Radiation facts and myths

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by rfisher, Mar 14, 2011.

  1. Vash01

    Vash01 Fan of Julia, Elena, Anna, Liza, and Vera

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    Great links. Thanks.
     
  2. Lainerb

    Lainerb New Member

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    I am concerned about the effects of radiation on the environment and how it may impact sea, plant, fungi and animal life. I am an avid forager and being in Alaska I am certaintly worried about how this will impact my ability to harvest such food sources as sea vegetables, and fungi especially which intake a lot from the environment. I am not very scienftically inclined, so it would be nice to have some insight from anyone here on the possible implications of this horrific disaster.
     
  3. BittyBug

    BittyBug Kiteless

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    This situation is obviously not Chernobyl (yet, and let's hope it doesn't get even close to that), but I remember seeing a documentary called Chernobyl Heart (you can watch it online in this link) that focused on the impact of the incident on local residents. In one scene in which local residents were coming into some type of clinic for routine monitoring, they were trying to figure out why one of the patients was either sick or had high levels of radiation (can't remember). So they asked him what he was eating, and no surprise since Russians and Ukranians are big foragers, the patient mentioned eating mushrooms and making jams from wild berries. So they asked the patient to bring in some samples and when they held up a jar of some type of home-made berry jam next to a Geiger counter, the needle just went off the chart.

    Now, these were local residents in the immediate vicinity of Chernobyl, and Alaska, while closer to Japan than many people realize, is not exactly next door to the affected area, so unless the incident really takes a horrific turn for the worse, it seems unlikely that ground contamination by you would reach any significant levels. But I am very concerned about the impact of this event on the ocean, whence so much life stems. We've seen how pervasive mercury contamination can be in large fish. Could this be worse?
     
  4. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    As I understand it, the Japanese, the US, and international agencies have said that, at this point, the radiation is only at harmful levels within the plant itself, with occasional increases in radiation within the immediate area of the plant. So as of this moment, this doesn't seem to be a danger.
     
  5. MarieM

    MarieM Grumpy Cynical Ice Dance Lover

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    So far, whatever remains of the shields is helping keep most of the radio elements.
    The only problem is the spent fuel rods in the pool. These could be more than dangerous :(
     
  6. rfisher

    rfisher Satisfied skating fan

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    There will be little to no impact on the oceans. Do you have any idea how much radioactive material has been dumped in the oceans? Russian sinks nuclear subs, radioactive waste has been dumped. Yet, the oceans have absorbed it. The output from Japan will be nothing. The impact on land beyond the immediate area will be no more than from Chernobyl or the many above ground nuclear tests. In fact, it will be substantially less unless each of those reactors has a huge explosion sending tons of material into the air. That has not happened and hopefully will not. Godzilla will not rise from the seas.
     
  7. millipied

    millipied New Member

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  8. BigB08822

    BigB08822 Well-Known Member

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  9. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa Épaulement!!!

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    I'd like to see the studies she is referring to. They all seem to be correlations that are not the same as causation. For instance, in the case of women with TB and repeated Xrays, how do we know it's not some other factor, like for example TB itself that has anti-cancer properties? Or it could be something else they have in common like a susceptibility to TB that's riding on the same gene complex as anti-cancer gene? Could be lots of other explanations.
     
  10. BittyBug

    BittyBug Kiteless

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    Well in that case, we have nothing to worry about. :saint:
     
  11. Doubletoe

    Doubletoe Well-Known Member

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    First of all, THANK YOU to rfisher for your objective, informative posts! :respec:
    I have been furiously reading up on this stuff from various sources and everything I am learning points to exactly what you are saying: No impact on the U.S. West Coast, or even most of Japan itself.

    Earlier today, I also found a list of radiation readings by Japanese prefecture and city, then did some math:
    Current radiation level in Tokyo: 0.05 μSv/hour (vs. normal of 0.03)
    Spending a year at that radiation level would give you 438 μSv.
    One mammogram gives you 300 μSv.

    So to measure the impact of that radiation cloud on the someone standing on the beach in California, spread 1.5 mammograms across 5,000 miles of ocean. :p

    IIRC, no significant radiation from Chernobyl reached the U.S. East Coast, and the amount of radiation emitted from that disaster into the upper atmosphere was greater than even the worst case scenario for the Fukushima plant at this point. What Americans should have really been concerned about were all of the nuclear tests that went on in Nevada in the 50's and 60's!
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2011
  12. rfisher

    rfisher Satisfied skating fan

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    I love Godzilla. I use him/her as a metaphor all the time. :shuffle: There is bad Godzilla who stomped Tokyo in the 50s as the example of the danger of radiation, then there is good Godzilla who fought Mothra and saved Tokyo in the 60s. Then there's Godzilla in NYC who was sort of bad and had that cute little Chihuahua who called here, lizard, lizard. But, she was only bad because the evil Americans were stealing her eggs.

    And just for those who worry about mutations such as Godzilla, :rofl: , radiation does not produce any new mutations. Large doses may only accelerate the rate of naturally occurring mutations. Mueller demonstrated this back in the 40s with his fruit fly experiments in genetics.
     
  13. BittyBug

    BittyBug Kiteless

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    TBH, I wasn't thinking about mutations. My (ignorant) question was more about whether radiation levels can build up through the food chain (similar to what happens with mercury). So many little fish with slightly higher than normal radiation levels are eaten by a bigger fish, and several of these fish are in turn eaten by an even bigger fish, etc. - could this lead to larger fish having significantly higher than normal radiation levels? I'm guessing from your prior answer that the answer is "no."
     
  14. Doubletoe

    Doubletoe Well-Known Member

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    This just in. . . http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704713004576209092999139786.html
    Also, the FDA will be scanning all food imports from Japan for radiation (good for those like me, who shop at the Japanese supermarkets for my favorite goodies!).
     
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  15. BittyBug

    BittyBug Kiteless

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  16. Civic

    Civic New Member

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    One of the things I like about FSU is the posters who are experts in one field or the other. We have physicians, artists, teachers, attorneys, etc. :)
     
  17. rfisher

    rfisher Satisfied skating fan

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    Theoretically, it would be possible, but it would depend on a lot of factors including the type of radioactive particles. And it would have to come from radioactive particles not the gamma radiation currently being found. They are just high energy, short wave length electromagnetic radiation (like UV light or X-ray only with more energy). That energy is dissipated as it passes through matter. Radioactive particles which would be a big concern if those exposed rods were to explode are a different matter as they could have a very long half-life. Uranium-235, for example, has a half-life of 700 million years, or cesium-137 has a half-life of 30 years. One of the consequences of the above ground nuclear testing by the Russians was the strontium-90 (hl app 90 years) that entered the atmosphere. It feel to the earth in rain and was taken up in grass. Cattle ate the grass and there was concern about strontium levels in milk. To my knowledge, there were no documented cases of long term effect, although, it would be impossible to ascertain if someone who drank tons of milk and developed cancer did so from the strontium or from other causes. Strontium replaces calcium so the concern was the development of bone cancer.

    So, if plankton were to somehow absorb sufficient quanties of some radioisotope, it could theoretically move up the food chain. To my knowledge that hasn't been documented after even the US atomic bomb tests in the South Pacific and those were large quanties of radioactive material in the explosions. If a fish was exposed to large quantites of radioactive particles, it would die rather quickly. Oooohhh, I just remembered another great movie about the evils of the atomic bomb that had huge mutant crabs. Scared the crap out me when I was a kid.
     
  18. BittyBug

    BittyBug Kiteless

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    Indeed. I usually read the news sources, and then I check FSU for the real truth.

    And thanks, rfisher, for the detailed explanation. :)
     
  19. Lainerb

    Lainerb New Member

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    Thanks for the input everyone. I will be at the beach on Monday during my break and will harvest the bounties of the sea without fear of radiation. I have been craving fresh sea vegetables since the dead of winter and I cannot wait. Perhaps I can make a :bribe: or two with the raise in demand for seaweed.
     
  20. Angelskates

    Angelskates Well-Known Member

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    WHO Rep just on CCTV News has said there is no dangerous radiation spread. Even when asked about what those in Japan should do, he said, paraphrased, since there is no dangerous radiation spread, pay attention to the national authorities and reputable organisations, and don't listen to rumors. Say informed onlt through reputable organisations and national authorities. There is no need to do anything more, no need to take any iodine etc.
     
  21. PUNKPRINCESS

    PUNKPRINCESS New Member

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    I'm not going to watch the Ann Coulter video but I would imagine she is referring to the concept of "radiation hormesis". I don't know much about the evidence for it, just that it competes with the prevailing no-threshold model for the potential harm of any dose of radiation. There is an article on Wikipedia on radiation hormesis, which I won't look down on unless others want to offer better sources to get some background info on it. :p

    I find the concept of hormesis in general quite fascinating. We had a brief mention of it in one of my classes, and it refers to the possible phenomenon that exposure to low stress or harm can actually produce some benefit. My professor told us (according to my notes) that in Hiroshima's close vicinities, there was a high incidence of tumors and general all-cause mortality rates (if you weren't killed right away), but a little further out, the life expectancy of the population was actually higher than that of populations even further away from the site. One proposed mechanism is that the body's protective measures are being stimulated by short-term exposure. Now, my prof emphasized it's the ACUTE radiation exposure that has been linked, although the Wikipedia article on radiation hormesis specifies that it's the chronic exposure.

    Exercise, as a kind of physiological stress, can be considered another example of hormesis. I don't know whether it deserves to be classified as acute or chronic, however. Daily exercise is what confers major benefits, not isolated strenuous workouts once every couple months, but it's not the same kind of stress as career-related ongoing stress from a job over decades, which is usually considered bad. I would lean towards classifying exercise as regularly scheduled acute stress.

    Low daily intake of alcohol has been considered possibly beneficial for cardiovascular health, although we all know that alcohol in general is a toxic substance to the body and binge drinking is terrible for you!

    Broccoli and related greens like brussels sprouts, kale, etc. contain a substance (is it sulforaphane, or indole-3-carbinol, I don't remember, or maybe it's both) that is actually a kind of plant toxin, but it's been posited as an anti-cancer/anti-tumorigenic substance because of perhaps how the body reacts.

    Lots of other substances, like cigarette smoke or coffee, induce increased levels of liver enzymes which promote more efficient detoxification. I'm definitely not telling anyone to start smoking (or to intentionally expose themselves to higher levels of radiation), but it's kinda cool that it happens. In one observational study, regular coffee drinkers were associated with having lower rates of liver cancer.

    Really neat stuff. :)
     
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  22. rjblue

    rjblue Re-registered User

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    I read an article about hormesis and pesticides a few years ago in Discover magazine. It is a quite fascinating subject. Arsenic in water is a good example. People who drink water with a higher than allowed ppm live longer than people with the allowed amounts, but at even higher levels it has very toxic effects. Many of the pesticides will extend lab animals lifespans if given in slightly toxic amounts, but clearly poisoning people to make them healthier is not going to become a popular practice.
     
  23. PUNKPRINCESS

    PUNKPRINCESS New Member

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    That's really interesting. Never heard that about arsenic, before.

    Edit: While we're on the subject of pesticides and "poisons" that can make people healthier...warfarin/coumadin was a rat poison (it's used for preventing strokes/blood clots in vulnerable people.) :D
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2011
  24. nubka

    nubka Well-Known Member

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    If you are looking for an expert in the field of brain atrophy due to watching grandchildren full-time for the past 8 years, then I'm your person, lol! :D
     
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  25. skatepixie

    skatepixie Well-Known Member

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    Arsenic was used as medicine for quite a while, and used to be used as a performance enhancing drug in race horses. An overdose is thought to have killed Phar Lap, though.
     
  26. FigureSpins

    FigureSpins New Member

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    Arsenic was used as a "beauty treatment" back in the 1800's - it turns cheeks rosy without rouge.
     
  27. Prancer

    Prancer Jawwalking Staff Member

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    I thought it made your skin white and it was consumption (tuberculosis) that had the effect of creating a becoming blush.
     
  28. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    xkcd's Randall Munroe is awesome and provides an awesome chart showing you the amounts of radiation you get from various things:

    http://xkcd.com/radiation/

    I had no idea a banana was radioactive! :lol:
     
  29. FigureSpins

    FigureSpins New Member

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    Used externally, it did bleach the skin, but consuming small doses of arsenic gave a "blooming" complexion. (Before death set in.)
     
  30. nubka

    nubka Well-Known Member

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    Wow, that was really informative and fascinating, too - thanks for posting it!