March 22, 2014 – DISCLAIMER
I didn’t think I would revisit the topic of the physical dimensions of the ongoing Fukushima Nuclear Disaster so soon, but every now and then people, often parents of young children, contact me with genuine concerns. “My daughter is 3 and I wonder…” Etc. I guess the government continues to do a dismal job for such questions to be directed at me of all people… To add to my disclaimer, if you can picture a guy on a couch with a laptop in a home with wifi, in a quiet Colorado mountain town, at about 8000 ft altitude, in what many would call “the middle of nowhere,” sitting be a wood stove fire while coyotes howl in the frosty night… you might appreciate the irony of me fielding inquiries from Tokyo on the situation in Japan…
It always touches me. I try to put myself in their shoes for a moment. Usually, I sent a quick email back with a couple links and best wishes, but I figured I could give it some more consideration and turn it in a blogpost, so others may find their way to these links as well. There is a lot of info out there, but can be ridiculously time-consuming to find it.
!!!—> Before I share some thoughts, though, I have to point out that I’m still no expert nor authority on this topic whatsoever. I make that very clear in this blog’s DISCLAIMER.
My little bit of independent research into Japanese foods that appeared dangerously radioactive showed me that things aren’t always as bad as portrayed. To my surprise, Geiger Counters are quite sensitive to Potassium-40, for example, rendering them essentially useless to assess food safety [See the Jan. 22, 2014 blogpost, “Why 150 Bq Cs-137 is health-hazardous, while 150 Bq* K-40 is RECOMMENDED for health“, which builds upon my findings (mainly re. Hokkaido kelp seaweads being exceptionally rich in Potassium), and is one of the “Pointers to See Through Nuclear Deceptions,” a synopsis of things I’ve learned along my path of educating myself on this topic.]
Nevertheless, in response to a most recent email from a father of two toddlers in Tokyo, I’m going to see if I could get some answers about where to find info specifically re. radiation in Japanese milk products… They’re mixed in with all the other test results, so these links, with thousands of sample test results per day could be handy in general:
!–> Where to find testing results: The test results of various food stuffs in Japan are published almost daily in PDF docs at The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare on their page,”Levels of Radioactive Contaminants in Foods Tested in Respective Prefectures” [See http://www.mhlw.go.jp/english/topics/2011eq/index_food_radioactive.html] As is to be expected by now for all thing nuclear, they make it very time consuming to find what you’re looking for. Fastest way I found is to check pdf by pdf and searching for specific words (like the Prefecture or the food item you’re looking for) [on a mac: top bar: Edit–> Find…].
The Summary of foods tested in the first year of the Fukushima-Dai-ichi Nuclear Disaster [See http://www.mhlw.go.jp/english/topics/2011eq/dl/01Apr2013_Sum_up_until_31Mar2012.pdf] shows that dairy products sampled across Japan only surpassed Japanese food safety limit in the prefectures Fukushima and Ibaraki. Most radioactive particles blew to the east towards North America. Most (78 to 95%, depending on estimates) fell into the Pacific Ocean in 2011; direct leaking continues, as well.)
In the following year (2012-2013 summary pdf. here), while various other products still tested dangerously radioactive, milk products had already returned to the official safe levels, even in the Fukushima Prefecture. This is likely because Iodine-131 was a significant factor, bio-magnified in milk, which had already decayed away. (See my Radiation Units and Conversions page, which includes a decay Calculator link as well.).
Continued reason to be vigilant. The Iodine-131 may be mostly gone, and the Cesium-134 & 137 levels may be “below maximum levels”, but that could literally mean 99 Bq/L gets to pass as “safe”. Granted, Japan has the strictest food safety norms in the world, but still… that doesn’t mean very much when governments are so corrupt that they even allow melt-through-capable nuclear reactors to be built in the first place, and then lied about continued leakage for years when things went badly wrong. More troubling now: Strontium-90 is rarely ever even tested for. (Modeled to skyrocket in groundwater releases, see ENEnews Dec 1, 2013). This could mean that seafood, which has been well-monitored for Cesium thus far, is likely to become less safe in the coming years, in part due to due to this troubling lack of Sr-90 monitoring. Add the huge releases of Cobalt-60, Americium-241, Manganese-54, Antimony-125 and a bunch of other carcinogenic radioactive pollution they rarely even mention, let alone test for, and the government assurance that all is fine… is not as easy to believe.
My take is: I can’t give a blanket statement “avoid food from x region”, as fallout deposition is very erratic, and the uptake varies from crop to crop, but… First, if you’re just visiting Japan, like I did, I wouldn’t worry about it. My impression is that, outside the most contaminated area (see the Safecast Interpolation Map’s brown areas, below), you’d pretty much get a similar food contamination by visiting much of Europe. Not that that’s good, but it hasn’t particularly stopped people from living there. If you’re living in Japan (or Europe for that matter) long-term, I would try to be selective about where my food came from (especially for wild mushrooms, meats, dairy and teas), and avoid food from contaminated areas as much as possible. The truth isn’t somewhere between those hyper-alarmed and those in complete denial, as I see it: it really depends on which area you’re talking about. Most of Japan might be okay, some areas really aren’t. These maps could help you decide for yourself where those areas are:
Radiation Fallout maps for Japan can be found at:
- Safecast (crowd-sourced, in some cases more recent than government data): http://blog.safecast.org/maps/ (on the ‘Interpolation map’, click the safecast check-button)
- Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) links to fallout data and maps @ http://radioactivity.nsr.go.jp/en/
- Sometimes the news releases of the NRA contain news on fallout data, see http://www.nsr.go.jp/english/newsrelease/
- !–> On my blog: Some of the links on my blogpost fallout map comparison – Fukushima versus Chernobyl, may no longer work, but the observation that relatively low ‘dose rates’ may correspond with very high ground contamination, as well as that the Japanese map legend is deceptive, might still be useful to know.
- Other data (such as near-real-time dose measurements) can be found through my overview page ‘Online Radiation Monitors‘ –> ‘Japan‘. If you delve into that, I suggest you learn some things about the different types of ‘dose’ and how dose reports are often misused to belittle potential fallout dangers; see my blogpost ‘The Dose deception‘.
- Related: As I pointed out in my blogpost Fallout Maps for the United States, parts of the North-American West Coast received more fallout in 2011 than the west-coast of Japan.
- A Citizen’s map, including data also showing a couple ‘relative hotspots’ in the Tokyo area, see http://www.nnistar.com/gmap/fukushima.html (From Nni’s Blog):
On the a Zoom-in of the larger Tokyo Metropolitan Area, with the Tokyo Sky Tree marked (easy to spot in the cityskape), you can see that relative hotspots are present in its northeast, in the Chiba region:
Because of my lab tests of Hokkaido kelps (which tested perfectly fine to eat; I’m still eating through my stack, by the way), I’ve also received questions about other products, such as ‘Hokkaido milk’: From the pdf docs I looked through, it seems all Hokkaido milk has tested as ‘officially safe’ in the first-mentioned link, even in 2011. (Comb through the records to see for which products this was not the case.)
This Cs-137 ESTIMATION (not measured) fallout map, below (Source: https://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201111150003), does show Hokkaido was dosed as well, although anything below the green level I wouldn’t lose sleep over:
–> In this map (left), the purple color over much of Hokkaido and other parts of Japan correspond with 25 to 50 Bq/kg Cs-137 (+ whatever else would be in there).
Most surface contamination is in the first 5-15 cm, let’s say for a square meter, you could scape off the top 200 kg/ m^2 of such soil and that would imply up to 10,000 Bq/m^2 Cs-137 fallout deposition possible. Some of the light purples may include leftover fallout deposition from from Pacific bomb testing era too. For comparison, these purples… most likely correspond to the green-to-yellow colors only on this Chernobyl fallout map. So… except for some likely regional hotspots, most food, including dairy, is unlikely to be of concern. (in my non-expert opinion from afar; When I visited, I did look at these data sets before trying some Hokkaido yoghurts and cheeses. Yummy!, I can say that much. ;-) ).
Now: What does “of little or no concern” actually mean given that even small amounts of fallout increase cancer risk? It means that it would be statistically impossible to determine that THAT was the cause. Everyone may end up knowing someone who had cancer before they were 30, or died of cancer before they were 50. (It’s become disturbingly common in Europe, I must say.) So, I’m not saying that it does NOT mean it can’t cause problems. It is likely to cause some issues for some people, especially for long-term (several decades): increased incidence of various cancers, heart problems and other health issues are likely to affect some people directly.
Therefor, what may be most helpful aside from choosing from which region to eat are some small dietary shifts:
I think “a cancer-preventative diet” is likely to be most effective, and beneficial for general well-being as well. Things that come to mind: Enough potassium, minimal on the meat intake (See The China Study, for instance) and avoid sugar/sweeteners (see also the observations re. post-Nagasaki macrobiotic diet mentioned in Cs-137 vs. K-40), make sure your diet is sufficiently alkalizing, and perhaps take some helpful supplements, like Quantum Greens, Spirulina (See article by Dr. Mercola, “5 Grams Daily of Spirulina REVERSED Severe Radiation Poisoning in Chernobyl Children…“), and other anti-oxidant boosters, which are said to increase free radical protection. (Disclaimer). Plenty of exercise will be helpful as well. If so inspired, consider a (bentonite/zeolite) clay detox cleanse to rid your body of heavy metals (which many of the radionuclides are). If going that route, read up on it and/or consult with a holistic / naturopathic nutrition expert to see how that could best be done for very young children.
That’s all from this couch… Hope that was helpful somehow. Much love!
I hope to visit again sometime… Maybe someday…