Internal ingestion of radiation from nuclear power accidents is the most dangerous kind of exposure. As you may know the American Medical Association (AMA) recently passed a resolution calling on the US to test seafood for radiation due to Fukushima. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently using a huge radioactive loophole by allowing a 1,200 becquerels per kilogram level of Cesium 134 and 137 in the US food supply.
And this is a recommendation, not a binding limit, an important distinction because it means zero protection for US kids from internal contamination from man-made radiation in our food supply.
By contrast, Japan allows 100 Bq/Kg or lower in their food supply. It’s highly unlikely they can hold to that standard now due to Fukushima, but under current law Japan is in fact allowed to export to the US at levels 12 times as high or higher than what they allow their own citizens. Also, Korea and Canada and now starting to test their own seafood. The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) in Germany is recommending much lower levels for the EU.
Fukushima Fallout Awareness Network (FFAN) member groups including Beyond Nuclear, Citizens for Health and Ecological Options Network filed a Citizen Petition with the Food and Drug Administration on March 12, 2013. This is a legal document that requires a response from FDA. If you still need to comment on the FDA Citizen Petition to lower current outrageous recommended levels of radioactive Cesium in our food supply, please see the sample language below and use it as a guide to write your own comments. FDA has stated recently in the press that they don’t feel that there is a need to test Pacific fish for radiation. Please send your comments to FDA today and demand that they do their job!
And please remember to sign the companion petition to President Obama, Congress, and FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg here.
“I am writing to demand, in the continuing wake of the Japan nuclear catastrophe, that FDA lower the amount of radioactive cesium allowed in our food to 5 Bq/kg. I also request that FDA spearhead widespread testing of the US food supply immediately. It is our RIGHT TO KNOW how contaminated our food is and our choice whether or not we eat it. Everyone has the right to say “Bye-Bye, Becquerels!”
Japan’s nuclear industry and government have lost control (once again) of its ruined nuclear power complex at Fukushima, a site that continues to leak massive quantities of radioactivity into the Pacific Ocean. This is on top of the releases from atomic bomb tests and nuclear power.
The AMA has called for testing of Pacific seafood. Canada is going to start testing its salmon in light of an historic low in salmon numbers. Korea has been testing imports from Japan, returning food with small amounts of cesium contamination. Bluefin tuna tested from off of the California coast has been contaminated with Fukushima cesium. The US FDA has a limit twelve times that of Japan at 1200 Bq/kg of cesium. Even with the continuing release of radioactivity into the Pacific, and food testing in other countries, the FDA stated to the press that it still sees no danger from man-made radiation in food even though children are more vulnerable to radiation damage.
Food testing is urgently needed FDA, do your job!”
Scores of experts and analysts have feared for months that it would happen, and now it has: Radiation from the heavily damaged nuclear power plants at Japan’s Fukushima complex has made it into the seafood chain off the coast of America.
Small amounts of cesium-137 and cesium-134, both radioactive elements released after a major earthquake-caused tsunami damaged at least three reactors at the site along Japan’s northeastern coast in March 2011, have been found in at least 15 tuna that were recently caught off the coast of California, scientists have said.
The finding suggests that the fish may have carried the contamination across the Pacific Ocean faster than wind or water has been able to do, and months earlier than wind and water brought debris from the damaged nuclear plant across the ocean to the shores of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, said Reuters.
Researchers said that, so far, the levels of cesium found in the fish are not high enough to harm humans if consumed, according to data published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
‘Not a large amount at all’
Daniel Madigan of Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station did not make a determination about the safety of the fish, though he did say the amounts of radiation detected in the tuna are far less than Japan’s safety limit.
“I wouldn’t tell anyone what’s safe to eat or what’s not safe to eat,” Madigan told Reuters. “It’s become clear that some people feel that any amount of radioactivity, in their minds, is bad and they’d like to avoid it. But compared to what’s there naturally […] and what’s established as safety limits, it’s not a large amount at all.”
Madigan said researchers found higher levels of two radioactive isotopes of the cesium element, 137 – which was present in the eastern Pacific before the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi – and 134, which is caused only by manmade activities and wasn’t present before the tsunami smashed into the plant.
Since cesium 134 only exists through human activity, such as nuclear power plants and the manufacture of nuclear weapons, Madigan’s team figured the 134 they were measuring had to have come from Fukushima.
“There was about five times the background amount of cesium 137 in the bluefin tuna they tested, but that is still a tiny quantity, Madigan said: 5 becquerels instead of 1 becquerel (It takes 37 billion becquerels to equal 1 curie; for context, a pound of uranium-238 has 0.00015 curies of radioactivity, so one becquerel would be a truly miniscule proportion),” Reuters reported.
Not much contamination, but how much is too much?
Bluefin tuna only spawn in the western Pacific, off the coasts of the Philippines and Japan. The researchers believe that the elevated radioactive isotopes came from Fukushima because of the way the tuna migrate across the Pacific Ocean. As young fish, some of them tend to migrate off the coast of California, and then remain there as they grow.
Judging by the size of the tuna examined (about 15 pounds), researchers believe the fish left the waters off Japan about a month after the accident.
Most of the radiation from the damaged plant was released only for a few days in April 2011. Unlike some other compounds, radioactive cesium doesn’t sink quickly but instead remains spread out from the ocean’s surface to the seafloor. That means fish can swim through it and ingest it through their gills, researchers said, or by either taking in contaminated sea water or contaminated organisms.
Madigan said bluefin tuna off Japan’s coast soon after the accident probably had much higher levels of cesium 134 present in their bodies, perhaps as much as 40-50 percent more than normal.
Still, the fact that any radioactive contamination has showed up off the nation’s coastline at all should be cause of concern because, as Madigan himself noted, it’s hard to say what levels of contamination in our food are ultimately dangerous enough to cause harm.
Radioactive cesium levels above the government’s new limit have been found in beef from Miyagi Prefecture, the prefectural government said.
Meat from a cow shipped by a farmer in Tome was found to contain more than 150 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram, the Miyagi Prefectural Government said Wednesday.
The stricter limit of 150 becquerels for beef and rice took effect Oct. 1. The previous limit was 500 becquerels per kilogram.
Miyagi Prefecture told the farmer not to ship any more cows until the investigation is completed, and asked nearby ranchers to suspend shipments voluntarily.
Hardly reassuring. Any amount of radiation in food is dangerous.-Ed.
Those looking for evidence of the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan may need search no further than their next plate of sushi, Stanford University researchers report.
The researchers tested 15 Pacific bluefin tuna that had migrated from Japan to the California coast and found that the levels of radioactive cesium in these fish were 10 times higher than those found in bluefin tuna from the years before the disaster.
Before you swear off your maguro nigiri, it’s important to realize that the levels of radiation the researchers found from the cesium in the tuna were exceedingly low — about 30 times less than the amount of radiation given off by other common, naturally occurring elements in the tuna we eat.
The findings appeared Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“The finding should be reassuring to the public,” said Timothy J. Jorgensen, associate professor of radiation medicine at Georgetown University, who was not involved with the study. “As anticipated, the tuna contained only trace levels of radioactivity that originated from Japan. These levels amounted to only a small fraction of the naturally occurring radioactivity in the tuna, and were much too small to have any impact on public health.
“Thus, there is no human health threat posed by consuming migratory tuna caught off the west coast of the United States.”
Still, the fact that the researchers could trace this radioactive material back to its source in Japan could have implications for seafood monitoring methods in the future. Dr. Michael Harbut, director of the Environmental Cancer Program at Wayne State University’s Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, agreed that the findings are no cause for panic. But he said that the finding that tuna and migratory food animals could carry this radioactive material so far across the ocean deserves consideration.
“In general, when you hear the word ‘radiation’ at all, it’s cause for some alarm, and I agree always a cause for significant attention.”
Harbut, who described himself as a physician, scientist and “guy who likes sushi,” added that while the levels of radiation found should not be seen as a direct threat to human health, scientists should focus their efforts on how this extra little bit of contamination fits into the bigger picture of food safety.
“For somebody to say this is an immediate threat to large numbers of humans and their health is irresponsible,” Harbut said. “We don’t see people dying left and right all over the West Coast from radiation poisoning. But to say this is nothing to worry about is equally irresponsible, because you have radioactive material ingested by fish, which is in turn being eaten by people.”
For now, the findings may be most important as a demonstration of how migratory food animals connect different areas of the globe — and how an event in one part of the world can affect food animals in an entirely different region.
“[The findings] should be of value to both environmental studies of the marine ecosystem and to ensure that the public is not exposed to seafood contaminated with significant levels of marine radioactivity,” Jorgensen said.
Harbut said that the next step is for governments to learn more about this issue and act appropriately to ensure the seafood safety.
“I think that the appropriate government agencies have to appoint appropriately trained people to give the public an honest assessment,” Harbut said. “Not something tailor made for ignorance, like ‘This will definitely kill you,’ or ‘This poses absolutely no risk to human health.’
“We’ve gone too far in poisoning the world to settle for simple ‘yes’es and ‘no’s like that.”
We are routinely told that irradiation can’t possibly make food radioactive. It’s a lie.
The official stance of both the US and UK, that radiation is not induced by the process, is false. It is, in fact, an outright lie. It has been understood for decades that irradiation of food renders it radioactive. The question isn’t whether it happens. The question is how serious the health risk is.
The fact that food irradiation carries significant and well-documented danger to health should have resulted in it being stopped before it was ever implemented. That it hasn’t tells us all we need to know about the purpose of our regulatory agencies.
Ultimately, though, what’s more upsetting is learning that we’ve been outright lied to about the most fearful aspect of food irradiation. Radioactivity is induced by it.
Documentation for Irradiation-Induced Radioactivity
No less an authority than the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has clearly documented that irradiation of food induces radioactivity. Medical journals have documented it. The FDA regulates the acceptable amount of induced radiation in food packaging, all the while claiming that the food itself isn’t affected!
While documenting that irradiation induces radioactivity in food, the IAEA’s report(1) tries to diminish its significance by comparing it with background radiation. However, it isn’t a matter of one or the other, background radiation or irradiation-induced radiation. It’s the sum of both that matters—not to mention other sources that should be added in, such as medical test devices and airport scanners. They are all additive.
Another problem is that food is ingested. Foods that have become more radioactive through irradiation are taken into the body and become part of the cellular makeup. Therefore, the effects of irradiation-induced radiation in foods may be worse than other sources.
Should We Be Concerned About Irradiation-Induced Radioactivity in Food?
Exactly how bad is irradiation-induced food radioactivity? That’s a good question—one that is studiously ignored by the powers-that-be. After all, it’s rather difficult to do research on something when the official stance is that the problem doesn’t exist.
Of course, we do know that many studies documenting harm from irradiated foods have been done. Interestingly, much of that harm tends to coincide with the sort of damage done by radiation.
FDA Once Banned Irradiation
In 1968, the FDA ended the practice of irradiating bacon for military personnel after learning that lab animals fed irradiated food died early and suffered from a rare cancer, other tumors, reproductive problems and inadequate weight gain. All of these are associated with radiation exposure…yet the FDA now says that irradiation doesn’t harm foods or make them radioactive.
This is the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) answer to the question(2), Can irradiation make food radioactive?
No. Food does not come in contact with radioactive material during food irradiation, and cannot be contaminated this way. Radiation that is too energetic, however, can disrupt the energy balance in the nuclei of food atoms, making them unstable (radioactive). This is known as induced radioactivity.
Electron and x-ray beams can be energetic enough to induce radioactivity. To prevent induced radioactivity, FDA limits the energy of the radiation from these sources to less than 4 mega-electron volts. Radiation from cobalt-60 sources is not energetic enough to induce radioactivity.
Isn’t that cute? First, the EPA answers with an unequivocal no, stating that food “cannot be contaminated this way”. Then, they go on to describe two methods that can induce radioactivity, while claiming that the FDA’s limits prevent it from happening. But, that simply is not true. The IAEA’s report clarifies that fact.
There are three methods of irradiating food: gamma rays, x-rays, and electron beams. At first glance, it would seem that electron beams and x-rays would be preferable, since they are not radioactive. The issue, though, isn’t whether the tool used to irradiate foods is radioactive, but whether it results in radioactivity in the food. Remarkably, there is some information to indicate that x-rays produce more radiation in food than the other methods.
Comparisons between irradiation methods can be difficult. Further complicating things is that different elements in foods react differently. Iodine, for example, is a necessary nutrient that is easily made radioactive, and is the element on which most emphasis is placed. Because different foods respond in different ways, absolute conclusions about all foods and all methods of irradiation can’t be made. However, some generalities can be drawn.
A paper entitled Report on the Safety and Wholesomeness of Irradiated Foods (The Report) was produced in 1985 by the Advisory Committee on Irradiated and Novel Foods, a UK agency. It was reviewed by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), which concluded the following:
The Report clearly stated that gamma rays and high-speed electrons can induce radioactivity in food.
Read more here