Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Here We Go Again - More of the "IT'S RADIATION!!!" Insanity

Radioactive tuna travels from Japan to US faster than wind - CSMonitor.com

I have spent too much time looking for any meaningful information to be published on this story. I give up. Even though the reference is always like this...
The amount of radioactive cesium in the fish is not thought to be damaging to people if consumed, the researchers said in a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
I can't find the referenced article on the PNAS website. (I think you have to subscribe to get all the articles when they are current....)

What do we know? Tuna off the Pacific Coast of the US has been found with a 3 percent increase in its normal levels of radiation. In the form of Cesium 134. Which it is fair to associate with the Fuckushima Daiichi disaster after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, (That is official Japanese name for the disaster) since cesium 134 is only produced by atomic reactors or atomic bombs.

But it is that nebulous "3 percent" number that is insane. The amount of radiation we can detect is vanishingly small. And a lot of food is naturally radioactive. (See the Banana Equivalent Dose, for an example.)
Bluefin tuna typically have low levels of naturally occurring radioactive material, such as potassium 40, which was present in the world's oceans long before human beings walked the Earth.
As I quoted in another post about radiation, “Jumping off a chair is no big deal; jumping off a cliff is really stupid.” 3% is only a meaningful number if we know the base. And the journalism profession - it seems - doesn't know this. Or they aren't telling. A 3 percent increase of a small number is still a small number.

But Americans refuse to understand this. And the media doesn't help. What do you expect from a bunch of folks with Journalism degrees. The last science class they took was high-school biology, they are proud of the fact they don't understand math (or by extension statistics), but they will scream about the perils of radiation. Even thought they don't know what they are.

The Christian Science Monitor did give us one other piece of information not supplied by any of the other articles I looked into. Half-life.
Cesium 134 decays quickly, with a half-life of two years. Bluefin tuna excrete it on a daily basis and it also gets diluted in their bodies as they grow.
That is a fairly short half-life, as these things go. I guess they feel they need to get the hysteria in now, in a few more years, it won't be worth it.

3 comments:

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

The story I saw this morning claimed "The levels of radioactive cesium were 10 times higher than the amount measured in tuna off the California coast in previous years." However it did, surprisingly, note that "that's still far below safe-to-eat limits set by the U.S. and Japanese governments."

I wonder what some of the people panicking about this would do if they realized that banana shipments routinely set of the radiation detectors used in ports to catch smuggling of nuclear materials?

Graybeard said...

I saw Radioactive Tuna open for the Rock Bottom Remainders. No... No... Wait. It might have been when they opened for Ultimate Spinach.

:-D

Zendo Deb said...

“I wonder what some of the people panicking about this would do if they realized that banana shipments routinely set of the radiation detectors used in ports to catch smuggling of nuclear materials?”

They would have a fit, stop eating bananas and demand a Congressional Investigation.