Japan Famous for Kobe Beef Now Fukushima Tuna
analysis by Arthur Hu
Bad news. OMG the cesium has gotten into globetrotting bluefin tuna off California. So says Nicholas Fisher and Zofia Baumann at Stony Brook University, and Daniel Madigan at Stanford University, who co-wrote an article in the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The fish which is threatened because they are prized by sushi chefs has swam across the ocean “faster than the wind” from where they grew up around the Phillipines and Japan to San Diego. There 15 were caught last summer, shortly after the triple-meltdown at Fukushima dumped massive amounts of radioactive steam and water into and over the ocean, where it got into the small fish that the tuna feed on. Short-lived cesium 137 was detected which only occurs shortly after bombs or nuclear reactors blow up, and the longer-lived cesium 134 was FIVE TIMES background levels from the old atomic “tests”. Overall radiation was a whopping 3 percent elevated over the last batch they looked at.
Good news is that while the levels are pretty easy to detect, it’s not nearly as worrisome as the other harmful stuff in the fish that’s there all the time. The worst contaminant is methyl mercury, of which they are still waiting for results. The neurotoxin is a risk for developing fetuses, which is why US mothers are advised to limit tuna consumption. The fish are expected to lose 2 percent of their cesium each day by normal excretion, and most of what Americans eat comes from farms. Even at 5 bq, either caesium is 35 times less than the amount of radioactive potassium, which is naturally-occurring in the fish (and bananas, which is what people usually talk about “banana-equivalent dose” which is among the most radioactive things we eat normally) Radioactive potassium, along with polonium-210 are the two most common and largest radioactive compounds in our foods
The moral of the story is that failed nuclear powerplant disasters don’t have to kill or even sicken lots of people to make an alarming mess of the planet. The issue should not be that nuclear accidents like Chernobyl, Three-Mile Island and Fukushima prove that nuclear power in fact does NOT kill. The issue should be that despite perfectly good disaster plans and safety systems, these things can and WILL blow up and contaminate the planet with radiation, whether or not we can believe it is as “harmless” as these tuna are.
I haven’t seen much of the scientists in Germany’s Max Plank Institute figure that nuclear disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima which spill cesium and iodine all over the planet within weeks are are likely to recur once in 10-20 yearswith Europe at highest risk. Contrary to the usual remedy of a 20-50 mile evacuation zone, half of the radioactive caesium would be spread over 1,000 km away (which means the other half goes god know where) Overall, Western Europe is likely to be contaminated about once in 50 years. Plants in the USA and Europe are much safer than either Fukushima or Chenobyl, but nothing can completely prevent another “beyond design basis” failure.
Speaking of Mercury and Industrial Disaster and Disease
Speaking of mercury, not many people have made the connection between the Fukushima disaster, and the “Four Big Pollution Disease” disasters of Japan which caused far more sickness and suffering than the nuclear incident where most of the deaths have been caused by the evacuation, and there have been few or no actual sickness that have been accurately documented as being caused by the radiation. Minamata disease was caused by building a big industrial plant which dumped wastes full of organic mercury compounds into the bay. People who ate the seafood which was locally harvested suffered by debilitating or fatal nerve problems or gave birth to babies with problems.
|Classification and external resources|
|The crippled hand of a Minamata disease victim|
Four Big Pollution Diseases of Japan
|Name of disease||Cause||Source||Year|
|Minamata disease||Mercury poisoning||Chisso chemical factory||1932 – 1968|
|Niigata Minamata disease||Mercury poisoning||Shōwa Electrical Works||1965|
|Yokkaichi Asthma||Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide||Air pollution in Yokkaichi||1961|
|Itai-itai disease||Cadmium poisoning||Mining in Toyama Prefecture||1912|
Mercury Poisoning- The Minamata Story
Link to more stories for May 29, 2012