Posts Tagged cesium

Radiation in food: Radish Boya to Set Its Own Cesium Standard | EX-SKF.

The bottom line is forcing more and more businesses to take matters into their own hands instead of relying on the government.  The rice farmers of Fukushima, judging by this unconfirmed but unfortunately not implausible story, apparently don’t need to worry about the bottom line.

Radish Boya, an online grocer who first alerted Shizuoka Prefecture that one of the Shizuoka contained radioactive cesium exceeded the provisional limit by its own testing, is going to set its own standard for cesium in food and drinks that it sells, which is one-tenths of the national provisional standards.

via Radiation in food: Radish Boya to Set Its Own Cesium Standard | EX-SKF.

See also this June blog entry,  quoting a Japan Times article about online mail-order food-delivery companies promising pesticide-free, organic food: Irradiated food poses moral dilemmas.

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How dangerous to human health is radioactive cesium?

On March 25th, 2011, Lewis Page wrote,

nobody has ever been able to show that this isotope [caesium-137] has any health consequences at all: huge amounts were emitted from Chernobyl, but no discernible illnesses have resulted.

However, Page is perhaps not a reliable source of information. A commenter on this blog wrote,

It seems Mr. Page is finally quieting down a bit. His comments seemed unduly rosy at the time he wrote them – with hindsight they defy polite comment. At the time of Mr. Page’s writing the meltdowns had already occurred but were not yet public knowledge. However what was known was bad enough and this was in no way reflected in Mr. Page’s writing.

I would especially like to point out Mr. Page’s belief that the Chernobyl catastrophy cost less than fifty lives.

And he provided these  three  links.

So what exactly are the health concerns with regard to radioactive caesium? Is it dangerous to breathe it in? To digest it? Wikipedia provides little  information about the effects on human health of exposure to radioactive caesium-137. Wikipedia also informs me that there are several radioactive isotopes of caesium. Caesium-137 has a half-life of about 30 years. (“The radioactive 135Cs has a very long half-life of about 2.3 million years.”)

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). As with other alkali metals, radiocaesium washes out of the body relatively quickly in sweat and urine. However, radiocaesium follows potassium and tends to accumulate in plant tissues, including fruits and vegetables.[97][98][99] It is also well-documented that mushrooms from contaminated forests accumulate radiocaesium (caesium-137) in their fungal sporocarps.[100] Accumulation of caesium-137 in lakes has been a high concern after the Chernobyl disaster.[101][102] Experiments with dogs showed that a single dose of 3800 μCi (4.1 μg of caesium-137) per kilogram is lethal within three weeks;[103] smaller amounts may cause infertility and cancer.[104

This would suggest that the fact that people have radioactive urine is not a signal for mass panic: rather, their bodies are functioning normally and flushing the (presumably) caesium out.

So perhaps we should be more concerned about strontium. However, the media is all about caesium…

BTW, I recommend reading the Wikipedia entries on the Chernobyl disaster and on deaths due to the Chernobyl disaster. They provide perspective on what is unfolding in Fukushima. By that I mean firstly, there were many people who died immediately or within 3 months, due to acute radiation sickness. So far no-one has died from ARS in Fukushima or anywhere else in Japan since March 11. And secondly, it gives a hint as to how long the Fukushima disaster will continue (the Chernobyl disaster occurred on 26 April 1986, 25 years ago) :

Of the 440,350 wild boar killed in the 2010 hunting season in Germany, over 1,000 were found to be contaminated with levels of radiation above the permitted limit of 600 bequerels, due to residual radioactivity from Chernobyl.[100] Germany has “banned wild game meat because of contamination linked to radioactive mushrooms”.[101]

The Norwegian Agricultural Authority reported that in 2009 a total of 18,000 livestock in Norway needed to be given uncontaminated feed for a period of time before slaughter in order to ensure that their meat was safe for human consumption. This was due to residual radioactivity from Chernobyl in the plants they graze on in the wild during the summer. The after-effects of Chernobyl were expected to be seen for a further 100 years, although the severity of the effects would decline over that period.[102] In Britain and Norway, as of 2011, “slaughter restrictions remain for sheep raised on pasture contaminated by radiation fallout”.[103]

Without precise information about the type of isotope detected, articles like this one, while high in attention-grabbing and unease-causing power, do little to inform. (This one is even worse.)

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Japanese Government Will Lift Shipping Ban on Cows from Fukushima and Miyagi (Hello #Radioactive Beef Again) | EX-SKF

Yesterday, I predicted growing and lingering uncertainty and doubt in the minds of Japanese residents for a long time to come. Doubts about the accuracy of food-safety and information about food-safety; doubts about the trustworthiness and reliability of the sources, doubts as to the sources (is this food really where the package says its from?). There will continue to be doubts, even if the source of information seems sincere and trustworthy, due to the unpredictable nature of radiation accumulation in different foods.

Below is more evidence for my prognosis. From EX-SKF who is quoting from his own translation of a  Mainichi Shinbun (8/18/2011) news item:

The Ministry of Health and Labor wanted the contaminated rice hay out of the cattle farms as a condition to lift the ban. On the other hand, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fukushima/Miyagi Prefectures insisted the rice hay remain within the farms as long as it was separated from the cows, because it would be hard for the farms to secure the storage space outside the farms.

So the Ministry of Health and Labor lost. This is the Ministry that’s supposed to protect consumers.

Will they test all the cows? No they won’t. Not even in Fukushima. They only test the meat of the cows raised in the planned evacuation zone and evacuation-ready zone right outside the 20 kilometer radius from Fukushima I Nuke Plant. For everywhere else in Fukushima Prefecture, the first cow to be shipped from a cattle farm will be tested. If that passes the test, all cows can be sold.

Even when they do test, they will just do the simple test using “affordable” instruments that cost only a few thousand dollars and take only 15 minutes to test, and as long as the number is below 250 becquerels/kg they won’t test further. Only if it goes above 250 becquerels/kg, they will use expensive instruments that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and take 1 hour to test.

What about the news at the end of July that radioactive cesium is NOT distributed evenly in the meat, not even within the same part?

via Japanese Government Will Lift Shipping Ban on Cows from Fukushima and Miyagi (Hello #Radioactive Beef Again) | EX-SKF.

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Japan rice worries a blow to collective psyche | Reuters

The article below suggests that the recent news to test rice for radioactivity came as a shock to the nation. If so, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry will have been spared the shock as they were already anticipating this in May: Experiment to decontaminate farmland begins in Fukushima I have not seen any follow-up reports on the results of this experiment. Inquiring minds would like to know.

News that local governments around Japan will test rice for radioactive caesium came as a blow that rocked the nation’s collective psyche, threatening to make its beloved traditional staple the latest in a long list of forbidden foods.

Announcement of the testing last week came amid public fears over radiation in food in the wake of the world’s worst nuclear crisis in 25 years at the Fukushima plant in northeastern Japan, with excessive levels of radiation found in beef, vegetables, tea, milk, seafood and water.

via Japan rice worries a blow to collective psyche | Reuters.

And from the Breitbart May 28th article:

The farm ministry and the prefectural government have secured 3 hectares of rice paddies, vegetable fields and grassland for the program in which they plant sunflowers and amaranths in the fields to see their capabilities for absorbing radioactive cesium in the soil, they said.

In the paddies, they will use a mineral called zeolite to see its effect in absorbing cesium in mud, they said.

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Chiba rice free of radioactivity | The Japan Times Online

So that’s all right, then, boys and girls, do you see?

Trouble is, who will believe it? I suspect many won’t. Local governments may (or may not) be more trustworthy and reliable than the national government (because local governments are more answerable), but Japanese’ faith in authorities has taken a battering since March 11th.

I’ve emphasised the numbers in the quote below.

No radioactive substance has been detected in sampling tests on rice before harvesting in Tako, northeastern Chiba, the prefectural government said. The result announced Tuesday is the first for radiation tests for rice under a guideline set by the central government, Chiba officials said. Prefectures mainly in eastern Japan are conducting radiation tests on rice to check if rice planted this spring is contaminated with radiation from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. Until rice after harvesting clears tests in late August, the prefecture will voluntarily refrain from shipping rice from Tako, an official said. Chiba Prefecture is also implementing tests on harvested rice in the cities of Tateyama, Kamogawa and Minamiboso in a bid to announce results as early as Thursday. The municipality of Itako in Ibaraki Prefecture has also conducted radiation tests on rice under its own guidelines and detected no radioactive cesium in newly harvested rice, municipal officials said Tuesday. The central government has come up with a radiation test guideline calling for priority tests after harvesting in areas where rice before harvesting is found containing radioactive cesium at levels above 200 becquerels per kg. No shipment would be allowed if the levels exceed 500 becquerels per kg.

via Chiba rice free of radioactivity | The Japan Times Online.

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Radioactive Rice to Come? Rice Growing in a Rice Paddy with 35,000 Becquerels/kg of Radioactive Cesium? | EX-SKF

The transfer factor from the soil to rice is considered to be about 0.1. 35,000 becquerels/kg in soil may result in 3,500 becquerels/kg of harvested rice, 7 times the provisional safety limit which is already far too loose for the staple like rice.

I’ve found the video clip for this part. It’s the rice paddy in Fukushima City. Fukushima City was OUTSIDE the evacuation zone of any kind, so the soil was apparently never tested by the prefectural government. The reporter asks the question in English, with a Japanese interpreter.

Japanese people who watched the video or knew about it from Kino’s tweets are thanking ZDF for having shown up and asked questions at the press conference. It’s been a very long time any foreign media showed any interest in these conferences given by TEPCO/government on Fukushima I Nuke Plant and radiation contamination.

I hope more foreign media (not their Japanese bureaus) will come and ask hard questions.

35,000 becquerels/kg of cesium in soil would translate into 2,275,000 becquerels/square meter (35,000 x 65), which is way above the forced evacuation criterion in the Chernobyl accident (1,480,000 becquerels/square meter).

via #Radioactive Rice to Come? Rice Growing in a Rice Paddy with 35,000 Becquerels/kg of Radioactive Cesium? | EX-SKF.

When the Japanese reporters start asking tough questions, that will be a trend-marker.

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