Boulder, CO – not an April fool’s joke – Reported in The Journal Environmental Science and Technology (March 6, 2012), written about on the George Washington Blog (March 30, 2012) with ENENews (March 30, 2012) weighing in, from where it spread to Zero Hedge, followed by an army of copy-paste alternative outlets quoting from Zero Hedge or others; as well as being published in Scientific American (March 30, 2012) and a few other notable science publications:
California was Slammed With Radiation!
You can read all about it in these above-mentioned links. My aim in this blog post is to make a rough guess-timate of how high the Cesium-137 level might be…
First, I must say it is truly a travesty that all the data quoted in the scientific paper was available before June 2011, but it took until March 2012 to be released and become “news”.
The first and most disturbing data, namely kelp from coastal California testing 2,500 Bq/kg of dry seaweed (kelp), many times (at least 500% over the maximum for adults or 2500 % for infants) over the maximum allowed level for radioactive Iodine-131 in food, was known in April 2011, an entire year ago.
The other travesty is that the scientists (supposedly!) only tested for Iodine-131, and not for Cesium-134 and Cesium-137, which is utter bullshit, ’cause the very same gammaspectroscopy would have revealed those data too. Why are they not included? Did they do additional tests to see if any Strontium-90 or Plutonium radioisotopes were absorbed as well? Cesium-137 has a half-life of about 30 years, leaving it dangerous for several centuries, while data for Iodine-131, with its half-life of only 8 days, loses its relevance in a matter of months. If they then wait a year to release the data, it’s completely useless to seaweed consumers.
Except the hindsight that many people were almost certainly far worse exposed to radioactive particles than any official watchdog hinted of, and that the estimates of how much radiation in total was released by the quake- and tsunami ruined Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan is likely much higher than currently reported.
How much Cesium-137 in that kelp?
To make a guess (right here, I’ll direct to my DISCLAIMER), I go by the assumption that I-131 and Cs-137 are linked. Their respective ratio is said to be linked in land fallout measurements. Problem with Seaweed is that it absorbes more iodine than cesium, so I can’t apply a simple formula to estimate what the likely cesium-137 levels for the California kelp were. But I can look at seaweed measurements from Japan, where they tested for both I-131 and Cs-137:
In a sample of Laminaria Religiosa Seaweed from the Hikado Port in Motoyoshi, taken by Greenpeace May 3rd and tested at the Belgian Laboratory for Gammaspectrometry (See this and other Fukushima-related Greenpeace data, HERE), it showed
- I-131 @ 180 Bq/kg (give or take 15 Bq/Kg (uncertainty factor); and
- Cs-137 @ 2.11 Bq/kg (give or take 0.38 Bq/Kg (uncertainty factor)
In this case, I-131 was 85.3 times higher than Cs-137. I really do not know if this is the case, but IF a similar ratio applied to the California samples, then Cesium levels would be somewhere around 29 Bq/Kg or less (2500/85.3 = 29.3), and those levels would still be similar today if the Cs-137 were held in the plants’ tissues. Statistically those levels wouldn’t be all too worrisome, in my non-expert opinion:
Say I eat 100 grams of seaweed daily, even if it were of the most contaminated kind from California, with a bit of other isotopes in the mix, lets say I’d be eating an extra 5 Bq. This would mean that what I ate sending out tiny bits of harmful radiation about 5 times per second while it moves through my body, with some particles sticking around and over the years or decades MAYBE causing harm… Theoretically that increases cancer risks, sure, but at that kind of amount, it would get lost in ‘the noise’ (statistically speaking) of all other natural and unnatural factors. Compared to the situation in Japan, from what I’ve gathered, I consider the radioactive fallout contamination of California food basically a non-issue at this point.
On the North-American West-Coast, and who knows where else, it was apparently very clearly an issue a year ago, though. ;-( Maybe those Californians who took preventative Potassium Iodine pills right after March 11, 2011, in an attempt to oversaturate their thyroids and reduce their risk of thyroid cancer weren’t so crazy after all. At least… if they also ate two pounds per day of fresh kelp seaweed in the second half of March 2011, it was probably a really smart move…
It’s all “too little data, too late”, but I guess it still serves as further confirmation that the government agencies in charge of food and environmental safety did an extremely dismal job cautioning pregnant women and infants. No different really from how the Japanese government handled it…
Reminds me of how different the warnings were in France… where much less fallout fell.
The measurements from last year off the coast of California were from airborn fallout that fell down into the ocean. The large amounts of direct ocean contamination is taking its time to spread. It is on its way to the Hawaiian Islands, according to this dispersion model by ASR, a global coastal and marine consulting firm: