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View Diary: Radioactivity, part 3: rads, rems, etc. (110 comments)

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  •  good diary, questionable comments (12+ / 0-)

    Good series of diaries, Samer. The Japanese trifecta has brought out the worst from so-called TV expert commentators: Larry Kudlow, “Republican thinker” (oxymoron) said that we should be grateful that the main impact was only that of people killed rather than economic hardships for Americans. Other ‘experts’ have said, be grateful because this pushed down the yen and boosted sales of US Treasury bonds.

    Unfortunately, Americans as a whole are scientifically illiterate and this illiteracy is constantly exploited, not only by Fox News and its ilk but also by people like RFK, Jr. Helen Caldicott is not as bad as RFK, Jr (I knew her former radiologist husband Bill, when they lived in Boston & I met her) but she is prone to the same leaps of faith- anyone who dies young must have been killed by radioactivity or environmental toxins. If you don’t know anything about electrons and chemical bonds you are not well educated and can’t understand how radioactivity and high oxygen exposures can hurt people, but you can know that radioactivity is harmful and that 100% oxygen can be harmful.

    EM Kennedy Jr was born in 1961, the greatest amount of radioactive fallout from testing occurred in the 1960s. Most US radiation from Sr 90 then was from milk and was at most 1% of background natural radioactivity. Today it is less than 1%, much much less if you get lots of X rays and CT scans. Natural radioactivity varies greatly – the largest component is from radon in the soil. Natural radioactivity is much greater in New Mexico and Colorado than in most states. Granite counter tops (I have one) bring a small increase in radioactivity, although it is not ingestible radioactivity. People who are so worried about plumes from Japan might test their homes for radon, a quantitatively much larger hazard. Several EPA websites have information about natural radioactivity and its geographical distribution. If you want to blame deaths and cancers on environmental factors, air pollution from gasoline and especially diesel exhaust have had far more effect than nuclear tests + nuclear power plants. I agree with Caldicott that nuclear tests are bad.

    Two things to think about:
    1. Libertarian “financial experts” like Keith Fitz-Gerald were saying even before all this that Japan was likely to default in the next year or two because of its high debt/GDP ratio. However, most Japanese debt is owned by Japanese citizens
    2. The 50 men who have stayed behind to work inside the reactor voluntarily accepted large radiation exposures for the good of their countrymen. We should all salute them. American workers might not be so conscientious. We’ll have to wait and see how Japan emerges from these multiple tragedies. I believe that they have a much greater ability and willingness to pull together than do Americans as a whole.

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