High Radiation in Japanese Fish Raises Concerns


Even with the elevated radiation levels, Nicholas Fisher, professor of marine sciences at State University of New York at Stony Brook, said Americans are simply worrying too much because the radiation numbers are still below levels that could pose immediate danger.

Growing Panicky too Soon?

"There have been 20,000 people killed by a tsunami and you hardly hear about that anymore, but you hear about this radiation hyper-anxiety," said Fisher. "I understand because they're anxious about something they don't understand. If they understood it, they'd be less concerned."

If people understood radiation, Fisher said that they would know that the levels are not a cause for worry – not yet at least.

"Those levels are not to the point where you'd get sick and die from eating the fish, but you probably shouldn't consume a lot of them," said Fisher. "The cesium levels are still such that you could consume about 35 pounds of that fish per year before you'd have any possible problems."

"I'd still want to see more complete quantitative data on the levels because right now, it's few and far between," said Fisher.

About 99 percent of radioactivity in the ocean is natural, and the remaining 1 percent has been attributed to humans.

Fisher said that iodine radiation has an eight-day half-life, and therefore, dissipates quickly in the fish. Seaweed is more likely to have higher levels of concentrated radiation than the surrounding water.

"We're living with a legacy of the great Z science fiction movies, where the innocent frog wanders through the radioactive cloud and becomes a horrible monster," said Fisher. "People are naturally skeptical."

But still, Fisher said he'd refrain from seafood from that area, just to be extra cautious.

"Under the worst circumstances, radioactivity can be genuinely dangerous, but I believe the reality is that, in marine systems, it's less of a concern."

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