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Just How Bad is Fukushima Fish?

Christina Sarich
NationofChange / News Analysis
Published: Wednesday 4 September 2013
More than 43 species of fish in the immediate area around the disaster have already been tested and are too toxic to consume.
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While Greenpeace may toot their own horn as environmental watch-dogs on occasion, and no less frequently exaggerate the deranged practices of oil companies, corporate polluters, and nuclear energy sites, understandably, for effect, it seems Fukushima is really as bad as they say it is. According to a recent article by the environmental group, “Japan anxiously hid the leaks’ that are now dumping nuclear-contaminated water back into the Pacific Ocean, and they are calling for more transparency so that the site can be shored up and the ongoing radiation leaks controlled.

National Geographic is calling the ongoing disaster at Fukushima a level 3 disaster rating out of 7.  It was elevated significantly just over a week ago since it’s original rating of 1 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES). According to the INES, ‘events’ are rated according to several criteria, but namely how the incident affects people, the environment, radiological barriers, and control. The scale is designed, ‘so that the severity of the event is about ten times greater for each increase in level on the scale.”

An veteran nuclear engineer, David Lochbaum, who works for the Union of Concerned Scientists said simply, “In some respects, it’s not that big of an issue. . .but its still the same mess.”

What this means for Japan, is obviously devastating. Health concerns ranging from cancer to radiation sickness are now a risk for all people who live in our near Japan, but the full depth of radiation damage caused by both the accident and the leak at Fukushima are still being assessed and scientists are now compiling some startling statistics from Japanese fisheries about the levels of irradiation in a world food supply – and they are persistently high.

Radiation levels are in fact, 18 times higher than previously thought. These new levels of radiation have been found near a water storage tank at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power. The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), said radiation near the bottom of the tank measured 1,800 millisieverts an hour – high enough to kill an exposed person in four hours. Furthermore, 300 tonnes of radioactive water have been leaked into the ocean just since the original leak was discovered. These new levels of radioactive waste are what caused the Fukushima incident to be raised from a 1 to a 3 on the INES scale.

The Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, called the matter ‘an urgent issue’ and ‘an emergency’, especially considering that the leak is seeping past an underground barrier that the Tokyo Electric Power Company attempted to set up to act as a barrier. Unfortunately, the contaminated water has been leaking into the Pacific Ocean since March of 2011. For more than three years now, all marine life in the Pacific has been consistently exposed to irradiated water.

More than 43 species of fish in the immediate area around the disaster have already been tested and are too toxic to consume. While the ocean is a large and dynamic place, we here in the US need to be very wary of consuming ‘Fukushima Fish.’ Scientists are measuring 1000 times the levels of cesium in fish from the Pacific. While this level of contamination becomes diluted as the waters of the ocean ebb and flow, cesium is still flowing and contaminating sea life. These are also just the levels being measured in fish now – the plant is still leaking hundreds of tons of radioactive waste-water into the ocean daily.  Nicolas Fisher, a marine biologist from Stony Brook University in NY says that seafood could contain unhealthy levels of irradiation. He says more peer-reviewed scientific studies need to be conducted before seafood from the area is deemed ‘safe.’

It’s up to you if you want to take a chance on Fukushima fish, but you could suffer neurological damage, seizures, headaches, dizziness, tremors, loss of muscle control and other physical damage from high levels of radiation exposure which causes radiation sickness.

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