Though the horrendous tsunami that hit Japan on March 12, 2011 seems like old news in the midst of today’s headlines, the crippled nuclear power plants at Fukishima Daichi continue to spew radiation into water, air and soil, with no end in sight.
Even as thousands of Japanese workers struggle to contain the ongoing nuclear disaster, low levels of radiation from those power plants have been detected in foods in the United States. Milk, fruits and vegetables show trace amounts of radioactive isotopes from the Fukushima Daichi power plants, and the media appears to be paying scant attention, if any attention at all. It is as if the problem only involves Japan, not the vast Pacific Ocean, into which highly radioactive water has poured by the dozens of tons, and not into air currents and rainwater that carry radiation to U.S. soil and to the rest of the world. And while both Switzerland and Germany have come out against any further nuclear development, the U.S. the nuclear power industry continues as usual, with aging and crumbling power plants receiving extended operating licenses from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as though it can’t happen here. But it is happening here, on your dinner plate.
Taking a page from the BP pubic relations handbook, TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) and the Japanese government have downplayed the extent of the nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daichi, in which three of six nuclear reactors are in ongoing meltdown. According to Japanese nuclear engineer Naoto Sekimura, nuclear fuel rod meltdown at the damaged plants began only hours after the tsunami, and the situation has not been contained. There is still an ongoing threat of a total “China Syndrome” meltdown, and Japanese officials now say that the three damaged plants may possibly continue to emit uncontrolled radiation for another year.
According to Greenpeace, the ocean around large areas of Japan has been contaminated by toxic radioactive agents including cesium, iodine, plutonium and strontium. These radioactive agents are accumulating in sea life. Fish, shellfish and sea vegetables are absorbing this radiation, while airborne radioactive particles have contaminated land-based crops in Japan, including spinach and tea grown 200 miles south of the damaged nuclear plants. Meanwhile, on U.S. soil, radiation began to show up in samples of milk tested in California, just one month after the plants were damaged.
Radiation tests conducted since the nuclear disaster in Japan have detected radioactive iodine and cesium in milk and vegetables produced in California. According to tests conducted by scientists at the UC Berkeley Department of Nuclear Engineering, milk from grass fed cows in Sonoma County was contaminated with cesium 137 and cesium 134. Milk sold in Arizona, Arkansas, Hawaii, Vermont and Washington has also tested positive for radiation since the accident.
Additionally, drinking water tested in some U.S. municipalities also shows radioactive contamination. Is the fallout from Fukushima Daichi falling on us? Yes, it is.
Thanks to the jet stream air currents that flow across the Pacific Ocean, the U.S. is receiving a steady flow of radiation from Fukushima Daichi. And while many scientists say that the levels of contamination in food pose no significant threat to health, scientists are unable to establish any actual safe limit for radiation in food. Detection of radioactive iodine 131, which degrades rapidly, in California milk samples shows that the fallout from Japan is reaching the U.S. quickly.
Though California is somewhat on the ball regarding testing for radiation in foods, other states appear to be asleep at the switch with this issue. Yet broad-leaf vegetables including spinach and kale are accumulating radiation from rain and dust. Some spinach, arugula and wild-harvested mushrooms have tested positive for cesium 134 and 137 according to UCB, as have strawberries.
According to the U.S.-based group of medical doctors Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), no amount of man-made radiation in water and food is safe. “There is no safe level of radionuclide exposure, whether from food, water or other sources, period,” said Jeff Patterson, DO, immediate past president of PSR, in late March. “Exposure to radionuclides, such as iodine 131 and cesium 137, increases the incidence of cancer. For this reason, every effort must be taken to minimize the radionuclide content in food and water.”
Doctor Alan Lockwood MD echoes this. “Consuming food containing radionuclides is particularly dangerous. If an individual ingests or inhales a radioactive particle, it continues to irradiate the body as long as it remains radioactive and stays in the body.”
“Children are much more susceptible to the effects of radiation and stand a much greater chance of developing cancer than adults,” states Andrew Kanter, MD, president of PSR’s board. “So it is particularly dangerous when they consume radioactive food or water.”
Should you panic about this? No. That will do no good. But you can call, write and email your congressperson, your senator, and any other elected officials in your district, ask them to push for testing of foods and water in your area, and tell them to take the threat of global nuclear fallout seriously. For while none of the 104 nuclear power plants in the U.S. are melting down at present, we have had our own nuclear accidents. Remember Three Mile Island? Radiation has made its way to the American dinner table. This is a time to speak out, and to put pressure on policy makers. Clearly, it’s far better to be politically active now than radioactive tomorrow.
Special thanks to Steve Hoffman of Compass Marketing in Boulder Colorado, who extensively researched this issue and provided the source materials for this story.
Chris Kilham is a medicine hunter who researches natural remedies all over the world, from the Amazon to Siberia. He teaches ethnobotany at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is Explorer In Residence. Chris advises herbal, cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies and is a regular guest on radio and TV programs worldwide. His field research is largely sponsored by Naturex of Avignon, France.