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"Breaking news, my radiation levels have quadrupled" -- well we have some good news for you, Dr. Gupta. Contrary to your claims, peer-reviewed research indicates you're safe.  (Source: CNN.com)

A study conducted in Ramsar, Iran, a place where natural background radiation levels were even higher, showed people had no scientifically notable adverse affects.  (Source: High Background Radiation Areas of Ramsar, Iran)

This appears a cut-and-dry case of sensationalism on the part of several major media corporations. The unfortunate victim is nuclear power, as the public is growing misinformed by these high-profile, but factually inaccurate pieces.  (Source: Google Images)
Peer reviewed research indicates there's no significant health risk of current radiation levels

Yesterday we posted an editorial on an MSNBC article describing the quake "risk" facing U.S. nuclear plants.  In our piece we discuss factual accuracy issues in that article and its overall sensational tone in failing to immediately address the supporting study's key conclusion -- that we're at extremely little risk.

I.  CNN Claims Tokyo Residents May be in Danger

This morning CNN.com aired a similar story entitled "Gupta: 'My radiation levels quadrupled'".  The video featured none other that CNN.com's respected chief medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta Ph.D.  

In it he discusses how he's been tracking his radiation level during his time in Tokyo, Japan with a pocket dosimeter, following the minor leakage of radiation from a damaged Tokyo power plant in the Fukushima district.

In the video he begins by conservatively stating, "Interestingly, my levels quadrupled over the last 36 hours that I've been wearing this. Which in and of itself may sound concerning, but to put it in a little bit of context, it's actually not that much higher than the levels you would get with background radiation.  It is higher for sure, and that makes sense given that if you're measuring the air outside here in Tokyo official reports say its twenty times higher in terms of radiation levels that in normally is."

CNN.com's John King continues to try to prod Dr. Gupta to try to speculate that residents are at risk.  He states, "Your caution and perspective is very valuable.  Let me ask this way -- if you've quadrupled in the last 36 hours, if it takes a couple of weeks, a couple of months to get this containment effort under control at this complex and there's a release of consistent levels of what we've seen over the past couple days, what happens then.  You mentioned you are exposed to radiation you would get in a year in a matter... what happens if, people are exposed for... 7 more months.  Does it then become a risk?"

Now this was a curious assertion.  No one knows how long it will take to control the release, but seven months certainly seems like it would require a negligently slow effort.  And is it correct to be speculating on perspective scenarios when you could be covering the actual story that's occurring?

Dr. Gupta's responds there could be some risk under the scenario while going on to qualify the differences between long-term exposure and short-term exposure.  He also mentions possible routes of contamination such via food and drinking water.  And before he can put any more context or disclaimers on those numbers, Mr. King cuts him off.

II. The Real Risk?  Likely None, Says Peer-Reviewed Research

So what is the real risk?  Nowhere in the interview did they actually give a precise figure.  And that's because the medical community isn't sure if there is one, if they're following peer-reviewed research. 

Consider if John King's wild scenario did play out, the Tokyo population could be exposed to approximately 8.6 mSv per year.  To put this in context, people in Yangjiang, China receive 3.51 mSv per year naturally; in Guarpan, Brazil, 5.5 mSv naturally; in Kerala, India 3.8 mSv naturally; and in Ramsar, Iran 10.2 mSv naturally [source].  

A study [abstract] [full text] in the peer-reviewed journal Health Physics examined the population of Ramsar, Iran.  

It concluded, "Specifically, inhabitants of high background radiation areas had about 56% the average number of induced chromosomal abnormalities of normal background radiation area inhabitants following this exposure. This suggests that adaptive response might be induced by chronic exposure to natural background radiation as opposed to acute exposure to higher (tens of mGy) levels of radiation in the laboratory. There were no differences in laboratory tests of the immune systems, and no noted differences in hematological alterations between these two groups of people."

In other words, people exposed, in the real world to radiation levels higher than John King's worse case scenario were no unhealthier than people in the U.S. or elsewhere.

To be fair, John King essentially goaded Dr. Gupta into stating a risk, postulating increasingly extreme scenarios.  And Dr. Gupta likely tried to postulate a response based on certain animal tests that suggested that low-level radiation exposure could have some adverse effect.  But there's been no comprehensive study in the real world that's showed similar effects in humans.

By contrast to CNN.com's sensationalism, ABC's Hawaii affiliate had a refreshing, scientifically sound piece entitled "Everyone Receives Background Radiation."  In that piece they write:

"Somewhere around 5,000 millirems per year for several years would be dangerous," said [Toufiq Siddiqi, with Global Environment & Energy in the 21sr Century].

Leaked radiation at the Japanese nuclear power plants has been reported below that level, so far.

So not all news articles are sensationalizing the story, apparently -- just a number of them.

CNN.com should beware using factually inaccurate fear mongering to support page views.  Making scientific claims in the media that are contradicted by peer-reviewed research is questionable.  About the only good thing is that the site later changed the title of the link on its homepage to the slightly less sensational "Gupta: Explaining radiation levels" -- but his conclusions are still flawed, according to peer-reviewed research.

The media is certainly profiting off of drumming up public fervor with wild nuclear scare stories.  Unfortunately, many of these stories appear to be utterly factually inaccurate.



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RE: Follow the money
By zebalow on 3/17/2011 6:06:56 PM , Rating: -1
Follow the money is correct.
There is no nuke plant in the US that was build for charity - all of them were build to make money. Where is money there is greed, cutting corners and mistakes on top of that. It is not hard to envision a quake damaging not only the reactors, but also the backup generators and the power lines that supply the pumps.
Parts of the reports that were done until now could be "cooked" like Enron's books, or the rest of the corporate America.
This accident gives people in power something to think of, hence the new questions.
I don't care if you have kids, but I hope you will - it gives you a different perspective on life.
Cheers.


RE: Follow the money
By someguy123 on 3/17/2011 6:20:19 PM , Rating: 2
It's not hard to imagine a natural disaster damaging any form of power generator. Not hard to imagine the world being destroyed instantly by a rogue comet, either, because that's all it is: imagination.

On the other side, reality, a reactor was hit by a 9.0 earthquake and survived, and came close to surviving a tsunami at the same time. Said reactor isn't even cutting edge in security.

Why must everything against nuclear be based on imagination and horrendously unlikely outcomes? How about focusing on hard facts and actual outcomes for once?


RE: Follow the money
By zebalow on 3/17/2011 6:29:30 PM , Rating: 1
The epicentre was 80 miles out in the see, what if it was closer?
Quakes are measured by the amount of energy they release if the fault line is shorter, the quake will be more violent at the same scale.

On the other hand - lighten up, all news organisations are reporting shocking news to get you to watch commercials, so they can make money.
So go ahead bit up on them they do deserve it.
This blog is live - I like that!


RE: Follow the money
By JasonMick (blog) on 3/17/2011 6:38:58 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
The epicentre was 80 miles out in the see, what if it was closer?


Do you mean if the fault line magically moved miles closer to shore? That would be an alarming situation indeed. Let me know when that happens...

quote:
Quakes are measured by the amount of energy they release if the fault line is shorter, the quake will be more violent at the same scale.


And all faults are NOT equally active. Basic college geology will teach you that. What was your point again?

quote:
On the other hand - lighten up, all news organisations are reporting shocking news to get you to watch commercials, so they can make money.


So you're starting to develop understanding.

quote:
So go ahead bit up on them they do deserve it.


"bit up on them"?

What does that even mean? Send them requests for data?


RE: Follow the money
By JasonMick (blog) on 3/17/2011 6:34:14 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
There is no nuke plant in the US that was build for charity - all of them were build to make money.


What a great crime, they're trying to make money!

Not a fan of capitalism, eh?

Well perhaps you should consider that solar, wind, and fossil fuel power ALSO aren't "for charity" and are designed to "make money".

If you must persist in your paranoid logic, please be consistent and shut off all the lights in your house/apartment now.

quote:
Parts of the reports that were done until now could be "cooked" like Enron's books, or the rest of the corporate America.


Well let's just throw a paranoid conspiracy party and celebrate.

quote:
This accident gives people in power something to think of, hence the new questions.
I don't care if you have kids, but I hope you will - it gives you a different perspective on life.


I doubt if I do have kids it will make me resistant to logic and reason as you appear to be.


RE: Follow the money
By zebalow on 3/17/11, Rating: -1
RE: Follow the money
By Nutzo on 3/17/2011 7:21:40 PM , Rating: 3
No, the real crime is the when the government takes more money in taxes than the corporation keeps in profit, like with oil.

It's also criminal that the government taxes (federal/state/local/income/sales) can take over half a persons income, yet people demand even higher taxes on the "rich"


RE: Follow the money
By JasonMick (blog) on 3/17/2011 7:50:17 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The crime of making money is when corporation are trying year over year have gains of 10-20% without any new investment.


What large company has 10-20% gains with NO new investment? Please share your remarkable insight with us.

quote:
They're doing it on our backs, or by cutting workers or corners.


Well, if a company is abusive why do you buy their products/work for them???

quote:
Being obligated by law to make money - that's the worst law that we have.


We're obligated by law to make money?

quote:
And Jason I don't want sound like.. - nvr mind.
I am most likely twice your age.
So, to be better at what you do - grow up a bit, or stop blowing.


Perhaps you are my elder.

Not to sound ageist, but you may wish to get checked for dementia.


RE: Follow the money
By Dorkyman on 3/22/2011 11:43:58 AM , Rating: 2
Jason, hang in there. We are surrounded by nutjobs whose verborrea would be welcomed by Pravda 50 years ago.

Funny thing is, they probably don't even know what I'm talking about.


RE: Follow the money
By Wiggy Mcshades on 3/17/11, Rating: 0
RE: Follow the money
By Moishe on 3/18/2011 3:52:10 PM , Rating: 1
That's not a crime. It may be borderline unethical, or clearly unethical in some cases, but it''s not a crime. At least in (most) of these cases they are providing a service or producing something for what they charge.

The government on the other hand produces nothing and always drains a portion of what everyone else produces.

Is government necessary? Yes, but due to its very nature, it is inefficient and prone to corruption. The best government is the smallest one, the one most kept "in check."


"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook














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