, , ,

It seems many people are worried that the radiation levels in Miyagi-ken and Sendai have been affected by the recent leaks at Fukushima Daiichi. They have not in the slightest, the latest numbers are here. As long as I can remember, it has been between 0.05 and 0.1 microsieverts per hour. Chances are that where you are from, the background radiation is actually higher. We had a volunteer group from Germany here a few months ago and the city they were from had higher radiation than Ishinomaki! Not to mention the radiation levels on the plane ride over…
Please do your own research to find out what the numbers are for your area so you have an idea what is normal. The numbers are often shown in CPM, the conversion is 100 CPM = 1 microsievert per hour.

Geiger counter
Background radiation in our living room today

The leaks from the tanks at Fukushima Daiichi are a very local problem. The cleanup is and will continue to be a major headache for the workers there. Also, the plight of the fishermen and people in the vicinity of the reactors is very real. But I don’t see this radioactive water magically jumping into people’s living rooms in other places in Tohoku. Many news articles do not even mention whether we are talking about gamma or beta radiation. There is a huge difference. Please do your research! Even if contaminated water keeps leaking into the ocean, it is very unlikely that the fish being sold in Tohoku will have high levels of radioactive substances. Contrary to what many people believe, the Japanese government and the fish industry are not bent on harming people’s health. The standards in Japan are very stringent and food is regularly checked. Even if there were slight amounts – did you know that bananas have radioactive potassium in them? Just because something is radioactive does not mean it is dangerous. I believe there are several things that right now, in many countries around the world, are having a much more detrimental effect on people’s health around us, for example: smoking and second-hand smoke, regular consumption of fast food and soda, high consumption of red and processed meats, coal plant emissions, lack of exercise, drunk drivers. If you want to reduce the number of unnecessary deaths that occur every day, trace amounts of radiation are not high on the list.
Here are a few links you might want to check if you want to understand more about radioactivity in general and about the Fukushima situation in particular:

Radiation effects in Japan – Wikipedia article on the aftermath of Fukushima
WHO report – released early 2013 about health effects
Fukushima Accident Updates – one of the best listings of new developments, several times a week
Fukushima Commentary – by the same guy as above, commentary on the latest news
ANS Nuclear Cafe – analysis, commentary and news
Things worse than nuclear power – putting things into perspective
Brave New Climate – lots of articles and information
Radiation and Reason – information about the dangers of radiation