Thursday, June 30, 2011

100% of Fukushima Kids tested have internal Cs-137

Hello to anybody who is still reading this blog out there.   I stopped posting during final exams, and then went on vacation.  So here is a quick summary of two new stories about Fukushima.

The first has to do with a concern I've been trying raise here, (following the experts at and others):  There's a big difference between external radiation dose (eg from an X-ray) and internal exposure, say from eating something radioactive which stays in your body.  The latter is much more dangerous (see this earlier post)

The Guardian reports that of 10 kids tested all 10 have radioactive urine.  What's most disturbing is that this test was NOT carried out for the first 3 months!  Specifically, Cesium-137 was detected.  Cs-137 doesn't occur naturally: it is only found after Uranium and Plutonium atoms split in a reactor (or in a bomb).  The level is about 1 radioactive decay per second per liter (1 Bq/l), and doesn't seem to concern the people interviewed in this article (understandable: the Potassium in our bodies naturally produces more decays than this) However the article makes no assessment of the health risks.  My main concern is: how radioactive were these kids in the weeks right after the disaster?

They probably had a lot more Cesium, Strontium and Iodine in their bodies then which has naturally flushed out.  People were advising internal vs. external radiation doses early on...why has this taken so long?  The radioactive Iodine from the initial explosions has now decayed away, but Cs-137 has a a half life of 30 years meaning it takes 100 years for it to be 90% "gone".

The other story is that 1 Sv or 1,000 milliSeivert/hour water is now leaking out of reactor 2.

This water is so radioactive that exposure for 6 minutes is enough to measurably increase your cancer risk, and exposure for more than an hour would cause illness or death.   Two people have already been burned by the water last week.  We can presume that TEPCO is just going to dump this water into the ocean, since they again made the statement that the radioactive water would "quickly dissipate" in the sea.     I don't know about quickly but it will disperse far and wide into  the ocean, where it will be consumed by fish seaweed and other life forms.  Probably only the fish within a few miles will get heavy enough doses to cause mutations, etc.  but who's to say they won't then swim far away?

One final story from the NY Times:

It seems like the ideal people to send into a radioactive environment are the elderly: their cells divide more slowly so are less susceptible.  Plus, if they get cancer in 10 - 20 years, who cares?  Remarkably some brave volunteers have signed up.   My hat's off to them!


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