On April 13, 2012 EnviroReporter.com tested Nori seaweed from Japan bought in a West Los Angeles store, the same one where this reporter bought the identical item eight months ago soon after the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns began in Japan. The trendy and ‘organic’ delicacy, popular with LA hipsters, was 94.7% above normal, 17.6% of that additional ionization indicative of alpha radiation which can be 60 to 1,000 times more dangerous than beta and gamma radiation.
These tests were performed with an Inspector Alert nuclear radiation monitor, the same detector EnviroReporter.com has used in over 1,500 tests for Fukushima radiation beginning four days after the March 11, 2011 triple meltdowns at the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi six-reactor complex in Japan.
Nori seaweed is considered a delicacy and consumed upon eating sushi wrapped in it or straight out of the bag in thin green squares like the product purchased by EnviroReporter.com. This kind of seaweed can be purchased at nearly 50 Japanese and Japanese-American stores in Southern California as well as in about 900 Japanese restaurants and sushi bars throughout the Southland.
It is ubiquitous in the diets of millions around the world, equally at home wrapped around rice and fish sushi as it is prized in upscale Asian cuisine restaurants for its “crisp, papery texture and its flavor, which evokes the sea and the earth,” according to a frothy 2008 New York Times article. “The unabating sushi boom has driven up Nori consumption in the United States.”
A retest of the same brand of seaweed bought from the same Japanese market last August was equally disconcerting. The initial August 23, 2011 Nori seaweed test showed only slightly reduced ionization indicating the presence of medium to long-lived radionuclides possibly including cancer-causing cesium-137. Also still showing the presence of alpha, the earlier sample still was 44.2% over a previous background while still in the bag, which shields alpha radiation from detection by an Inspector Alert. Last year, the seaweed was 54.2% higher than background therefore experienced a 10.0% decrease in ionization over nearly 8 months. That translates to a 15.4% decrease of the radionuclide(s) per year while in the bag.
Removed from the bag, the older seaweed was 55.0% higher than the previous background with 10.8% of background exceedance being alpha radiation. Last year, this same seaweed tested out of the bag 67.2% above background meaning that it had decreased 12.2% in ionization for the period, or an 18.8% decrease including the alpha.
So not only is the new Japanese Nori seaweed sample hotter than last year, the older seaweed is still heavily ionizing as well. Both exhibit strong alpha presence and both have been and are being sold to an unsuspecting public in ethnic and trendy Los Angeles neighborhoods alike. Last year, EnviroReporter.com tested other Japanese food products that also showed significant radiation above normal including beer, sake, vegetable juice, sweet rolls and three different types of tea, including green tea that came in 65.1% over normal.
The Japanese and American governments are either not testing this food product for Fukushima radiation, or one or both of these bureaucracies have deemed this amount of radiation to be acceptable. Indeed, the Japanese have a system that could allow for the exportation of fish and food products that they determine too radioactive to eat to the United States which has standards up to dozens of times more lax when addressing the specific kinds of radionuclides spewing out of the uncontained triple meltdowns.
These weaker American radiation standards are not some arcane bureaucratic detail – more radiation means more cancers and death. The most august scientific body in the nation has confirmed this beyond scientific doubt.
In late July 2005, the prestigious National Academy of Sciences came out with a milestone report that confirmed this. “The scientific research base shows that there is no threshold of exposure below which low levels of ionized radiation can be demonstrated to be harmless or beneficial,” said Richard R. Monson, the panel chairman and a professor of epidemiology at Harvard’s School of Public Health.
Yet the government agency that is supposed to regulate what’s in our food has been using standards and procedures created back in the early 1960s not having formalized updated techniques in the 1990s according to the Food and Drug Administration’s website. FDA radiation standards aren’t even mandatory. They exist in the ether of being “recommendations” that are not enforceable.
“FDA’s guidance documents, including this guidance, do not establish legally enforceable responsibilities,” reads the agency’s radiation compliance manual. “Instead, guidances describe the Agency’s current thinking on a topic and should be viewed only as recommendations, unless specific regulatory or statutory requirements are cited. The use of the word should in Agency guidances means that something is suggested or recommended, but not required.”
Japanese standards for strontium-90 and iodine-131, two of the most dangerous radionuclides associated with the Fukushima meltdowns, are three times more strict than their American equivalents.
FDA limits for one of the most prevalent and fearsome radionuclides, cesium-134 and cesium-137 have a combined limit that is 24 times the Japanese limit for this deadly bone and blood-seeking radionuclide in baby food and milk. The American red line for Cs-134 and Cs-137 combined for general food is 12 times more lax than the Japanese ones.
Stateside regulations may be weak because they are so old. “The 1982 FDA recommendations were developed from the prevailing scientific understanding of the relative risks associated with radiation as described in the 1960 and 1961 reports of the Federal Radiation Council,” reads the FDA manual before explaining why the government hadn’t adopted new recommendations in 1990 by the International Commission on Radiological Protection. “There is not yet consensus among the federal agencies on the use of these changes.”
High radiation in Japanese seaweed was of concern since Greenpeace announced in May 2011 that it had been collecting seaweed off of Fukushima and found it loaded with radionuclides.
Ten out of twelve seaweed samples exceeded 10,000 Becquerels per kilogram (bq/kg) though it wasn’t clear if the radionuclides were cesium-137 and/or iodine-131 which have Japanese contamination limits of 2,000 bq/kg and 500 bq/kg respectively.
The environmental group was drawing attention to how hot the seaweed was, a message clearly not heard by the Japanese government.
“From May 20, fishermen along the coast will begin harvesting seaweed for public consumption,” said Ike Teuling, a radiation expert with Greenpeace in a statement. “Our research indicates a significant risk that this seaweed will be highly contaminated.”
Nearly a year later in early March 2012, a fishing village named Utatsu in the Miyagi Prefecture resumed seaweed farming around 60 miles north of Fukushima Daiichi. That directly down current from the northern flowing current from where millions of tons of sea water have been hosed on to the melted reactors’ molten masses of corium.