When the Nuclear Fallout Hits the Fan

"Sushi Safe From Japan Radiation as Ocean Makes Risk Negligible," said a headline yesterday. Signatures of radioactive materials have shown up in milk from dairy cows in Spokane, Washington and San Luis Obispo, Calif. where monitoring occurs and those same signatures have been reported in air samples around the U.S., making some consumers feel uneasy. Whether the amounts of excess raditation we are consuming and will continue to when the Japanese reactors are finally buried in the sand will have any long-term effects or not, it doesn't ease the public fears, especially on the California coast where two nuclear reactor facilities sit some 250 miles apart on in Southern California and Central Coast.

In Santa Monica, Michael Collins and Denise Anne Duffield set up a monitor that streams online 24/7, providing reports of the nuclear signatures arriving in the couple's Santa Monica office where they work as investigative journalists. You can find the stream at enviroreporter.com.

The averages that they calculate and provide regularly each day have been more assuring than anything. They mostly have fallen within the normal range to slightly elevated, while the comments on the forum below the monitor stream portion have been more telling about the concerns of individuals in California.

The general consensus among "experts" is that long term effects are more important than the immediate situation. After the U.S. performed atomic weapons tests in the desert during the 50's and 60's, very little was publicized about potential risks to human health. However, a National Institute for Health (NIH) map was released, providing information for baby boomers who have and now may face cancer risks from that event. The map showed areas where the radiation entered the food chain in milk fed to babies in the Midwest U.S. after the testing, and where it was especially concentrated in breast milk.

A 1979 study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that a significant excess of leukemia deaths occurred in children up to 14 years of age living in Utah between 1959 and 1967. This excess was concentrated in the cohort of children born between 1951 and 1958, and was most pronounced in those residing in counties receiving high fallout. The counties stretched throughout many states, including the Midwest.

In 1982, a lawsuit brought by nearly 1,200 people accused the government of negligence in atomic and/or nuclear weapons testing at the Nevada Test Site in the 1950s, which they said had caused leukemia and other cancers. Dr. Karl Z. Morgan testified that radiation protection measures in the tests were substandard.

The National Cancer Institute released another report in 1997 determining that 90 atmospheric tests at the Nevada Test Site (NTS) deposited high levels of radioactive iodine-131 (5.5 exabecquerels) across a large portion of the contiguous United States, especially in the years 1952, 1953, 1955, and 1957—doses large enough, they determined, to produce 10,000 to 75,000 cases of thyroid cancer. Many who were born during that era have no idea to this day that their thyroid cancers could be related to those tests.

Here are some excerpts that have stood out in posts at the Environment Reporter's forum showcasing current fears and concerns. The forum isn't necessarily the place to get answers, but does allow people to discuss the topic and express their every day worries:

"The rain here in SoCal was also my concern. Are you sure about that sticky substance I told you about that I found in my garden on the hose???? Because I can guarantee you, I have lived here for over 4 years, have had the same hose, which has always lain in the same spot and I have never encountered any sticky substance on it, and there are no sap-secreting trees nearby. Prior to Japan and the subsequent rain we got here, there was never any substance like that on my hose. The substance was so sticky that soap and water would not remove it. I had to scrub with Ajax and even that took several applications. And it was all over the hose.And the research I briefly checked did indicate that radiation that "falls out"or "rains out"has a sticky characteristic that makes it cling to surfaces and buildings. And the research I briefly checked did indicate that radiation that "falls out"or "rains out"has a sticky characteristic that makes it cling to surfaces and buildings."

"I read somewhere, which is now gone, that the GOVT and BIGWIGS have pressure their friends at the EPA to raise acceptable levels as to not have to trip any alarms."


"Dr. Jeffrey Patterson, former president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, said: There is no ‘safe'or harmless dose of radiation. While the current levels of radiation are quiet low and do not require any preventive measures, adding to the burden of background radiation with radio nuclides such as radioactive Iodine, Cesium, or other long lived nuclides which move up the food chain and concentrate in human tissue, is neither safe nor acceptable. The FDA has a responsibility to inform the public of this process and the attendant risks."

"I was talking to a friend from Germany who was a child when Chernobyl happened and she said she cannot understand the lack of concern here about the ongoing crisis. In Europe, she said, everyone is talking about Fukushima right now, it is all over the place. When Chernobyl happened she said that parents kept their kids inside for over a month, they could not go outside to play, and as everyone knows the governments imported frozen food from other places to feed their populations. I really think that the media's incessant repetition that ‘but levels are far below anything that would be relevant to health, we get much more radiation from rocks….' has functioned as a type of hypnosis, and of course those who don't read the news have no idea about it anyway."

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