Japan Famous for Kobe Beef Now Fukushima Tuna

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[Fukushima NukeBlog Index| more stories for May 29, 2012]

Japan Famous for Kobe Beef Now Fukushima Tuna

A Pacific bluefin 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.

Minamata disease

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Minamata disease
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 T56.1
ICD-9 985.0
MedlinePlus 001651
Minamata disease (Japanese水俣病 HepburnMinamata-byō?), sometimes referred to as Chisso-Minamata disease (チッソ水俣病 Chisso-Minamata-byō?), is a neurologicalsyndrome caused by severe mercury poisoning. Symptoms include ataxianumbnessin the hands and feet, general muscle weakness, narrowing of the field of vision and damage to hearing and speech. In extreme cases, insanityparalysiscoma, and deathfollow within weeks of the onset of symptoms. A congenital form of the disease can also affect foetuses in the womb.
The crippled hand of a Minamata disease victim
Minamata disease was first discovered in Minamata city in Kumamoto prefecture,Japan, in 1956. It was caused by the release of methylmercury in the industrialwastewater from the Chisso Corporation‘s chemical factory, which continued from 1932 to 1968. This highly toxic chemical bioaccumulated in shellfish and fish in Minamata Bay and the Shiranui Sea, which when eaten by the local populace resulted in mercury poisoning. While cat, dog, pig, and human deaths continued over more than 30 years, the government and company did little to prevent the pollution.
As of March 2001, 2,265 victims had been officially recognised (1,784 of whom had died)[1] and over 10,000 had received financial compensation from Chisso.[2] By 2004, Chisso Corporation had paid $86 million in compensation, and in the same year was ordered to clean up its contamination.[3] On March 29, 2010, a settlement was reached to compensate as-yet uncertified victims.[4]
A second outbreak of Minamata disease occurred in Niigata Prefecture in 1965. The original Minamata disease and Niigata Minamata disease are considered two of theFour Big Pollution Diseases of Japan.

Four Big Pollution Diseases of Japan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Four Big Pollution Diseases of Japan (四大公害病 yondai kōgai-byō?) were a group of manmade diseases all caused byenvironmental pollution due to improper handling of industrial wastes by Japanese corporations.[1] Although some cases of these diseases occurred as early as 1912, most occurred in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.
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
Due to lawsuitspublicity, and other actions against the corporations responsible for the pollution, as well as the creation of theEnvironmental Agency in 1971, increased public awareness, and changes in the practices of the responsible companies, the incidence of these diseases declined after the 1970s.

Mercury Poisoning- The Minamata Story

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About the Author

MIT electrical engineering computer science graduate has written conservative columns on politics, race / culture, science and education since the 70s in MIT The Tech and various publications in including New Republic and National Review.