1,000,000 humans could be spared annually: I don't think we should be so afraid of radiation from cesium when we over 1,700 times more people would die because we won't wash our hands.

These tuna are far less frightening than the monster under your bed.

Of corse, to quote Stephen Novella, MD at Yale University School of Medicine,

"the evidence indicates that for many people, you cannot persuade them on the evidence. Unfortunately, human psychology simply does not work that way." your social media marketing partner
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