Fallout Tokyo

As of now, I’m sitting in the Duty Room in my battalion, sucking up number 2 out of 3 extras. Will not mention how I got those but it was incredibly stupid and a very painful lesson learnt. Ohwells. At least Tams is in SG and we can call each other more freely. But we must look to the future and the future holds a overseas trip with BAHNEP and gf to TOKYO!!!

But as we all know, Tokyo and supposedly the whole of Japan is engulfed in a toxic radioactive cloud and the poor Japanese people are mutating into a new race of man.. or are they? With the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, tainted beef scare, everyone is scared shitless about going to Japan, which so happens to be my choice destination because it’s so FRIGGIN cheap to go there! I’m ridin’ the waves of paranoia now and I’m LOVIN it! So therefore, this post shall be dedicate to debunking the myths about the land of the rising sun.

Firstly we must understand HOW we quantify radioactivity. There’re many ways and units to quantify radioactivity but I shall just state the 2 more common and important ones.

1. The Becquerel

One Bq is defined as the activity of a quantity of radioactive material in which one nucleus decays per second (Wiki). For un-sciency people, the Bq is a measure of HOW radioactive a SUBSTANCE is. So if substance A is 5000 Bq, it is more radioactive than, say substance B which is 1000 Bq.

2. The Sievert

The sievert (symbol: Sv) is the International System of Units (SI) SI derived unit of dose equivalent radiation. It attempts to quantitatively evaluate the biological effects of ionizing radiation (Wiki). Once again, for un-sciency people, the Sv measures the HARM radioactivity has on us.

Now, on to the serious stuff.

If we want to know what’s bad for us, we must first know what’s normal. The world average radiation count is 3.0 mSv (wiki) and pre-fukushima radiation count for Japan is 3.81 mSv. Yeah, that’s higher than average but look at USA it’s a #!?*$&@ high at 6.20 mSv! Sources of radiation come from natural and man-made sources. Natural sources come from cosmic rays, food such as bananas, Radon gas in the atmosphere. Man-made sources come from nuclear reactors, nuclear-related stuff, glow-in-the-dark goods and the like.

Now for some sources

  • A typical chest X-ray involves exposure of about 0.02 mSv, while a dental one can be 0.01 mSv
  • Airline crew members flying the New York-to-Tokyo polar route are exposed to 9 mSv a year.
  • Exposure to 100 mSv a year is the lowest level at which any increase in cancer is clearly evident. A cumulative 1,000 mSv would probably cause a fatal cancer many years later in five out of every 100 persons exposed to it.
  • A single 1,000 mSv dose causes radiation sickness such as nausea but not death. A single dose of 5,000 mSv would kill about half of those exposed to it within a month. (the World Nuclear Association and the Atomic Energy Council, Taiwan)

” Radioactive cesium emits gamma rays, which can damage cellular DNA and raise the risk of cancer. The levels found in the beef, though, would become a health concern only if a person ate large quantities every day for a year, said Shizuko Kakinuma, a researcher at Japan’s National Institute of Radiological Sciences who sits on an independent committee investigating the Fukushima Daiichi accident. “With a Japanese diet, that’s unlikely,” she said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. One or two meals wouldn’t have much effect. ” (Foxnews)

” On Monday, Fukushima officials told a news conference that they detected up to 157,000 becquerels of radioactive caesium per kilogram in straw used at the farms — about 520 times the government-designated limit.” (Yahoo news)

Effects of exposure in a day (Wiki)

  • 0 – 0.25 Sv (0 – 250 mSv): None
  • 0.25 – 1 Sv (250 – 1000 mSv): Some people feel nausea and loss of appetite; bone marrow, lymph nodes, spleen damaged.
  • 1 – 3 Sv (1000 – 3000 mSv): Mild to severe nausea, loss of appetite, infection; more severe bone marrow, lymph node, spleen damage; recovery probable, not assured.
  • 3 – 6 Sv (3000 – 6000 mSv): Severe nausea, loss of appetite; hemorrhaging, infection, diarrhea, peeling of skin, sterility; death if untreated.
  • 6 – 10 Sv (6000 – 10000 mSv): Above symptoms plus central nervous system impairment; death expected.
  • Above 10 Sv (10000 mSv): Incapacitation and death.
My conclusion
On top of a substance’s radioactivity and the effect it has on humans, we must also consider the dosage. Meaning how much radiation absorbed per unit time. We all know a large amount of radiation in a short amount of time is a sure fire way to get killed. Hiroshima victims died within days and weeks after the bombs landed. But what about small doses (small amounts in short periods of time, like a 7D6N holiday)? Will it cause long term effects? Will it have any negative effect at all? I found this article that aptly says it all.
” Much has been learned by studying the health records of the survivors of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We know from these that some of the health effects of exposure to radiation do not appear unless a certain quite large dose is absorbed. However, many other effects, especially cancers are readily detectable and occur more often in those with moderate doses. At lower doses and dose rates, there is a degree of recovery in cells and in tissues. “
” However, at low doses of radiation, there is still considerable uncertainty about the overall effects. It is presumed that exposure to radiation, even at the levels of natural background, may involve some additional risk of cancer. However, this has yet to be established. To determine precisely the risk at low doses by epidemiology would mean observing millions of people at higher and lower dose levels. Such an analysis would be complicated by the absence of a control group which had not been exposed to any radiation. In addition, there are thousands of substances in our everyday life besides radiation that can also cause cancer, including tobacco smoke, ultraviolet light, asbestos, some chemical dyes, fungal toxins in food, viruses, and even heat.”
” There is also experimental evidence from animal studies that exposure to radiation can cause genetic effects. However, the studies of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki give no indication of this for humans. Again, if there were any hereditary effects of exposure to low-level radiation, they could be detected only by careful analysis of a large volume of statistical data.  “
(http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Factsheets/English/radlife.html) So at the end of the day, we still do not have a definite answer for whether the radiation scare in Japan is worth the fright. But since some of us engage in far more toxic activities such as smoking, inhaling 2nd hand smoke, excessive drinking, unprotected sex and other vices (maybe some the result of other’s vices). I personally believe that the radiation scare is not justified in Tokyo. I know that there’re many other factors to include such as the spread of radiation from Fukushima itself through winds/soils/water but I can assure that background radiation in Tokyo is not a concern for travellers.