Media Meltdown Deniers
TEPCO must surely have been pleased at the snarky and dismissive media that reported on Crain’s radiation findings. Southern California legacy media and some online media commentators decided to decliare Crain’s anonymous video and the reaction to it as just pure fear-mongering. In the process, the coverage showed just has facile and science-challenged the press has become in light of Fukushima’s inexorable onslaught in the Pacific.
A January 12 Los Angeles Times article dismissed the threat as a “burst of online videos and blog posts in recent months.” The paper claimed that Fukushima radionuclides were “so low that they are trivial compared with what already exists in nature,” betraying why the paper shouldn’t have canned its science editor position: Fukushima radionuclides are manmade and extremely poisonous and shouldn’t be compared to natural radionuclides.
The newspaper compounded its errors by saying that “even at its worst” eating cesium-134 (Cs-134) and cesium-137 (Cs-137) contaminated blue fin tuna was like “eating bananas.” This is false.
Bananas contain slightly radioactive potassium-40 (K-40). Humans need K-40 and no matter how many bananas one eats, the body keeps the K-40 at a regular threshold. It doesn’t concentrate in particular organs because of the body’s homeostatic mechanism for regulating K-40. Potassium-40 doesn’t present a threat to the human body for another reason: it has a half-life of 1.248×109 years or about 1.25 billion years.
A half-life is the time necessary for a radioactive substance to drop to half its mass. The shorter the half-life means the more ferocious the ionization is which can damage the DNA of cells and cause oft-times fatal cancer.
Cs-137 and strontium-90 have much shorter half-lives than K-40, 30.17 years and 28.79 years respectively. The half-life of Cs-134 is only 2.07 years so for it to show up anywhere, such as in blue fin tuna caught off a San Diego pier in August 2011, just five months after the meltdowns began, can only be attributed to Fukushima and not fallout from nuclear bomb tests decades ago.
Unlike K-40 in bananas, Cs-137 does concentrate in organs sometimes as much as one hundred times the amount of K-40. “[I]nternal exposure to Cs-137, through ingestion or inhalation, allows the radioactive material to be distributed in the soft tissues, especially muscle tissue, exposing these tissues to the beta particles and gamma radiation and increasing cancer risk,” according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention toxicology brief.
Cesium-137 harms children more than adults even in tiny amounts. Children near Chernobyl in the Ukraine suffered cardiovascular disease showing signs of heart pain, faint heart sounds, systolic murmur on auscultation and heart failure as a result of the 1986 meltdown. Heart disease and cancer are the leading cause of death amongst children in neighboring Belarus.
Female hormones are also seriously imbalanced by Cs-137 which is a primary cause of infertility. Cs-137 exposure will lead to a prolonged gestation, increased newborn delivery complications and developmental disorders. There is no safe level of Cs-137 in food or drink.
Yet the Los Angeles Times would have its declining readership believe that this fearsome Fukushima radioisotope is as benign as bananas. The fruity fission fib has been a common ruse used to negate high radiation readings by nuclear power allies since nuclear power began.
A snarky style dominated the Los Angeles Times piece that attempted to demean even when at odds with the facts.
“Every single environmental issue was being blamed on Fukushima,” Kim Martini told the paper January 12. “And I thought there’s no way that can be true.”
Martini’s was right. It wasn’t true because what she said wasn’t true. The LA Times reporter should have known that her blanket statement was patently false on the face of it. Instead the paper elaborate on her University of Washington oceanographer background as if that field translates into Fukushima radiation dispersion expertise.
The paper also noted, by way of establishing Martini’s credentials, her contributions to Deep Sea News (DSN). Martini’s November 28 DSN story True facts about Ocean Radiation and the Fukushima Disaster set the tone for the current tide of vocal meltdown deniers. Instead of attempting a sound science appraisal of the triple meltdowns’ threat to the Pacific and North America, the reader is treated to a jokey tautological title and ‘exposé’ filled with more holes than a Fukushima reactor.
Martini, who lives in an Alaskan yurt and says “her goal in life is throw expensive s**t into the ocean,” got her wish in the piece – so-called facts drown in Martini’s sarcasm. She claimed that the “radioactive rods in the Fukushima power plant are usually cooled by seawater” which is, of course, wrong. Fresh water was used to cool the rods before the nuclear reactors were destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami.
There are so many mistakes in her piece that there are strikeouts and corrections throughout. Some statements imply that Martini and her editors don’t understand the very basics of radiation exposure. “Like I said before, the West Coast will probably not see more than 20 Bq/m3 of radiation,” Martini wrote. “Radiation will increase in the Pacific, but it’s at most 10 times higher than previous levels, not thousands.”
The implications of anything over three times background radiation are huge, let alone 10. Ten times is over three times the CHP’s hazmat trigger. Martini is clearly unaware of the significance of what’s she’s saying.
Martini’s mixes snide fact mangling with incredulous statements like “most fish are kinda lazy” to imply local supplies are safe since most fish don’t migrate to Japan and back to North American waters like blue fin tuna do.
“It’s not even dangerous to swim off the coast of Fukushima,” Martini wrote apparently unaware that over 400 metric tons of highly radioactive water have been gushing into the waters off of Fukushima for over two years. “Hell, the radiation was so small even immediately after the accident scientists did not wear any special equipment to handle the seawater samples (but they did wear detectors just in case). If you want danger, you’re better off licking the dial on an old-school glow in the dark watch.”
That is perhaps the singularly dumbest thing said about Fukushima in the last three years. But how would any normal L.A. Times reader know that?
No meltdown denier screed is complete without the bananas comparison. “You’ll get the same amount of radiation by eating 9 bananas,” Martini summed up in her DSN opus. “Monkeys might be doomed, but you are not.”
The Los Angeles Times article that pushed Martini as its sage expert also looked to Heal the Bay which, according to the paper, had “fielded such a swell of alarmist calls, emails and Facebook inquires that its staff posted an online Q&A.” Note that the callers weren’t alarmed, they were alarmist. That means, according to the ‘paper of record’ in Southern California, that to even be concerned that Fukushima radiation was affecting marine life, the fish we eat or the Pacific was to be not only a fool, but a dangerous one at that.
Also note that like Martini, Heal the Bay betrays its ignorance of the most basic fundamentals of how Fukushima radiation has and will continue to impact the east Pacific along the West Coast.
“It takes years for seawater plumes from Japan to reach U.S. shores,” Heal the Bay says in its “Mythbusting: The Latest from Fukushima.”
The notion that it would take the plume years to reach us would appear to be a myth in the making itself. That’s not how the Kuroshio Current works according to the United States Navy’s Office of Naval Research.
“Two of the largest currents are the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and the Kuroshio Current,” the research branch writes in Ocean in Motion: Currents – Characteristics. “The Kuroshio Current, which is located just off Japan’s coast, travels up to 75 miles a day at a speed of up to 3 miles per hour.”
The Navy map of the Kuroshio Current shows it splitting along the West Coast with the southern-bound California Current making its way down the coast to Southern California before turning back west along Baja California. Fukushima is 5,363 miles up current from Los Angeles.
Even adding on extra miles since the water doesn’t flow straight to Southern California, a 6,000-mile long journey from the radioactive shores of Fukushima to the beaches of Malibu takes less than three months, not years.
Another myth perpetuated by Heal the Bay was that something was actually being done specifically to monitor for Fukushima fallout in the air, rain, snow and Pacific.
“Three major federal agencies are currently monitoring radiation from the Fukushima disaster,” Heal the Bays claims, “The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is monitoring marine debris and atmospheric dispersion of radioactive particles; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) is monitoring air and water for radiation that is harmful to human health; and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is monitoring Japanese imports to insure food safety. These agencies work closely together to monitor radiation leveling in the United States as well as our imported goods.”
Heal the Bay is wrong on all counts: NOAA isn’t testing the water for radionuclides and the EPA is generally testing with its RadNet data with nothing specific to Fukushima, let alone any warnings when the beta readings zoom north of 100 CPM. The FDA’s monitoring of food in general, let alone Japanese imports, is woefully undermanned and underfunded. Actual responsibility for monitoring, investigating, sampling and analyzing radiation from Japan is non-existent on both the state and federal levels.
Why does it matter that Heal the Bay is wrong on how long Fukushima infused water takes to get here? Or that it is unaware of how there’s no ongoing state or federal government testing? Because the group is giving out false information under the guise of being expert in the subject. Still, Heal the Bay trumpets its own brand of sloppy science.
“There is a great deal of inaccurate information floating around the Internet about Fukushima radiation and its impacts to human and marine life,” Heal the Bay concludes in its ‘mythbusting’ page. “We recommend double-checking your news sources for credibility, and when in doubt, check out how Heal the Bay is keeping up to date on the most recent news and scientific studies on the Fukushima disaster.”
EnviroReporter.com recommends the same thing – credible news sources. Heal the Bay simply isn’t credible yet dares to put out clearly inaccurate information to an unsuspecting public looking for answers. The organization is treading on its good name to its own detriment and is doing a grave disservice to the public. Perhaps it should stick to its multimillion fundraisers where, according to an invitation sent to EnviroReporter.com February 13, it touted “Sipping on an artisanal cocktail, winning a life-changing vacation and jamming to the music of a Grammy winner during a Santa Monica beach sunset — does life get any better? Yes, when it all benefits healthy oceans!”
Heal the Bay wouldn’t know how to deal with its “healthy oceans” under constant siege by Fukushima if it drowned in one of them. No matter to the Los Angeles Times. Heal the Bay and oceanographer Kim Martini have enough ‘credibility’ to blow this dangerous nonsense past the paper. Not just past the writer but his editors too. Any digging would have revealed to the Times what you’ve just read here.