deep dive

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Hot Tuna

Our friends invited us over for some fresh bluefin and yellowfin sushi the other night. The last time we got invited it was truly memorable, stuff is fresh off their friend's boat and my stomach was starting to rumble with the thoughts of the feast.

"Uh, sorry," I heard my wife say. "We can't go. All of the pacific bluefin has been conclusively proven to be radioactive and we can't risk it."

I looked up, disbelieving my ears. Hey, so what if the fish glow a little bit? We are past the age of wanting to replicate and who knows, we eat enough, we might save on night lights?

"Uh dearest, where exactly did you hear about the radioactive fish?" I asked rather gingerly.

"It was on Facebook."

Well, what can you do when faced with such irrefutable evidence. Is Facebook ever wrong?

Our hosts cancelled the dinner. We will see if we ever get another invite. I decided to do a little research.

It appears that a scientist from Stanford named Dan Madigan did a study on fish caught off our coast and that all of them showed some radioactivity. What is also true is that the radiation levels were negligible and the study sample was all of 15 fish.

I found the following quote in an illuminating article from Science Daily: Nicholas Fisher, a Professor at Stonybrook, says not so fast with the radioactive fish stories, the likely doses of radioactivity ingested by humans consuming the contaminated fish, even in large quantities, is comparable to, or less than, the radiological dosages associated with other commonly consumed foods, many medical treatments, air travel and other background sources.
"For American and Japanese seafood consumers, the doses attributable to Fukushima-derived radiation were typically 600 and 40 times lower, respectively, than the dose from polonium," said Professor Fisher. "In estimating human doses of the Fukushima-derived radioactive cesium in Bluefin tuna, we found that heavy seafood consumers -- those who ingest 124 kg/year, or 273 lbs., which is five times the US national average -- even if they ate nothing but the Cs-contaminated bluefin tuna off California, would receive radiation doses approximately equivalent to that from one dental x-ray and about half that received by the average person over the course of a normal day from a variety of natural and human sources. The resulting increased incidence of cancers would be expected to be essentially undetectable."
It turns out that Madigan stressed in his study that the Fukushima radiation found in bluefin tuna is significantly lower than naturally occurring radioactive isotopes normally found in the fish and that the detected cesium levels are only an insignificant 3% higher than normal background levels.

I found a chicken little piece over at liberals unite that is trumpeting the dangers of the higher radiation levels. Some of the comments there are quite interesting as is this article by a pro nuclear industry writer James Conca at Forbes. or try this one at NPR.

I believe that one should ascertain the facts objectively and then decide for yourself. It seems that the radioactive dangers of bluefin have been way overblown and I have missed out on a very good dinner.


Anonymous said...

I'm not in a hurry to get too sanguine about radiation but there is an important perspective: There is radiation everywhere including low levels of gamma and other baddies at low levels. There are also cosmic rays passing through us all of the time. The sun is one gigantic continuous thermonuclear explosion that through radiation gives life. Words like radiation or chemicals have become stereotyped scare words that some people really freak out about. We need perspective and context in understanding these things.

Anonymous said...
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