Fukushima radiation: You have bigger worries
It seems the media love nothing more than to scare up some good scares. Now, I realize there’s some irony to that statement, in that I’m writing this for a media outlet. And there are publications both online and print that do their best when common wisdom turns into common panic. But all in all, recent headlines concerning the Ebola crisis and radiation from the stricken nuclear power plant in Fukushima evidence the “if it bleeds, it leads” mentality that governs so many editorial decisions.
Some recently stories have lead with comments to the effect that levels of radiation reaching the West Coast are twice as high as expected. Sounds terrifying, right? And many people are changing vacation plans and other behaviors for fear that mixing with the Pacific Ocean will them not only with a tan but a radiant glow.
Swim away, and order that extra plate of seafood. While radiation levels may indeed exceed initial forecasts, the amount of contamination is by all serious accounts to low to be judged potentially harmful to humans.
According to a story at news.sciencemag.org:
Shortly after the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in March 2011, Tokyo Electric Power Co. estimated that the facility had released a staggering 7000 trillion becquerels—a measure of emitted radiation—into of radiation into nearby seawater. Meanwhile, Japan’s Ministry of the Environment reported readings of 45.5 million becquerels per cubic meter of water, high enough to cause reproductive problems in fish.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed that the power plant’s radiation dissipated quickly as it spread from the coast, however. It arrived at this conclusion by measuring cesium-134, a kind of radiation “fingerprint” unique to Fukushima because of its relatively short 2-year half-life. By June 2011, cesium-134 was found 600 kilometers offshore from Japan producing 325 becquerels per cubic meter. Building models based on early readings, the World Health Organization and public health departments in California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska all forecast that Fukushima radiation would not pose a human health risk in North America.
In fact, the same experts went on to say that dental x-rays and trips by airplane (which take passengers closer to the sun, where the protective ozone is thinner, at a height where the protective ozone is thinner) are more harmful at the moment.
So, don’t worry about the Fukushima radiation. Don’t worry about Ebola. Instead, take that nervous energy to worry about a source of pollution far more potentially harmful: your under-ventilated home.
Cover photo from www.shutterstock.com
Ken Nelson Ken Nelson is the Northwest Regional Sales Manager for the Panasonic Eco Products Division, specializing in ventilation solutions for residential and multi-family living environments. Over the past four years, Ken has spoken throughout the Northwest, teaching and training builders, building science advocates and professionals on the physics of moisture and air movement in homes of all sizes, types and age.