A Bay Area Beach Video Stirs Fukushima Radiation Fears — But Shouldn’t

Japanese government officials and nuclear experts inspect work at the badly damaged Fukushima nuclear plant.  (AFP-Getty Images)
Japanese government officials and nuclear experts inspect work at the badly damaged Fukushima nuclear plant. (AFP-Getty Images)

The other morning on KQED’s “Forum” program, we invited listeners to call and write with ideas about what we ought to be covering in the coming year. We got lots of ideas for coverage on health, technology, arts and culture, politics and the economics of living in this region. We also heard requests for coverage on science and environmental subjects, including this one from a caller named David:

I would love to see some coverage of the radiation spread from Fukushima Daiichi. I feel woefully uninformed, and I’ve heard reports that the radiation releases could affect the whole West Coast, which seems extreme except I’ve been hearing things. Hearing what its impact is, both short term and long term, would be great.

In fact, KQED has been getting questions for months about the West Coast impact from the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster that followed Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The questions often appear to be prompted by claims made in blog posts like this: 28 Signs That the West Coast Is Being Absolutely Fried by Radiation from Fukushima  — posts that appear to be long on hyperbole, alarmism and cherry-picked facts and short on data and reasoning. In response, one of our science editors came up with a letter (see the end of this post) that points to what we believe to give well informed and well researched sources of information on the local impact of Fukushima radiation.

The questions are still coming, stirred partly by concern over the impact of one of the world’s most serious nuclear disasters and partly by the continuing stream of Internet “evidence” suggesting radiation from Fukushima is poisoning us and wreaking havoc on the environment. Just this week, for instance, there’s this: Fishermen in Mexico discovered conjoined gray whale calves off the Baja coast. That much is true, and from what early stories say, it could be the first time conjoined gray whales have ever been seen. But you don’t have to go far to find reports like this, on a site called The Voice of Russia: Two-headed whale found in Mexico. Is Fukushima radiation responsible?

Huh? Who said anything about a two-headed whale? Or Fukushima? The question in the headline is sensational and leading, and the answer the piece gives is of the “no one knows — but it could be!” variety. (For a more sober take, check Slate: No, That Conjoined Whale Calf Was Not Caused by Fukushima.)

The Video From Surfer’s Beach

The biggest recent Net-enabled Fukushima shocker originated in our own backyard. It came by way of a YouTube video shot near Half Moon Bay and posted just before Christmas. From there it has gone viral. (Here’s one version, possibly the original judging from the traffic it’s gotten, though it misidentifies the location as Pacifica State Beach: Fukushima Radiation Hits San Francisco?)

What exactly does the 7½-minute video show?

It features a man visiting the beach with a Geiger counter, a device that detects the presence of radioactive material (here’s one simple description of a counter and what it measures). Typically, a Geiger counter emits a clicking sound when it counts a radioactive particle and gives a readout of “counts per minute” (CPM), the rate of radioactive particles it’s detecting. The higher the CPM, the higher the radiation.

The Surfer’s Beach video begins in a parking lot, and the Geiger counter shows what’s considered to be a normal background level of radiation, about 30 CPM. But when the man holding the counter walks down to the sand, the level jumps and tops out at 156. The man, identified elsewhere as “Dave,” says: “And so the width of the sand pretty much the length of this particular beach it looks like is contaminated at least three times over (background radiation levels).”

There’s Radiation — But Not From Fukushima

The video has prompted public health officials to look at what’s going on at Surfer’s Beach. As several local media outlets have reported, both county and state health officials are saying the radiation probably has a natural, local origin. Here’s David Perlman in the San Francisco Chronicle, who wrote that tests of sand from the beach “show that the radiation has come from natural sources — most probably from ancient rocks eroded in the bluffs above.” The story continues:

“There is no public health risk at California beaches due to radioactivity related to events at Fukushima,” the California Department of Public Health said Tuesday.

“Recent tests by the San Mateo County Public Health Department show that elevated levels of radiation at Half Moon Bay are due to naturally occurring materials and not radioactivity associated with the Fukushima incident,” it said.

Mark Noack of the Half Moon Bay Review has also been reporting on the video and on what’s causing the radiation readings on Surfer’s Beach. One of the people he’s talked to is Steve Weiss, a Geiger counter designer who lives near the beach:

On Monday, Weiss carried a Geiger counter in each hand for a second survey of Surfer’s Beach. As he descended to the waterline, the readings on his gadgets climbed. He tested various spots: the side of the bluffs and the white sand closest to the waterline, both registering levels that were high but not suspiciously so as far as he was concerned. But when he placed the sensors down near a line of black silt along the back of the beach, the meters on both his gadgets spiked. The counters registered about 415 counts per minute. A cpm of 30 is considered the baseline for radioactivity typically found in the air.

“It’s not normal. I’ve never seen 400 cpm when I just wave my Geiger around.” he said. “There has to be something radioactive for it to do that.”

Weiss is no amateur; for 40 years he has made a living designing Geiger counters, most recently for International Medcom Inc. After he verified the hots pot, he took a sample of the dark sediment and sent it to his company’s main offices in Sebastopol for analysis.

The company’s CEO, Dan Sythe, analyzed the samples. He reported on his own blog, Geiger Counter Bulletin, that the radiation in the sand emanated from radium and thorium — “naturally occurring radioactive materials” — not from the cesium isotope that would show it to have come from Fukushima. Sythe characterized the radiation level as “elevated, but roughly equivalent to some granite counter top material from Brazil.” And he said the actual source of the Surfer’s Beach material still merits investigation.

So, what’s the takeaway?

Concern over the long-term impact of Fukushima is understandable. The disaster is akin to an ongoing experiment that will be teaching us about radiation’s impacts for many years to come. At the same time, it’s pretty clear there’s nothing to the almost daily claims that the West Coast is being blasted, flooded, roasted or fried by Fukushima radiation. For the 10,000th time: Always be skeptical and questioning of what you read on the Net, and look for context and confirmation for any and all claims. We don’t exempt our own offerings from that advice either.

* * *

Here’s the letter we’ve sent to listeners and readers who have asked for information about the impact of Fukushima radiation on the West Coast:

Thank you for being a KQED listener and for your email regarding Internet buzz about ocean contamination from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Information on the Internet that claims that the tsunami debris near the West Coast is radioactive, or that huge plumes of nuclear water are heading for the West Coast, or that fish here are carrying dangerously high levels of radiation, is false. These claims are unsubstantiated and not supported by scientists who have studied the issue.

We’d recommend reading this information — Fukushima Radiation — from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, one of the world’s leading marine science organizations. The writer, Ken Buesseler, organized the first comprehensive study of the spread of radionuclides from Fukushima into the Pacific Ocean. He gained expertise on the topic when he studied the spread of radionuclides from Chernobyl into the Black Sea.

Similarly, here is a post on a website run by marine scientists that addresses each of the concerns that have arisen on several sensationalistic and misleading websites and explains why they are inaccurate: 28 fallacies about the Fukushima nuclear disaster’s effect on the U.S. West Coast.

Finally, here is the Natural Resources Defense Council on the topic: Fukushima Radiation Risks from Eating Fish.

We hope this explains why the KQED Science team hasn’t covered this topic. We do cover a range of topics concerning the ocean ecosystems and marine life off the coasts of Northern California, and would not ignore credible information concerning radiation poisoning in these waters.

  • Lilly Munster

    The hysteria has been unhelpful. Sometimes authorities go a bit far the other direction while trying to calm the public. Radiation exposure even at low levels isn’t “safe”. There is a difference between set govt. levels where they will take action and what is considered scientifically “safe” or not.
    People should not be consuming fish contaminated with cesium 137 for example. Doing so where the levels are small wouldn’t make someone immediately ill obviously, but it can add to over all damage to their health. If their total food consumption has considerable amounts of cesium 137 in it it will add to cellular and DNA damage and possibly lead to cancer in some cases.
    In the need to calm the public from these outlandish claims going around we should not go so far the other direction that we give people a false sense of security by downplaying he health risks when these substances are found in the food chain and environment.

    • Phuket

      No, it doesn’t matter how much or how little Cesium 134 or 137 is ingested. Even one particle and do damage inside the body, for years. Risk does increase with consumption (ingestion), but it only takes one “hot particle” to cause cancer or other serious illness inside the body.

      A few Bq per Kg of Cesium 137 inside the body can irreparably damage the heart muscle, for example.

      That the EPA raised its PAG “safe” levels of radiation does not help the consumer to know whether or not food is safe to consume.

      No one is protecting consumers, and government entities seem to be doing their best to drag their heels in telling us the truth. They also seem to be working hard to downplay the whole issue.

      No matter, the truth will win out. I hope it’s not because every other woman in the U.S. begins to give birth to a deformed baby.

      KQED is doing the public a disservice by dowplaying the risks from three melted out, hot reactor cores, and their collective effects upon the Pacific Ocean, and living beings everywhere.

    • Chairman Meow

      I like when people proclaim “no level of radiation is safe”. It helps to speed up the process of dismissing their politically-clouded misunderstanding of science.

  • igmuska

    the question is not whether joe schmoe public should be rad testing and questioning his readings, the question should be how much radiation is a “safe” level? Then extending that to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe, how far away from the Japanese nuclear catastrophe must we be from it and who is the one that marks the safe line?

    • Phil Blank

      They keep changing what the safe level is, just like Japan!

    • Phuket

      The NILU, a prestigious Norweigian atmospheric (meteorological) organization, published public and private plume forecasts in 2011. Have a look here at what the PRIVATE forecasts showed. The public was not given access to this information. Forecasts ended in May, 2011. Make sure you scroll all the way down, and view ALL the information, esp. for Xenon class, Iodine 131 class, and Cesium 137 class.

      http://globalcooperative.wordpress.com/2011/07/03/radioactive-iodine-131-usa-forecasts-to-may-13/

      Note: the forecasted amounts were so high, they were above known scales of rmeasurement. And the private forecasts were said to account for the output (plume) from Reactor 1 alone, not Reactors 1-3. You may recall Reactor 3 (which contained Plutonium enriched MOX fuel) had a rather violent explosion.

  • anon

    The article says that there is elevated radiation on the beach cited, but that it is not from Fukushima. Is this level of radiation a health concern regardless? Should we avoid this beach? Thank you.

    • Rafi

      any dose of radiation should be avoided if possible.
      About avoiding the beach, I would not worry about it if you just walk along. Do not let children play in the sand though..

    • peedee

      Radiation detectors don’t measure radioactivity. Think of radiation as bullets from an AK-47, and radioactivity as the AK-47. You might be able to dodge the bullets coming from far away, but if you ingest radioactivity, (as many people have who live near Boiling Water Reactors, which are, by DESIGN, allowed to ‘burp’ excess radioactive steam, usually at night so nobody notices), and those radioactive particles drift into your lungs, then you are carrying the radiactive source around inside your body. To answer your question then, 400cpm is not a large number of ‘bullets’, however, if it’s coming from radioactive particles in the surf or the sand, then you breath those particles in, you’re taking a souvenir home that will live in your body, like the movie Alien, creating malignancies, or in extreme cases, like the famous Russian polonium assassination, the ingested radioactive particles emit radiation that pierces every organ of your body and you ‘leak out’ like a sack of wet hamburger. For some crazy reason, the MSM doesn’t seem willing or able to parse the difference. It’s all just ‘safe’. Sure it is. Google ‘downwinders’, then make sure to take a dash of iodized salt every day.

      • Phil Blank

        iodized table salt is not a replacement for potassium iodide tablets!

        • Phuket

          Potassium Iodide is only safe to take in emergency situations. Much better to get a safe, low dose of iodine on an ongoing basis to build up the iodine reserves in your body. Then KI isn’t needed in an emergency. Do a browser search and look up “Lugol’s 5% solution” or “nascent iodine.”

    • Phuket

      FYI, there is an enenews.com article from about a week ago, discussing high levels of Plutonium found about 50 miles offshore from San Francisco. There is speculation the large number of barrels of high level radioactive waste dumped in the Farallon Islands may be leaching toxic radioactive isotopes into the area outside the S.F. Bay. IMO it’s possible this could be contributing to the high levels of radiation found at the beach.

      The fellow who builds the Inspector Geiger Counters, however, is a pretty bright, trustworthy guy. I trust his personal opinion.

      But if you all seriously think there’s no risk from Fukushima, you really need to wake up and smell the coffee:

      http://enenews.com/40000000-bq-of-iodine-131-in-a-single-bed-of-kelp-off-southern-california-amount-most-likely-larger

      A bq (Bequerel) is one radioactive distinegration per second. The number above is 40 million disintegrations of Iodine 131 per second, found in kelp offshore in So. Calif., shortly after 3/11.

      Study done at Ca. State Univ., Long Beach, and reported in Scientific American:

      http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=radioactive-iodine-from-from-fukushima-found-in-california-kelp

    • Guest

      More alarmist nonsense. Please be aware that fearmongering is extremely pervasive on the Internet because it sells products, advertisements, and ideologies very effectively. Scrutinize each source you come across by the context of its surrounding content, the language of its reporting, and the lack of factual and historic context (aka: understanding) it provides into the subject matter.

      Let’s take the measurements from the original video,
      which the narrator says averages 150CPM and which peaks out at 156CPM at one point
      in the video. If you take the highest measurement of 156CPM and divide
      it by the specified 3500CPM/mR/h sensitivity level of his model Geiger
      meter, you get a measurement of 0.04458 mR/h (milliroentgens per hour).
      Multiply this value by 8766 hours per year to get 391 mR per year, then
      multiply that by 0.96 to convert to the roentgen equivalent in man (rem)
      value of 375 mrem–this is the level of radiation deposited in soft
      biological tissue.

      According to MIT, the average natural background
      radiation at sea level is 300 mrem. This increases at higher elevation
      where Denver has an average 400 mrem. Federal safety standards for
      fetuses and minors in workplace environment label 500 mrem, or 5000 mrem
      for adults, as the upper limit of safe.

      To give further context, acute
      radiation poisoning is defined as over 1 sievert or 100 rem (100,000
      mrem) in a short time period, which at the rate of peak measurement
      level would take over 25 years to accumulate. Another way to look at
      that is, at 0.0428 rem/h or 0.0007 rem/m, that is over 142,857 times the
      peak measurement registered on Pacifica State Beach.

    • Chairman Meow

      Please be aware that fearmongering is extremely pervasive on the Internet because it sells products, advertisements, and ideologies very effectively. Scrutinize each source you come across by the context of its surrounding content, the language of its reporting, and the lack of factual and historic context (aka: understanding) it provides into the subject matter.

      Let’s take the original video’s measurements, which average 150CPM and which peaks out at 156CPM at one point in the video. If you take the highest measurement of 156CPM and divide it by the specified 3500CPM/mR/h sensitivity level of his model Geiger meter, you get a measurement of 0.04458 mR/h (milliroentgens per hour).

      Multiply this value by 8766 hours per year to get 391 mR per year, then multiply that by 0.96 to convert to the roentgen equivalent in man (rem) value of 375 mrem–this is the level of radiation deposited in soft biological tissue. According to MIT, the average natural background radiation at sea level is 300 mrem. This increases at higher elevation where Denver has an average 400 mrem. Federal safety standards for fetuses and minors in workplace environment label 500 mrem, or 5000 mrem for adults, as the upper limit of safe.

      To give further context, acute radiation poisoning is defined as over 1 sievert or 100 rem (100,000 mrem) in a short time period, which at the rate of peak measurement level would take over 25 years to accumulate. Another way to look at that is, at 0.0428 rem/h or 0.0007 rem/m, that is over 142,857 times the peak measurement registered on Pacifica State Beach.

    • Chairman Meow

      Please be aware that fearmongering is extremely pervasive on the Internet because it sells products, advertisements, and ideologies very effectively. Scrutinize each source you come across by the context of its surrounding content, the language of its reporting, and the lack of factual and historic context (aka: understanding) it provides into the subject matter.

      Let’s take the original video’s measurements, which average 150CPM and which peaks out at 156CPM at one point in the video. If you take the highest measurement of 156CPM and divide it by the specified 3500CPM/mR/h sensitivity level of his model Geiger meter, you get a measurement of 0.04458 mR/h (milliroentgens per hour). Multiply this value by 8766 hours per year to get 391 mR per year, then multiply that by 0.96 to convert to the roentgen equivalent in man (rem) value of 375 mrem–this is the level of radiation deposited in soft biological tissue.

      According to MIT, the average natural background radiation at sea level is 300 mrem. This increases at higher elevation where Denver has an average 400 mrem. Federal safety standards for fetuses and minors in workplace environment label 500 mrem, or 5000 mrem for adults, as the upper limit of safe.

      To give further context, acute radiation poisoning is defined as over 1 sievert or 100 rem (100,000 mrem) in a short time period, which at the rate of peak measurement level would take over 25 years to accumulate. Another way to look at that is, at 0.0428 rem/h or 0.0007 rem/m, that is over 142,857 times the peak measurement registered on Pacifica State Beach.

  • rcase

    – “We hope this explains why the KQED Science team hasn’t covered this topic.”

    Not at all, just the opposite.

    alarming quotes:

    “radioactive contamination at the plants has been leaking out of control into the sea.”

    “To date, TEPCO, the plant operator, and the government of Japan have been unable prevent the continuous flow of radioactive contamination into the sea.”

    “The leaks are not under control.”

    “This has caused widespread concern”

    “There is a dearth of publicly available data” (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

    ” we can gain some insight into the risks from the L I M I T E D data that we have seen.”

  • rcase

    Do you remember when oncologists were telling us full body ct scans for early cancer detection were harmless? Here is your own report:

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=121436092

  • rcase

    “”Physicians [and their patients] cannot be complacent about the hazards
    of radiation or we risk creating a public health time bomb,” says Dr.
    Rita Redberg, editor of Archives of Internal Medicine, which is publishing the paper in this week’s issue.”

  • Joe Schmoe

    So just to be clear you have no data to substantiate any claims. What test? Which isotopes? No data??? Take me at my word…. And just to be clear there is no “safe” level. Zero is safe. Yes, some expert opinion states low doses are beneficial. What is new and unique is the prolonged dosing of small amounts of acute phase radionucleides Cs134 and I131 in example. There really is no large scale trial ever in the history of nuke science.

    • aqua420

      This is a blog post talking about why they haven’t gone into the kind of analysis you want, so it’s no big surprise the blog post doesn’t contain that analysis. They do link to some data in the response letter. (Also, as far as the isotopes you mentioned– they said they didn’t find any cesium, and the iodine isotope has a half-life of only 8 days, so it’d be depleted after crossing the Pacific.)

      • cafehunk

        Not to be alarmist, but a half-life of 8 days means that each 8 day period results in a halving of the radiation level (or a halving of the iodine isotope level), not that the level disappears entirely. If it took 40 days to cross the Pacific, the level would be reduced by 2^5, in other words, a factor of 32, or in other words 3% of the level before crossing the Pacific. Of course, it would also be diluted in the process of crossing the Pacific as well.

        This half-life misunderstanding is pervasive – you may even remember that Dr. Strangelove proclaimed the half-life of “Cobalt Thorium G” as being 93 years – then continued that that would be the duration of the “doomsday shroud” – later Dr. Strangelove himself mutters about the half-life figure and proclaims that 100 years would be the duration that mankind should have to live underground. “Cobalt Thorium G” is imaginary (and named with an amalgam of two distinct elements and , but as any radioactive material decays, it doesn’t change from being harmful to harmless simply by waiting out one half-life of the decay curve.

        So let’s not be too glib. Radioactive contamination doesn’t just disappear no matter how many half-lives you wait. However, after sufficient dilution and decay, the levels will decline to levels that fade to background levels.

        • cafehunk

          If you’ve read this far, you deserve something of a reward. You can
          build your own “Nuclear Bomb Effects Computer” just like the one used by
          Dr. Strangelove by following the instructions and images at:
          http://www.fourmilab.ch/bombcalc/brico.html

        • aqua420

          I’m late in replying, but… I know that’s what half-life means (though it’s probably good that you included the explanation)– but I’ve read that it typically takes a year or two for material to cross the Pacific. On the other hand, I’m not sure that *no* material crosses the ocean that quickly. But 40 days seems fast.

    • Phuket

      The difference is between the “linear no dose” threshold model of radiation exposure (no level is safe) and the “radiation hormesis” hypothesis, which states small amounts of radiation are good for. This is an oversimplification.

      The National Academy of Sciences supports the LDN model. The Department of Energy refutes its validity.

      http://blekko.com/wiki/Linear_no-threshold_model?source=672620ff

      Read Dr. John Gofman’s book online, “Poisoned Power,” Can be downloaded as .pdf file, for free.

  • Bryan S

    For the 10,000th time: Always be skeptical and questioning of what you read on the Net. We don’t exempt our own offerings from that advice, either. THEY SAID IT BEST.. BELIEVE WHAT YOU FEEL IS THE TRUTH.. I BELIEVE I CAN NOT BELIEVE ANYTHING THE GOVERNMENT TELLS ME AND ANYTHING THAT GETS FUNDING FROM THE GOVERNMENT.. WHEN SOMEONE START CHECKING THE LEVELS WHO HAS NOTHING TO GAIN FROM IT THAT IS WHO I WOULD BE MORE LIKELY TO BELIEVE..

    • Johngeek

      Science isn’t “belief”, no matter how many capital letters you shout at people with. Science is the careful analysis of meaningful data by multiple sources in the pursuit of a replicable phenomena that will prove or disprove a hypothesis. The “unidentified source” you are quite fond of has had his hypothesis tested and disproved by multiple scientists, most of whom have little or no motive to fudge the data – their institutions/agencies have identified environmental.threats before, including ones that are far more inconvenient for “the government” than an event such as Fukushima (which originated under a far different “government” than the one you so compulsively distrust in all matters).

  • Bryan S

    remember if collages start saying things that are not in line with the government agencies they could loose funding. when scientist do the same, you got , they could loose funding. but when a man who remains unidentified walks on a beach with a very good Geiger counter ( inspector model) and the detector shows high levels, you guessed it he DOES not risk the chance of loosing funding. remember this is the same government that has in the past said that they do not spy on Americans, that you can keep your insurance, that whistle blowers would be protected till snowden then they prosecute,

    • Johngeek

      One wonderful side effect of receiving a college education, the kind that scientists are expected to have in order to be considered credible, is that one learns to construct a coherent sentence – unlike the author of this post. Not to sound dismissive, Bryan S, but I think I will trust actual scientists over the shrill voices of conspiracy theorists like yourself with regard to matters of science, whether some of their funding comes from “the government” or not. Sorry, but “A man who remains unidentified” doesn’t quite cut it in the scientific credibility sweepstakes.

      • Phuket

        Will you trust the scientists who found the Iodine 131 in kelp off So. Calif. in 2011? (See link above re: Cal. State Long Beach study.)

        Will you trust the findings of the UC Berkeley BRAWN (Nuclear Physics) Lab, which found high levels of Iodine 131 in milk and rainwater, in 2011?

  • JLK

    Saw this paper recently on the arXiv from scientists at Berkeley: http://arxiv.org/abs/1312.7314
    Although they don’t include their results in the abstract, the conclusion is clear: no radiation above natural backgrounds present

    • Rafi

      This study doesn’t apply to ocean

  • Leo Pelliccia

    The government is lying as usual through their teeth – they dont want to scare the public. Fukushima hasn’t even started yet. The next quake will kill everything in the oceans. Then us.

    • Johngeek

      Sounds like you’d better kill yourself now, then!

      • Phuket

        I thought geeks were supposed to be smart, inquisitive people. Good problem solvers. As in “Geek Squad.”

        • JoJosephson

          Wish I could see what you responded to, but the quislings have censored the previous comment. If they don’t support the First Amendment for us, then how can we trust what the KQED types report?
          I just had a perfectly reasoned comment deleted by them and there was no profanity, perversion, or name-calling except that those holding the highest offices are in cahoots with the corp. and govt. sponsored media in feeding us propaganda, except that the PBS- and corp.-owned media types are okay with all this because “our guy” is in the CA governor’s mansion and “our guy” is in the White House, Senate, etc.
          Shame on you KQED!

      • Leo Pelliccia

        Simple question. What would happen if Japan was to sink into the Pacific with all its nuclear plants from a massive quake?

  • Concerned Bay Areaite

    Question.

    I quote from the article, “There is no public health risk at California beaches due to
    radioactivity related to events at Fukushima,” the California Department
    of Public Health said Tuesday.”

    OK, there appears to be no health risk from the radiation from fukushima as the radiation detected is “naturally occuring”. My issue with this is, the source is of no consequence (in the following respect) — one way or another, there are abnormal, perhaps dangerous (?) levels of radiation being detected off of HMB. So technically, yes, there are no health risks from the fukushima radiation seeing as how the radiation being detected here doesn’t appear to have originated from the plant. However, there must indeed be health risks in association with the radiation that’s being detected, seeing as how it’s as high as it is. Shouldn’t we worry about that instead of sighing in relief, just because the origin appears to be different than we thought?

  • Todd Pratum

    I remember after the meltdown, it was reported that radiation monitors were turned off, in Oregon, and in Canada also, perhaps elsewhere. I would like to know if that is true, and if so, then we have to assume that other monitoring devices may have been deactivated or otherwise altered here on the Pacific Coast.

    I also remember reading that Japan changed the way they measure radiation, dramatically increasing the “normal background radiation levels” and also what is deemed safe exposure levels, and that the US followed suit. So what was “safe” four years ago is a lower dose than what is considered safe now, but I would like to see conclusive evidence that this is really so.

    Just today I read that the decontamination of the reactors has been suspended (yesterday) because the equipment failed, and that it might be a long time before efforts can be resumed, but thankfully they have a team of homeless people working on it. http://rt.com/news/fukushima-decontamination-system-stops-352/

  • Rebecca

    Here’s an article by a Senior Scientist at the Univ of Missouri detailing the dangers that Fukushima poses (scroll down for facts & figures)… http://www.ratical.org/radiation/Fukushima/StevenStarr.html

  • Barry

    Fukushima radiation is still pouring into the pacific ocean and air currents to be carried to the USA’s west coast and beyond! People have good reason to worry and protect themselves from becoming contaminated with radiation as it has moved into the food chain that includes fish, sea life and crops! For those that feel that they may be radiated or want to be ready if they become radiated the website at http://www.zeolite.com is loaded with quality information on how to safely remove radiation from the body with the mineral zeolite. This website could be a lifesaver for you and your loved ones!

  • Phil Blank

    “‘long on hyperbole””?
    Yes, it is sites like this one that want to ease the public fear and prevent panic and riots by not telling the truth!

  • Dancing Mad

    Time to pop some RadAway and go kill some Super Mutants.

  • Mary Miller

    I did a little back-of-the-envelope calculation of the amount of radiation detected: at 145 micro-rems per hour (that’s 145 x 10 minus 6 rems), you would have to stay at the beach for nearly four years to get a dose or 5 rems that the CDC reports as the amount that would detectably change blood levels. You’d get much more UV exposure from solar radiation than than the amount in the sand.

  • freedomisgood

    One of the best sites for real facts of radiation and nuclear power.

    Fairewinds Energy Education is a 501c3 non-profit organization founded in 2008. Our mission is to educate the public about nuclear power and other energy issues. We have designed our website to be a hub for fact-based, unbiased nuclear energy information. Fairewinds’ website features our weekly podcasts and videos, in which we collaborate with experts in wide ranging fields to discuss nuclear energy issues. On our website you’ll also find blog posts on current events, expert witness reports on nuclear safety issues, frequently asked questions (FAQs) about nuclear power, a nuclear book list, archives of our presentations, media coverage, newsletters, and much more. Thanks to our dedicated volunteer translators, our content is available in four languages. Our work is supported by grants and by many small individual donations from people around the world who believe in our work as much as we do. The Fairewinds Team works hard to demystify nuclear power through education

    Fairewinds Energy Education

    http://fairewinds.com/

  • Shara Bingham Mills

    The source here has been considered and will go into the round file.

  • badforu

    Its funny how they explain away every rise in radioactive reading as naturally occuring, although they didnt have those high reading naturally happening before fukashima. Hogwash.

    Its the radioactive particles that are the danger. There is no safe level of radioactive particles to be around. As for radiation, if your around enough material to give you radiation sickness, or cause health problems, Then theres not much else to wonder about, your body will be contaminated with the particles and do the damage from the inside.

    Those telling you there is nothing to worry about are the same people that tell you no one died from Chernoblyn accident. They will even tell you that stuff today if your gullible enough to listen to it. The collusion exhibited by all the authoritys has been criminal, but no one will be held accountable.

  • Mary Meinel Newport

    FACTS. Why is it so hard to get the plain, bare readings? Yes, we already know it is perfectly safe to swim in Fukushima’s waters. How on earth are we supposed to know if any thing is true? I am resigned to the possibility that I must personally go to the various beaches and take the readings, myself. But then, how can I inform and protect the public? No one would be able to believe me, because there is an incredible false info and false assurances. Yeah. Let your little kids play on the beach as much as they like. Then when the Thyroid cancer and Lukemia starts sending their little kids to early graves, the government will still be totally mystified as to how such a thing could be incurring.

  • Media Checker

    “It doesn’t mean that it‘s OK. It’s not something you’d want your baby playing in,” Sythe said. “All we’re saying is this radiation is not from Fukushima.”

    Babies are currently playing in this sand and the government and the large media outlets are saying there is no health hazard.

    So who is to be believed?

    The quote above is from the guy that actually analyzed the samples and is the part of the quote that all the US based mainstream media is leaving out of their report. That omission fuels a distrust of big media outlets such as KQED, at least by educated readers. There is a hiding of facts going on and the term “cherry picking”, is exactly what was done within this very article.

    http://www.hmbreview.com/news/experts-say-beach-radiation-unrelated-to-fukushima/article_d3bb5b14-77ea-11e3-a37b-001a4bcf887a.html

  • Lance Deeply

    Dan Brekke, I reject you reality and will insert my own. For one Slate.com is not a reputable news source. It’s like citing the Enquirer.

    There is no such thing as safe radiation and you can’t have a nuclear reactor go China Syndrome and expect us to agree there is no problem.

    For the rest of you that want real news on Fukushima? Search EneNews.com and Fairewinds.com

    Dan’s biography clearly shows he is the problem and not the solution. The MSM can’t help itself. It lies for money and so the Feds don’t take their broadcasting license.

  • Mitch Sherwood

    How do you explain away the huge increase in hypothyroidism seen in west coast newborns? This only comes from radiation exposure. http://rt.com/usa/fukushima-us-children-thyroid-291/ This story was reported in many other outlets…

  • AlreadyEvacuated

    You are so uninformed it is sad. I have links to over a hundred articles that explain the risks with much more scientific proof than anyone on your side can argue with. Give it 10 years, buddy. You are going to look like a moron. At least do a bit of your own research before misleading the public into thinking that it is nothing to worry about. Post your email and I will gladly send you links so that you can do your due diligence.

  • JoJosephson

    Question not asked: Why did our criminal govt. raise the “safe” level of background radiation by a factor of 20?
    Why are there certain radiation level measurement stations in the mountains now shut down?
    This is not over, it’s just beginning. Call it hysteria, hype or whatever, but background radiation levels ARE rising. Not nec. connected, but cancer and other disease rates have increased by exponential factors, though, that’s from issues with our food and water supplies.
    Here’s a question to ask yourselves, “Why did Gov. Schwarzenschlager mandate that every CA municipality dump fluoride (now shipped over from Chi-com land) into our water supplies?”
    Lots of unasked questions right now because “our guy” is in the governor’s mansion and “our guy” is in the big house in D.C. (District of Criminals).
    Something needs to be done. Doing nothing and/or sticking one’s head in the sand is still an active choice one makes and the consequences are more severe in the long run.
    It’s up to us to open our mouths and look beyond what this corp.-owned media and govt.-subsidized propaganda machine is spoon-feeding us.

  • JoJosephson

    Hint to uncover the propaganda:
    What were the deemed safe levels of radiation before Fukushima and what are the “safe” background metrics put forth now? And why do we suppose that is? And why were certain govt. radiation monitoring stations turned off?…etc.
    “Quod Erat Demonstrandum”

    BTW, KQED “editor,” you had better not delete my comment this time, as my friend Dan Brekke will most certainly hear about it (amongst others). Remember, he is and “enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything.”

Author

Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke (Twitter: @danbrekke) has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.

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