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The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Radiation contamination of Japanese food.

A few days ago, I was going to write a brief, pithy remark about contamination in Japanese food, but held off, because I thought it might seem premature and alarmist, to have done so. However, now, it seems, I would have been spot on.

Reports have come in, that Japanese food samples are showing alarmingly high levels of radioactive contamination. Milk, from cows living 20 miles away from the reactor – which, note, is OUTSIDE the area deemed “safe” by the authorities, has proven to be highly radioactive. Drinking it, will give the consumer the equivalent radiation exposure of one extra CT scan per year (if consumed throughout the year). That is a lot of extra radiation, given how much exposure a CT scan involves. So, too, and even more alarmingly, spinach grown up to 65 miles from Fukushiima, are rather radioactive too – giving the equivalent of one fifth of a CT scan per year additional radiation to a consumer.

Now, what is clear is that the contaminated area appears to be very large indeed – and that food grown within it, would cause long term cumulative harm to anyone who consistently ate food from such sources.

I worry about this. What will become of all the Japanese farm land involved? The time might come when only the Japanese will eat their food – and perhaps not even them. This has implications for food prices worldwide, if the Japanese start avoiding their own food produce and seek to import it, instead.

In understanding this situation, it should be noted that the half lives of some of the contaminants such as Caesium 137, are long enough (30 years), to make food grown there hazardous for centuries to come. If the Japanese are content to eat such food, one might expect a creeping up of national cancer rates and much long term misery.

There is a sharp lesson here, of course. It is an obvious one. No nation should build nuclear reactors in earthquake prone zones. To do so, is to invite centuries of contamination, of land far around, with consequent harm to generations of humans, plants and animals. The Japanese could have foreseen this. It was quite predictable. Yet, their own self-confidence got in the way of this understanding. Their misfortune should be instructive to all other nations, however. Don’t build nuclear reactors in seismic zones. Those that have been built in them, should be retired as soon as possible. Were this done, Fukushiima might be the last major nuclear “accident”, in the world.

Let us hope so. In the meantime: beware what you eat.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 8:37 PM 

10 Comments:

Blogger Christine said...

I agree, I don't understand why they thought nuclear power plants were good in their area. I think another problem in Japan is the waste of electricity. They could have looked for a safer energy source and used less.
I do think that more countries should try some things like hydropower, wind turbines, and the like where they can do that. Japan may not be able to use such things everywhere, but in some remote areas that may work.
Japan is also such an expensive place already, their food prices are ridiculous. I am glad I'm not living there now. I did consider it, but I didn't work there because I don't like Japanese food. Well, now I dislike it even more. ha ha

8:11 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hubris. The Japanese thought they were more powerful than Nature, that their technology would subdue Nature and tame Her. Now, perhaps, they might realize how foolish this outlook was.

I am sure Japan could use renewables in their mix. They have a coastline that is rather long. So wave power could be an option. I am sure they wind and hydroelectric options to some extent, too. This would all help. I think they took the hitech option of nuclear power out of a love for technology. I am sure they have other options, if they cared to look around.

Yes. I won't be eating Japanese anything for a while. Maybe never.

Are you still teaching?

8:40 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

I left Korea in December. I am looking for new work. I have been living with my family. My aunt had a stroke a few years ago and had eye surgery, so I have also been helping with her. I do want to be back on my own again soon. I turned 31 this month, so I do want to be out of the house again.
I do miss Asia a lot.

10:01 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

It is good, Christine, to care for others. It can provoke a better appreciation of life and a deeper one, too. Yet, I understand your need to be "out of the house".

What, by the way, do you miss about Asia? I have lived in both Asia and the US so your thoughts would be meaningful to me. Is it specifically Korea you miss (why?) or just Asia generally?

10:20 PM  
Blogger UmmAsad said...

When I heard about milk being highly contaminated after Chernobyl, it reminded me of your earlier topic about 'made in China' versus 'made in Japan'. (Considering that the same contamination would occur in Japan)

9:36 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

UmmAssad,
As you know, Japanese products are overwhelmingly of a better standard than the Chinese equivalent. It is just that in this case, the Japanese underestimated nature.

In the long term, Japanese products are a better bet than Chinese ones, I would think.

10:35 PM  
Blogger anonymous said...

Dear Valentine,

What do you make of this?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-12860842

Regards.

10:21 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

The first clue in how to assess Wade Allison’s views on radiation is his profession: physicist. He is NOT a medical doctor and appears to be unaware of the simple concept that radiation applied to populations – as it is in Japan – will cause cancers at random in that population. The problem is, you will NEVER be able to prove that an individual cancer was caused by the exposure, except, perhaps, in the case of thyroid cancers. Also his figures for deaths as a result of Chernobyl seem to be off by huge margins. I have seen figures saying there were thousands of additional thyroid cancer deaths – instead of the handful he alludes to.

Wade Allison is way off the mark about the amount of radiation released in Fukushima. The sea off the coast near the plants was recently registering 1,850 times the normal level of radiation. It takes a LOT of radiation release to make the sea that radioactive, considering how much dilution is involved in the water. Also note that water associated with Reactor 2 at Fukushima is now registering 10,000,000 times the normal radiation level. If Wade Allison is so sure of the safety of radiation, why doesn’t he drink some of that then?

It is almost comical, in a dark sort of way, about how he minimizes the effects of radiation on cancer patients. He seems to be oblivious that the treatments themselves can induce further cancers down the line, as well as having other persistent health effects. For instance, depending on the location of the cancer and radiation, a patient might become permanently infertile. Does having children mean nothing to Wade Allison?

As a final note, it is characteristic of those using toxic treatments for cancer – such as radiation/chemotherapy etc not to consider the long term effects of those treatments. They only consider the immediate need to destroy the cancer. That they may also be creating permanent additional health problems in the patient, is never given a thought.

Wade Allison declares that he wouldn’t mind radioactive waste being buried under his garden. Well, let us go one step further and imagine he had his wish, in a way, and had a nuclear reactor in his back garden that had an “accident” and leaked radiation, two things would happen: firstly Wade would discover that irradiation is not so much fun after all and the world would lose one apologist for environmental pollution, which wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

For a physicist Wade Allison is remarkably short on biographical memory of other scientists. He should be reminded of the curious incidence of and death from cancers, in the Curie family, who worked with radioactive substances. Furthermore, on the contrary to his remark stating that “no-one is likely to die from Fukushima’s radiation”, I would say it is very likely that a number of the workers, on the reactors, will succumb to cancer, later in life, as a result of their exposure. Some of them are likely to be made infertile, too. But, heh, I am sure Wade will think nothing of that, too.

4:18 PM  
Blogger anonymous said...

Dear Valentine,

Thanks for your response.

Regards.

12:53 AM  
Blogger Syahidah and Valentine said...

You are welcome.

2:32 PM  

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