Fukushima: The Media Blows It

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BY MICHAEL FOX PHD – Recently, there was a cable news segment which featured another know-nothing MD to discuss Fukushima and health effects of low leverl radiation.  Such “experts” are commonly featured in media coverage of the Japanese reactor situation.  Even my educated non-scientific wife caught some of the misrepresentations by this “expert”.

The “expert” guests routinely ignore the vast amount of information dealing with the health effects of low level radiation and Iodine-131 in particular. A huge world of scientific context is ignored. Additionally many of the experts from antinuclear advocacy groups who are more eager to misepresent this situation and scare the public rather than discuss the advances in the recent years on reactor designs, waste management environmental effects, as well as the advances in our knowedge of the health effects of low dose radiation.  There are many interest groups and lobbying groups who have opposed nuclear technology for decades.

The expertise from the medical profession regarding the health effects of low level radiation is quite thin in general. Extreme care should be used by the media is selecting such “expert” guests.  As a graduate student I used to teach watered down chemistry to the medical students, as required at the time. There are MDs out there who cannot draw the molecular structure of water.  I know since I corrected their papers.
One of the scare stories coming out of Japan is related to the release of radioactive iodine-131. Iodine-131 is one of about 4000 known isotopes, about 3700 of which are radioactive. These are systematically presented in the Chart of Radionuclides. It’s a radioactive world out there.

For example, some of the scientific omissions by the guest experts regarding Iodine-131 include:

1. They don’t mention the massive use of I-131 in medical applications involving the thyroid, nor of the many epidemiology studies done on tens of thousands of such patients showing no harm to the patients.

2.  In fact according to Zbigniew Jaworowski (http://tinyurl.com/3bvmn8x) and (http://tinyurl.com/3dhmojw) and Lars Erik Holm, these thousands of thyroid patients medically exposed to I-131, showed exactly the opposite:  Real reductions in the rates of thyroid cancers.  There was a 38% reduction among the thousands of Swedish patients, and a 17% reduction in the English study. This shows that there were fewer thyroid cancers among the I-131 patients than among the unirradiated control groups. Given the current public alarm over trace amounts of I-131 from Japan, Educated guests should be providing this valuable context from their own profession.

3. They don’t mention the UN findings of the health effects around Chernobyl.  They don’t mention some of the results of the UN study of low dose effects of radiation (http://tinyurl.com/3oy4jvg) and (http://tinyurl.com/3bvmn8x).

4.  They don’t mention the incredible UN findings of thousands of occult (inactive) thyroid cancers that are being found in patients around Chernobyl, asymptomatic and having nothing to do with I-131.  Since these occult thyroid cancers are asymptomatic, they are rarely diagnosed but often found during autopsies.

5.  The rates of occult thyroid cancer in populations are surprising, and studiously ignored by the media and the always wrong advocacy groups.  In Belarus 9% of the population have these, in the US 13%, and in Finland 35%.  Variations in dietary iodine levels may be involved but this is still not known   Occult thyroid cancer most assuredly has nothing to do with I-131, as much as the greens would wish otherwise.  We do know that both dietary Iodine deficiencies and excesses cause a host of thyroid diseases.

6.  The “experts” don’t mention T.D. Luckey’s recent compilation of 2000 research papers indicating that there are no adverse health effects of radiation at these low doses.
But what the hell, the television MDs are photogenic if uninformed, dress nicely, and media leaders adore such shallow, uninformed people.

7.  I also suspect that such “experts” are trained inappropriately about the low-dose health effects of radiation since they apparently use the Linear No-Threshold Theory (LNT).  The LNT has been completely discredited since it predicts harm at all radiation doses above zero, which simply is not observed in the real world. The LNT grossly over states the risks of radiation at low doses.  The compliance to the discredited LNT has cost billions to the American public in nuclear reactors.

In defense of the medic al “experts”  they have serious liability issues and still have to go through the pretense that the LNT is valid, because of trial lawyers, you know.  Unfortunately, the fear of low dose radiation can adversely affect the outcomes of the doctors’ patients’ treatment if they limit the use of CT scan and x-rays, and thus limit the diagnostic information needed to better treat their patients.

The television expert made no mention of the other context in that the entire Earth is radioactive and is quite measurable.  Thus when the media hysterically announces that radioactivity is being found around the Fukashima reactors, the newsbyte is frightening, meaningless, and unhelpful.  Natural radioactivity has already been there for billions of years.  It is found in all soil samples, water samples, sea water samples, and in all food and animals.

In fact there are places on Earth where people have lived for ages in geological formations which are impressively high in radioactivity (http://tinyurl.com/42usbov).  They show no adverse health effects from living and raising families in these areas.

The largest adverse health effects at Fukashima earthquake and the tsunami are the thousands killed. Yet we get a non-stop perverse sense of hysteria from the media about low dose radiation.

The media have wasted many opportunities to be informative to their viewers about low level radiation.

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Michael R. Fox, Ph.D., a nuclear scientist and a science and energy resource for Hawaii Reporter and a science analyst for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, is retired and now lives in Eastern Washington. A former Hawaii resident, he has nearly 40 years experience in the energy field. He has also taught chemistry and energy at the University level. His interest in the communications of science has led to several communications awards, hundreds of speeches, and many appearances on television and talk shows. He can be reached via email at mike@foxreport.org

11 COMMENTS

  1. Seriously? You’re going to lambast the ‘lobby groups’ (you’re a lobbyist too) on the minor issue of talking about radioactive Iodine when there is obviously cesium the highly carcinogenic plutonium leaking from the reactors and being dumped in the ocean? The VP of the company that sells the nuclear fuel to Fukushima said ‘we are witnessing the greatest disaster of modern time’.

    Your article focussed on one MD and one narrow point but Fukushima is indeed a disaster of massive proportion with worldwide implications.

  2. Stop with the disinformation. There is clear evidence that radioactive iodine 131 increases cases of thyroid cancer. Research chernobyl and cases of thyroid cancer in the US east coast before and after.

    I’m tired of the media saying radiation is good for you now and lowers cancer risks. Sun light radiation is bad but ingesting and breathing in radioactive particles is good? The other commentor is also correct in saying cesium the highly carcinogenic plutonium leaking from the reactors and being dumped in the ocean.

    Also explain why Canada is turning off their radiation detectors and why the EPA is “raising” limits for radiation exposure (because higher than safe limited have been detected.

  3. response from the author:

    I was originally lambasting all of the MDs, “Victims of Chernobyl” (there were damn few of them according the UN reports), and other ill-informed advocacy groups for their false testimonies. I ultimately did not do this by name to better bring wider understanding to the Iodine-131 issues.

    To the extent that drug store shelves in Seattle are now empty of KI tablets, I do not regard this as a minor issue as you state. It is driven by massive fear of all things nuclear, something you might be familiar with.
    I am not, nor ever have been a lobbyist as you falsely assert. I am a nuclear scientist with 40 years’ experience in the industry. This included working in and managing a radiochemistry lab (with Cs-137 and Sr-90, and others, I might add). I also worked and then managed a plutonium lab as well. When it comes to debating the radiochemistry and the health effects of isotopes including plutonium, I am your worst nightmare, as a number of lying greens have learned previously.

    You mentioned the “highly carcinogenic plutonium.” This is a 40 year old false one-liner used repeatedly by the antinukes (presumably taken from John Gofman’s litany of discredited plutonium nonsense). There is no scientific basis for such a wild assertion and predictably you provided no source.

    I suggest reviewing the 37 year long epidemiology studies of plutonium workers which showed NO excessed cancer. In fact the cancer mortality data for these workers was significantly less than in the unirradiated control groups.

    Read the report “Toxicological Profile for Plutonium and Compounds” (December 1990), prepared by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry of the Centers for Disease Control in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, provides results of these studies.

    There are more epidemiology studies on plutonium which consistently show lower cancer mortality rates than in the general public. I guess you haven’t read them yet, either. I also assume that you have never had to worry about managing a plutonium lab. and to have the health and safety of your colleagues always in mind.
    With regard to the Japanese VP you cited, I believe he was referring to the destroyed reactors. “The great disaster of all time” still remains the earthquake followed by a huge tsunami, with 10s of thousands of victims still unaccounted for. In terms of body counts, that is the real disaster.

    I suggest reading the UN report on Chernobyl. By far the largest human effects from Chernobyl were not cancer, but millions frightened witless by the media, the greens, and other advocacy groups. According to the UN report these psychological effects included frustrations, social degradation, pauperization, and many psychosomatic disorders. Somewhere in this discussion we should also account for a nominal 100,000 abortions by European women who (wrongly) worried about birth defects in their babies. The greens have lots of blood on their hands.

    The UN has also called for the restrictions on the Chernobyl public to be removed. This includes permitting the wrongly relocated people to return to their old settlements. Belarus has already done this, by standing up to the Chernobyl hysteria that was cultivated for years by Greenpeace and other greens.

  4. Stop with the disinformation. There is clear evidence that radioactive iodine 131 increases cases of thyroid cancer. Research chernobyl and cases of thyroid cancer in the US east coast before and after.

    I’m tired of the media saying radiation is good for you now and lowers cancer risks. Sun light radiation is bad but ingesting and breathing in radioactive particles is good? The other commentor is also correct in saying cesium the highly carcinogenic plutonium leaking from the reactors and being dumped in the ocean.

    Also explain why Canada is turning off their radiation detectors and why the EPA is “raising” limits for radiation exposure (because higher than safe limited have been detected. Nashua 77

    Response There is no disinformation in my article. True there is lots of information one never sees in Greenpeace literature, Sierra Club, or the NRDC. You provide no sources of the claim that Iodine increasing thyroid cancer. At much higher doses it would seems likely, but at these microscopic doses they don’t according the epidemiology studies which have been done on thyroid patients who have received I-131. In fact they show lower cancer morbidity rates in these patients than in the unirradiated control groups.

    The Cs-137 (with which I used to frequently work in radiochemistry Labs., ) being measured is at extremely low doses is not a health problem. Remember that with such toxins the first Rule of Toxicology is that The Dose Makes the Poison. This applies to all toxins such as botulism. This substance is very lethal but a low doses it is non-lethal and used by millions in the form of Botox.

    Finally trust me you are the one who needs to read the recent UN Reports. Some were prepared by
    1. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
    2. The World Health Organization (WHO)
    3. The UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF)
    4. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA)
    These UN organizations state in strong terms that the billions spent to mitigate the problems around Chernobyl were a huge waste of resources. A major reason was that the radiation levels downwind of Chernobyl were quite low. These expenditures were misguided for the simple reason that the projected massive health effects were grossly overstated, and the Draconian mitigation measures were not necessary.

    Mike Fox

    • Excellent article. I simply do not understand the completely irrational fear that so many people have over radiation. As you correctly point out, we are surrounded by radiation every day. When the media was reporting about the alarming increase of radiation in Japan’s spinach crop, they conveniently failed to mention that a person would have to eat 2 pounds of contaminated spinach each day for a year to get the radiation dose of a single chest x-ray. You are absolutely correct that when it came to Fukushima (and any other nuclear “problem”, the media blows it. It’s fear-mongering at its worst.

  5. I think radiation is very dangerous….and I say this s a person living in the impact area of Cernobil. Don't take these things so lightly.

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