Saturday, July 09, 2011
Forbes: Hawaii DOH lied about radiation harm
That kind of statement failed to reassure the public in part because of the issue of informed consent—Americans never consented to swallowing any radiation from Fukushima—and in part because the statement is obviously false.”–Jeff McMahon, Forbes
by Larry Geller
So is the Hawaii Department of Health monitoring conditions in Hawaii adequately? Are we being protected?
I followed the reports posted on the DOH web page (here’s the latest and here’s an index page). The reports are not on DOH stationary and are unsigned. Nor do they give details about how the measurements are being taken or what equipment is being used. And the concept of testing catchment or surface water sounds suspicious because a lot of radioactive substance can fall from the sky in a day, say, but become extremely dilute in a large catchment system. Still, it is important to measure our drinking water.
Are these measurements the right ones, and are they being properly carried out?
The DOH documents do not include tables of data nor do they explain the methodology. Holding a Geiger counter up in the air on top of the DOH building in Honolulu would be inadequate, for example.
So I called, and was able to reach someone who explained the details. For example, no, they are not holding up a Geiger counter. The instruments include filters that collect particles from the air over time. The filters are carefully removed and sent off to a laboratory. So any particles would be concentrated in the filters (assuming, I suppose, that the pore size was adequate, but anyway…). Rain water, for example, is collected in an activated carbon filter, so again, particles would be concentrated over time. The filter is then packed up in a special container and shipped to the lab. From the type of radioactive particles discovered in the filters, the radiation can be correctly attributed to Fukushima.
This sounded good to me. My comment was that all this information, along with tables of dates and readings, should be posted on the web. It needs to be official data, preferably with a name and title attached. These unattributed, simplified pdf files just don’t instill confidence.
And we want to form our own conclusion about whether the water or milk is safe to drink.
As the Forbes article emphasizes, we can’t just take our government’s word about this because we suspect they are lying to us. More:
Covering the story, I watched the government pursue what appeared to be two strategies to minimize public alarm:
- It framed the data with reassurances like this oft-repeated sentence from the EPA: “The level detected is far below a level of public health concern.” The question, of course, is whose concern.
- The EPA seemed to be timing its data releases to avoid media coverage. It released its most alarming data set late on a Friday—data that showed radioactive fallout in the drinking water of more than a dozen U.S. cities.
Friday and Saturday data releases were most frequent when radiation levels were highest. And despite the ravages newspapers have suffered from internet competition, newspaper editors still have not learned to assign reporters to watch the government on weekends.
[Forbes: Harm from Fukushima Radiation: A Matter Of Perspective, 7/9/2011]
It shouldn’t be the job of the federal or state governments to minimize public alarm. What we want is to have them use our taxpayer money to make the appropriate measurements and let us know the results. It’s not enough to say “trust me, the milk is safe” because we don’t trust them.
Hawaii’s Department of Health may well be taking the correct measurements, but they are not communicating completely with us, nor can we accept that the milk is safe to drink under the circumstances. That doesn’t mean it isn’t safe to drink, although Forbes does makes that argument (please read the complete article).
Will the DOH agree to more openness and completeness? Don’t hold your breath. While I’m not a fan of privatization, I would prefer that some independent testing laboratory be charged (and paid) to give us an unbiased and disinterested report.
But like I said, don’t hold your breath.
In the meantime, while Hawaii is supposed to be showing off its high tech talents for APEC 2011, Forbes has argued to the world that Lynn Nakasone, in her official capacity as administrator of the Health Department’s Environmental Health Services, and the state government, are not up to the task of alerting the citizens of Hawaii to potential radiation harm from the Fukushima meltdowns.
There is a question whether the milk was safe.
Radiation Detected in Milk, Air and Water - Is America Safe? (4/12/2011)
Hawaii’s milk is problematic even without added radiation:
Will radiation in Hawaii’s milk kill some of the bacteria in transit? (4/2/2011)
Another unsettling claim by Nakasone is comparison made between x-rays and inhaled or ingested radioactive particles. A one-time fraction of a second exposure from a dental x-ray is not comparable to a particle that enters your body and remains there emitting radiation 24/7 until it decays completely, which (depending on the isotope) could be months or a lifetime.
Also worth noting, CNN commentator and nuclear engineer Arnie Gunderson has several excellent videos on his company website (Fairewinds.com) detailing the lack of adequate and timely reporting by the EPA, FDA and state health departments of public radiation exposure in various parts of the country.
Finally, contrary to DOH claims ther is no verifiable "safe level" of radiation exposure, that is, an exposure level at which there is no cancer risk
Good coverage. The whole Fukushima is a highly under-reported falsely reported event. I have studied the situation, perhaps 150 hours. It is the worst disaster in our lives, and will haunt us/disease us/kill us in little ways for generations.
The obvious effort is to not panic the sheeple.
No radiation is safe. But especially radiation that becomes an internal emitter in the body, it's awful. An MMA fighter throwing rocks at you from 50 feet might occasionally do some damage and once in a great while serious damage, but put that MMA fighter 3 feet away from you and the body blows will be frequent and damaging.
got the analogy?
The problem with Geiger counter readings is that they measure only incident radiation. Also, we have no baseline, unless data has been measured in the past under the same conditions. My criticism would be the same as I wrote about the DOH: we need to see (for example) a table, showing dates and readings, and going back years before Fukushima. Also, the Geiger counter readings cannot be traced to or attributed to Fukushima. Maybe they are higher on St. Swithens Day every year, for example.
I've owned all kinds of gadgets in my life, but never a Geiger counter. I would love to know, for example, what the reading would be onboard an airplane flight to California or New York. I would love to know if sunspot activity affects readings at ground level. I wonder about the watch I used to own which glowed in the dark because it had radioactive paint. But it wouldn't help with the fallout from Fukushima.
See what I mean. The private Geiger counters may not be appropriate for the task. And unless many private citizens pooled their funds, I don't think the lab route is affordable.
The DOH used filters to collect particles and sent them to a lab. That is very different from taking Geiger counter readings.
But then the DOH censored the information. 100% censored. Accordingly, our trust level is zero.
It says a lot about Hawaii when there is someone as uninformed, unprofessional and negligent as Lynn Nakasone; this has been the problem - people like her in all areas of Hawaii government.
There should be a public outcry on this lack of pertinent information and deceptive practices perpetrated with our tax dollars.
We can't necessarily attribute the problem to one person as an individual. As the Forbes article points out,
"Nakasone had little alternative but to say that. She wasn’t about to dump thousands of gallons of milk that represented the livelihood of local dairymen, and she wasn’t authorized to dump the milk as long as the radiation detected remained below FDA’s Derived Intervention Level, a metric I’ll discuss more below."
We don't know who was giving orders on this. Also, remember that this is our Department of Health, which has a history of failures when it comes to caring for the people of Hawaii.
I agree there should be a public outcry. Maybe about the DOH more generally, but certainly about this issue.
This whole business of the acceptable level of radiation- or any number of things- is what gets me. I remember when I was a kid and heard that tests show that some kind of hot dog contained "higher than the acceptable level" of rat feces. What got me was not that the hot dog exceeded the acceptable level of rat feces but that the IS an acceptable level of rat feces in hot dogs.
Andy Parx (having problems with signing in with google account)
Andy, you don't want to know about insect parts allowed in our food. Believe me.
Also, and this is an old memory, when we lived in New York I recall that grain was exported from that port. Now, since grain was allowed to contain up to 6% of "other substances", I recall that people were employed, at the barges, to shovel dirt onto the top of the wheat, since it didn't have that much crap already in it. The debris was cheaper than the wheat, of course. I'll never be able to verify that at this late date. At the time, it was shocking.
Don't look at your peanut butter too carefully.
Back to radiation, and going 'way, 'way back in time, my pediatrician got one of those new-fangled fluoroscopes. We had a lot of fun looking at the bones in my nand, for example -- I'd stand on the outside and reach behind the glass. I tried to make shadow dogs the way you would against a projection screen, and they were weird since they were only bones. Looked like a dog skull. Little boys have fun that way.
The level of radiation was supposed to be acceptable.
My pediatrician died young, of the cancer caused by looking at his patients through that fluoroscope so much. It couldn't have been too good for the patients, either, but he really zapped himself.
My point is that the level of radiation was said to be not dangerous. Many people lied, many people died. Corporations and governments still lie at our expense.
Enough of personal experience. I don't want anything from Fukushima in my body, and I wish our DOH could be counted on to protect us.
'Acceptable levels' reminded me of being shocked back in the 70's when I read something about the beef industry being allowed to use up to 20% cement powder in cattle feed to make more weight, among other claims.