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I've been reading up on the Fukushima nuclear meltdown and its effects it had on the environment. The iodine-131 initially released from the incident decayed after 8 days, but other isotopes such as cesium-137 and strontium-90 have a half-life of 28.7 and 30.2 years (about 300 years to completely decay).
Apparently, large quanties of cesium-137 were found in neighbouring countries as well as in seafood near Japan.
Now, for something like nuclear isotopes, not having the required knowledge can lead someone to fear something that might be harmless (or confirm some doubts about the issue), hence why I am here.
From my research on scientific websites and different governmental regulations, I found out that food and water in Japan have a legal limit as to how much cesium-137 a food item can contain. Especially since cesium-137 ressembles potassium and therefore being easily taken up by the body, this is worrying.
To my understanding, the way a radioactive isotope creates havoc in the body of an individual is that:
- It ressembles a normal element we usually consume, like iodine, potassium for cesium-137 and calcium for strontium-90.
- The body digests it and it is stored in the body.
- It emits radation for a certain period of time, anywhere from 8 days for Iodine-131 to years for cesium-137.
- The prolonged radioactivity from these isotopes causes cancerous cells to occur.
- A tumour or other form of cancer develops.
If this is what happens for isotopes like cesium-137, how can it be possible to eat food or drink water containing ANY cesium whatsoever? Sure, the radiation isn't so bad, but what is important to take into consideration is that this is internal and highly centralized radiation. This is a completely different thing to external radiation.
For my questions about the topic, I would like to know three things (which could really put many doubts to rest).
The first is, is my understanding described above correct?
The second is, how does this affect us healthwise? We are stuck with these debris of cesium-137 and strontium-90 for the next 30 or more years, but what effect do they have on us?
If someone ingests an atom (or a small amount) of cesium-137, what affect will this have on this person's body?
Finally, for someone living in North America, how much of these debris are there, either that got here from the wind, products, food, water, etc.?
EDIT: If someone knowledgeable on the subject could answer the questions directly (highlighted by means of italics), it would be very much appreciated.
Good question, but I'm not sure if anyone really knows the answers. The governments of Japan and the U.S. have both been very secretive at best, while an army of propagandists have made it very difficult to distinguish between truth and fiction.
Any health effects are likely to be too small and gradual to make headlines. For example, suppose there was a 1% increase in thyroid cancer in California due to Fukushima radiation. How could investigators prove there's a link with Fukushima radiation?
Adding to the confusion is the fact that the Pacific Ocean and neighboring land masses are being battered by more than nuclear radiation. Ongoing reports of mass dieoffs of various creatures are variously linked to radiation, global warming, pollution or unknown causes. One famous example is the "melting starfish" disease.
A lot has been written about increases in radiation in tuna. For example, see Is Tuna Safe to Eat Post Fukushima?. Some sources say we shouldn't eat any seafood from the Pacific Ocean, period. Others say "Don't worry." The propagandists particularly like to focus attention on radiation that originated from atomic bomb tests.
When investigating the amount of radiation in North America, keep in mind that the levels are presumably increasing, as contaminated water is still being dumped into the sea (hundreds of tons a day, according to some sources).
You can glean more specific information from the Internet, but it's just very hard to know how truthful or accurate it is. I wanted to write an article about this very topic but gave up in frustration. I decided it might be better to wait until there was more irrefutable evidence - like several new extinct species. ;)
You might get a better feel for the potential damage by doing some research on a similar event that has received even less publicity - the dumping of nuclear wastes off the coast of East Africa. For example, read the article You are being lied to about pirates.
Regarding the effects of cesium on human health, you can start with Public Health Statement for Cesium. But you should solicit similar information from several other sources before reaching any tentative conclusions.
Most of the question has been accurately answered by @davidblomstrom, however regarding the internal exposure to of cesium-137, through ingestion or inhalation, allows the radioactive material to be distributed in the soft tissues, especially muscle tissue, exposing these tissues to the beta particles and gamma radiation and increasing cancer risk.
Also due to the consistency of Cs-137, it comes as a crystalline powder (due to its property of binding with chlorides) which makes it "easier" to be distributed after a nuclear fallout.
If the lead containers of Cs-137 are opened, the substance inside looks like a white powder and may glow. Cs-137 from nuclear accidents or atomic bomb explosions cannot be seen and will be present in dust and debris from fallout. read more
- "Cesium-137." Vermont Department of Health. Vermont Department of Health. Web. 31 Jan. 2016. http://healthvermont.gov/emerg/drill/dirtybomb/facts-about-cesium137.aspx.
- Albertini, Dr. R. "Cesium." University of Vermont, 2002. Web. 31 Jan. 2016. http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp157-c3.pdf.
Caesium-137 ( 137
), or radiocaesium, is a radioactive isotope of caesium that is formed as one of the more common fission products by the nuclear fission of uranium-235 and other fissionable isotopes in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. Trace quantities also originate from natural fission of uranium-238. It is among the most problematic of the short-to-medium-lifetime fission products. When suddenly released at high temperature, as in the case of the Chernobyl nuclear accident and with atomic bombs explosions, because of the relatively low boiling point (671 °C, 1240 F) of the element, 137 Cs is easily volatilized in the atmosphere and transported in the air on very long distances. After the radioactive fallout, it is deposited onto the soil and easily moves and spreads in the environment because of the high water solubility of caesium's most common chemical compounds, which are salts. 137 Cs was discovered by Glenn T. Seaborg and Margaret Melhase.
It’s been almost eight years since a major earthquake and the resulting 15-metre tsunami caused a severe nuclear accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The fuel meltdown and subsequent explosion released massive amounts of radioactive material into the environment – including iodine-131, cesium-134 and cesium-137 (Cs-137) – heavily contaminating the Pacific Ocean.
Most of the damage was done in reactors 1, 2 and 3 where some 300 tons of fuel melted through the reactors’ steel vessels, penetrating so deep into the ground that operators weren’t sure about its whereabouts and how to extract the molten fuel. Not to mention that the decommissioning and clean-up efforts were soon marred by poor decision and mishandling by the authorities (storage tanks still leaking contaminated water into the ocean, black bags filled with radioactive debris sitting dangerously at the site, and an underground ice wall built at a staggering cost).
Now, a new study revealed that the Cs-137 which spewed out during these meltdowns will continue to contaminate the food supply for a long time. However, the researchers were quick to offer reassuring statements, claiming that radioactivity will persist in foodstuffs for many decades, but at the same time these levels are too low to present any serious risk to our health.
Dr. Keiko Tagami, the study’s co-author from the Japanese National Institute of Radiological Sciences said “This study gives us the evidence to explain to people how contamination levels will change over time. It gives us confidence that radiation doses in the average diet in the Fukushima region are very low and do not present a significant health risk now or in the future. But we have to continue monitoring foodstuffs, particularly “wild” foods such as mushrooms, new shoots of edible plants, and game animals where contamination levels remain high.” 
Is there really a safe dose? Many experts don’t agree. They believe that even small doses of radiations carry profound long-term health risks that we should be aware of.
Dr. Ian Fairlie, a London-based independent consultant on radioactivity in the environment, “Stochastic means an all-or-nothing response: you either get cancer or you don’t. As you decrease the dose, the effects become less likely and your chance of cancer declines all the way down to zero dose. The corollary is that tiny doses, even well below background, still carry a small chance of cancer: there is never a safe dose, except zero dose.” 
We have addressed this in detail in one of our previous blog posts titled, Risk of Low Dose Chronic Radiations. Recent epidemiological studies also show that low dose radiations have detrimental effects of your health, increasing the relative risk of ischemic or non-ischemic heart diseases, cerebrovascular disease, and cataracts.  
Another research published in the International Journal of Radiation Biology found that exposure to doses even as low as 0.5 Gy has the potential to increase the risk of cardiovascular damage, up to decades after exposure. 
The study highlighted how low dose radiation affects heart health through a number of molecular and cellular mechanisms – including reduced levels of Nitric oxide (an anti-inflammatory molecule that helps blood vessels to dilate) and increased generation of free radicals (leading to oxidation of important cellular structures such as DNA and lipids. This oxidative damage results in chronic inflammation), among others.
Another 2017 study examined whether low-dose irradiation affected the functions of mesenchymal stromal/stem cells (MSCs), derived from bone marrow (BM). The result suggested that “acute exposure to low-dose (0.1 Gy) radiation can transiently affect the functional characteristics of human BM-MSCs.” 
Effects of small amounts of Cs-137 in your food?
Cs-137 is one of the most prevalent, also one of the most dangerous, radionuclides released after a nuclear fall-out. With a half-life of 30 years, Cs-137 stays in the environment for roughly 300 years. It dissolves in water and quickly enters and accumulates in the food chain. That’s why consumption of locally produced foods carries high risk of internal exposure. Wild fungi, game meat and to some extent berries and dairy, have a high capacity to accumulate Cs-137.
In 2015, researchers evaluated radiocesium concentrations in wild mushrooms collected in Kawauchi Village after the Fukushima accident. The village is located less than 30 km from Fukushima plant. The team found that radiocesium is often detectable.  A similar research conducted in 2016 concluded that “the internal radiation doses of ingesting foods are acceptably low compared to the public dose limit, although the potential for radiation exposure still exists. Attention should be paid when consuming foods harvested from forests in order to avoid unnecessary chronic internal exposure.” 
Once released into the environment, Cs-137 decays into both beta particles and gamma radiation. Studies show that consuming food contaminated with Cs-137 causes the radionuclide to accumulate throughout the body in endocrine tissues, thyroid, heart, kidneys, stomach, small intestines, pancreas, liver, spleen, brain, lung and skeletal muscles. Children and pregnant women are more susceptible to the damage caused by Cs-137. What is alarming in that Cs-137, in the tissues, mimics potassium and most of it becomes concentrated in muscle, and that includes your heart.
New and unexpected discoveries
A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals how nuclear disasters can impact our environment in the most unexpected ways. Scientists found that highest levels of Cs-137 from the 2011 disaster have been accumulating in the sands and brackish groundwater (mixture of fresh water and salty water) underneath beaches over tens of kilometres away from the site not in the in the ocean, rivers, or potable groundwater as was expected.
It was generally believed that after the accident, high levels of radioactive cesium were carried along the coast. However, some of this became stuck to the sands, loading the beaches and permeating the brackish water underneath. Interestingly, it has been found that cesium no longer remains sticky in the presence of salty water. So, with new waves bringing salty seawater from the ocean, the brackish water turned salty and rendered cesium loose, which is now slowly making its way into the oceans of the world.
The scientists estimated that this discharge of cesium from the groundwater under the beaches into the ocean is occurring at the rate which is at par with direct leakage from the Fukushima power plant itself and runoff from the rivers. While this may not pose an immediate health concern, the study authors wrote that, “this new unanticipated pathway for the storage and release of radionuclides to ocean should be taken into account in the management of coastal areas where nuclear power plants are situated.” 
In 2016, another finding came into the limelight. Until this time, scientists believed that Cs-137 existed in water soluble form. But now researchers found that Cs-137 fallout on Tokyo following the 2011 nuclear meltdown was in an insoluble form. This cesium was found enclosed within super tiny glass microparticles, formed when concrete and metal in the buildings was shattered and liquified due to high heat. Not much is yet known about how these microparticles act in the environment or how our bodies react to them.
According to Professor Bernd Grambow, Director of SUBATECH laboratory, Nantes, France, these findings are important, changing the “way we assess inhalation doses from the caesium microparticles inhaled by humans. Indeed, biological half- lives of insoluble caesium particles might be much larger than that of soluble caesium“. 
Going by these observations, one thing is clear: many things about radioactive contamination are still unknown and unpredictable. This means that how we look at the resulting health implications could also change.
Radioactive Isotopes from Fukushima Meltdown Detected near Vancouver
Radiation from Japan's leaking Fukushima nuclear power plant has reached waters offshore Canada, researchers said today at the annual American Geophysical Union's Ocean Sciences Meeting in Honolulu.
Two radioactive cesium isotopes, cesium-134 and cesium-137, have been detected offshore of Vancouver, British Columbia, researchers said at a news conference. The detected concentrations are much lower than the Canadian safety limit for cesium levels in drinking water, said John Smith, a research scientist at Canada's Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
Tests conducted at U.S. beaches indicate that Fukushima radioactivity has not yet reached Washington, California or Hawaii, said Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Woods Hole, Mass.
"We have results from eight locations, and they all have cesium-137, but no cesium-134 yet," Buesseler said. (Isotopes are atoms of the same element that have different numbers of neutrons in their nuclei. In this case, cesium-137 has more neutrons than cesium-134.)
The scientists are tracking a radioactive plume from Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Three nuclear reactors at the power plant melted down after the March 11, 2011, Tohoku earthquake. The meltdown was triggered by the massive tsunami that followed the quake. [Fukushima Radiation Leak: 5 Things You Should Know]
The initial nuclear accident from the Fukushima reactors released several radioactive isotopes, such as iodine-131, cesium-134 and cesium-137. Cesium-137 has a half-life of 30 years and remains in the environment for decades. Cesium-134, with a half-life of only two years, is an unequivocal marker of Fukushima ocean contamination, Smith said.
"The only cesium-134 in the North Pacific is there from Fukushima," he said. Cesium-137, on the other hand, is also present from nuclear weapons tests and discharge from nuclear power plants.
Smith and his colleagues tracked rising levels of cesium-134 at several ocean monitoring stations west of Vancouver in the North Pacific beginning in 2011. By June 2013, the concentration reached 0.9 Becquerels per cubic meter, Smith said. All of the cesium-134 was concentrated in the upper 325 feet (100 m) of the ocean, he said. They are awaiting results from a February 2014 sampling trip.
The U.S. safety limit for cesium levels in drinking water is about 28 Becquerels, the number of radioactive decay events per second, per gallon (or 7,400 Becquerels per cubic meter). For comparison, uncontaminated seawater contains only a few Becquerels per cubic meter of cesium.
Cesium-137 levels at U.S. beaches were 1.3 to 1.7 Becquerels per cubic meter, Buesseler said. That's similar to background levels in the ocean from nuclear weapons testing, suggesting the Fukushima plume has not reached the U.S. coastline yet, he said.
The new monitoring data does not show which of two competing models best predicts the future concentration of Fukushima radiation along the U.S. West Coast, Smith said. These models suggest that radionuclides from Fukushima will begin to arrive on the West Coast in early 2014 and peak in 2016. However, the models differ in their predictions of the peak concentration of cesium &mdash from a low of 2 to a maximum of 27 Becquerels per cubic meter. Both peaks are well below the highest level recorded in the Baltic Sea after Chernobyl, which was 1,000 Becquerels per cubic meter.
"It's still a little too early to know which one is correct," Smith said.
The impending arrival of radioactive contaminants from Fukushima has raised concerns among coastal residents in the United States and Canada. But oceanographers and radiation experts say the radiation levels will be too low to threaten human health.
"These levels are clearly not a human or biological threat in Canada," Smith said.
Fukushima&rsquos radiation reached coastal Canada first because of the powerful Kuroshio Current, which flows from Japan across the Pacific. The plume will then flow down the coast of North America and circle back toward Hawaii, models predict.
But Buesseler thinks even low levels of contamination merit monitoring, both for human health information and for the wealth of data about Pacific Ocean currents such monitoring could provide. On Jan. 14, he launched a website called "How Radioactive is Our Ocean?", where the public can make tax-deductible donations to support the analysis of existing water samples, or propose and fund new sampling locations along the West Coast.
And at Fukushima, radioactive water continues to escape from the damaged power plant into the ocean. A new leak was reported last week, although that one did not empty into the ocean.
When it comes to the harmful effects of radiation exposure, “increased risk of cancer throughout life” takes the spotlight. Not without a reason, of course. However, the health woes go beyond the cancer risk. We know from the Chernobyl research data that radiations can cause a whole range of serious non-cancer diseases such as thyroid damage, birth defects, hereditary diseases and neurological disorders. One of the conditions it seems to cause is cardiovascular disease .
In his 2011 report, Chris Busby, specialist on the health effects of ionizing radiation, discussed the impact of nuclear radiation on the hearts of Chernobyl children. He draws on the research work conducted by Professor Yuri Bandazhevsky, a renowned scientist who studied the effects of Cesium 137 exposure on people living in the territories contaminated by the catastrophic Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The research linked whole body radiation levels of 10-30 Becquerels/Kg of body weight with arrhythmias or abnormal heart rhythms and levels of 50 Becquerels/Kg of body weight with irreversible damage to the heart as well as other vital organs.
Cesium 137: Most prevalent and a long lived radionuclide
Cesium-137 is one of the most widespread radioactive contaminants released in any nuclear disaster, and the Fukushima fallout was no exception. With a half-life of 30 years, Cesium-137 is a long-lasting radionuclide AND can remain radioactive for up to 300 years. Once released into the environment, Cesium-137 rapidly penetrates the ecosystem – contaminating water, soil, plants, animals and human beings. In fact, it bio-accumulates, bio-concentrates and bio-magnifies, meaning it gets dangerously pronounced moving up the food chain. High concentrations of Cesium-137 are commonly found in meat, dairy, mushrooms, berries and wild game.
Studies show that regular consumption of food contaminated with Cesium-137 radionuclides results in its accumulation in endocrine tissues, thyroid, heart, kidneys, stomach, small intestines, pancreas, liver, spleen, brain, lung and skeletal muscles . This process happens much faster in children than in adults. Clearly, children are many times more predisposed than adults to the damaging effects of the ionizing radiations.
Once Cesium-137 enters the human body, it mimics potassium and about 75 percent lodges in muscle tissue, including the heart . What compounds this problem is that radioactive Cesium is a fast acting poison and goes about causing damage to the heart muscle with an alarmingly rapid speed . Professor Yuri Bandazhevsky discovered that 50Bq/kg of Cesium -137 contamination caused irreversible heart damage in a child . (One becquerel is defined as the activity of a quantity of radioactive material in which one nucleus decays per second. 50Bq/kg of Cesium -137 means 50 atomic disintegrations per second (becquerels) per kilogram of body weight.)
Cesium 137 and Heart damage
The heart is especially susceptible to damage caused by radioactive Cesium because it mimics potassium, a mineral crucial to heart function. Potassium plays an important role in the sodium-potassium pump – energy requiring process involved in transporting sodium and potassium ions across the cell membrane. The main action of this pump is to move two potassium ions into the cell while simultaneously pumping three sodium ions out of the cell and into the extracellular fluid – building an electrochemical gradient, called the membrane potential, across the cell membrane. This electric gradient is used to transmit electric signals along nerves in the muscles and brain – important, among its many functions, for a well-functioning nervous system and normal contraction of skeletal and cardiac muscle fibres.
Since radioactive Cesium is similar to potassium, it easily finds its way into the heart tissue through the sodium/potassium pump, which means it readily gets absorbed into the heart muscles without any resistance.
- The cellular membranes that are selectively permeable and specialize in keeping harmful, toxic elements out are tricked into accepting Cesium-137 as potassium.
- Once inside, the radioactive Cesium actively interacts with the cell membranes of myocardial cells and interferes with crucial enzymatic processes by supressing critically essential enzyme creatine phosphokinase (CPK). This enzyme is responsible for cell energy metabolism and also creates the structure of the mitochondrial membrane as it holds together its external and internal surfaces.
- This interference by Cesium-137 clearly brings serious structural and functional failings in the mitochondrial membranes – disrupting the fragile energy supplying process within cell membranes, affecting the ability of the heart muscle to perform its function effectively.
- In addition to the direct impact of radioCesium, the subsequent radioactive emission during its decaying adds to the insult inflicted on the cellular structure. What follows is excessive production of hydroxyl radicals and phospholipids peroxidation – causing the change in the membrane’s ability to transport various ions, especially influencing the calcium ion transport system.
- This leads to excessive accumulation of calcium ions in the cardiomyocytes (heart muscle cells), which disturbs the relaxation process of the heart muscle fibres and can cause significant damage to heart muscle cells, including death.
A similar kind of damage occurs in other organs, particularly the liver and kidneys. As summarized by Professor Yuri Bandashevsky, “When myocardial cells are penetrated by the radionuclide Cesium-137, structural and metabolic changes follow, leading to the energy deficits and disruption of their main functions, and in some cases death. A series of changes occur, indicating direct damage of the cardiac muscles as well as damage to many organs and systems regulating cardiac activity.” 
Professor Yuri Bandashevsky carried out tremendous research on the impact of the radioactive Cesium on the children living in the regions of Belarus contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear fallout. “He established that children with mean body burdens of upwards of 40Bq/kg of Cesium -137 suffered life-threatening cardiac problems including arrhythmias, cardiac insufficiency (angina) and heart attacks (infarctions) which could result in death.” 
In his report, Chris Busby notes that 50 becquerels per kilogram of Cesium 137, which actually is quite a low level, can destroy almost 25% of all the muscle cells in the heart. Why is this data so alarming?
A human heart is an extraordinary machine, continuously pumping throughout the lifespan of a person, without tiring and stopping. Unlike cells of the other tissues and organs, muscle cells of the heart (cardiac myocytes) can’t regenerate themselves or be replaced rapidly. You can actually say that this is a gross understatement as muscle cells of the heart are only replaced at a rate of about 1% per year, which is as a good as nothing, implying that damaged heart cells cannot be repaired. That is why any damage to the cardiac myocytes, for example in heart attacks, is considered very serious.
When Cesium-137 destroys the heart muscle cells, the heart loses its ability to function efficiently and this impaired functionality can lead to cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal heating of the heart) and heart attacks. Chronic exposure to Cesium-137 particularly damages the developing hearts of children – affecting the strength and integrity of myocardial muscles. This is the reason why children contaminated in the Fukushima disaster were reported to develop cardiac problems at their age.
Cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disorders) induced by Cesium-137 can either directly cause death or damage the cardiovascular system in many other ways. For example, it can result in elevated blood pressure. It is believed to be caused by the effects of radioactive Cesium on the muscle components of the blood vessels .
The effect of Cesium radionuclides on heart health should be taken into consideration while devising treatment programs and prevention measures for people living in and around contaminated areas.
Mitigating The Effects of Cesium-137
Of course, radioCesium doesn’t come alone. It is accompanied by hundreds of other heavy metal radioactive toxins. When your body is continuously loaded with toxins, it eventually wears down and runs out of ways to deal with them on its own. The idea is to adopt a multi-pronged approach to be proactive, mitigate the effects and repair the damage already caused.
Chelation therapy is one of the best ways to treat internal radio-isotope contamination. Radioactive isotopes mimic natural minerals. For example, radioactive Cesium mimics potassium (which is therefore majorly accumulated in muscles, including the heart) radioactive strontium mimics calcium (finding its way into bones and teeth) radioactive uranium mimics magnesium, radioactive iodine mimics natural iodine (thus absorbed by the thyroid gland), radioactive plutonium mimics iron (thus found accumulated in bones, liver and blood cells). Natural minerals when taken before the exposure helps the body to block the absorption of their radioactive counterparts. Natural minerals can also help in chelating out these toxic elements.
There are many natural ways that are quite effective in binding to the Cesium 137 and other toxic radioisotopes and get them out of the body. These natural methods also support the body’s inherent ability to fight the free radicals, boost the immune functions, repair and renew cellular damage and detox the body of toxic substances taking off immense load from liver and kidneys.
- Apple pectin 
- Seaweed, chlorella, spirulina
- Anti-oxidants such as Vitamins C, Vitamin E, Vitamin B, Vitamin D, selenium, N-acetylcysteine, Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA), glutathione
- Minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron and potassium
- Herbs like milk thistle, curcumin
- Healthy nutrient-rich diet comprising of whole, fresh foods
- Water purification
- Exercise and meditation
Vitamin C and Heart Health
We discussed the role of Vitamin C as a protector against radiation exposure in our last post here. Vitamin C scavenges free radicals triggered by ionizing radiations and boosts immunity, making it an indispensable tool to minimize the toxic effects of ionic radiations emitted during nuclear fallouts such as Chernobyl and Fukushima.
In addition to this, Vitamin C plays an incredible role in supporting heart functions and contributes to minimize the risk factors for cardiovascular disease. A study published in the American Heart Journal showed the risk of heart failure decreased with increasing plasma Vitamin C and “Every 20 ?mol/L increase in plasma Vitamin C concentration (1 SD) was associated with a 9% relative reduction in risk of heart failure.”
Strengthens the blood vessel walls
Vitamin C is an important precursor to collagen synthesis and repair. Collagen is an insoluble fibrous protein present in our connective tissues including the endothelium (inner lining of the blood vessels). It imparts strength and flexibility to the arterial walls, improves their functions and prevents the formation of atherosclerotic plaque, a root cause of many serious heart conditions such as heart attack, peripheral artery disease and stroke.
Dilates blood vessels
Vitamin C increases the availability of nitric oxide , a natural vasodilator that helps blood vessels to relax and dilate. NO plays an amazing role in maintaining endothelial functions.
A 2012 study reports, “This protective molecule (Vitamin C) has a wide range of biological properties that maintain vascular homeostasis, including modulation of vascular dilator tone, regulation of local cell growth, and protection of the vessel from injurious consequences of platelets and cells circulating in blood, playing in this way a crucial role in the normal endothelial function.”  This property is of tremendous support to people with co-related conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, angina pectoris and atherosclerosis.
Linus Pauling Institute says, “The ability of blood vessels to relax or dilate (vasodilation) is compromised in individuals with atherosclerosis. Damage to the heart muscle caused by a heart attack and damage to the brain caused by a stroke are related, in part, to the inability of blood vessels to dilate enough to allow blood flow to the affected areas.
The pain of angina pectoris is also related to insufficient dilation of the coronary arteries. Impaired vasodilation has been identified as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Many randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have shown that treatment with Vitamin C consistently results in improved vasodilation in individuals with coronary heart disease, as well as those with angina pectoris, congestive heart failure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Improved vasodilation has been demonstrated at an oral dose of 500 mg of Vitamin C daily.”
A 2015 study proves that supplementing with 500 mg Vitamin C daily reduces blood vessel constriction as effectively as exercise .
Lowers blood pressure: Scientists from Johns Hopkins University conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials that examined the effects of Vitamin C supplementation on blood pressure. The research found that Vitamin C reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure .
Effect of Cesium in Fukushima Waning Faster Than in Chernobyl
Tokyo, March 9 (Jiji Press)--The effect of radioactive cesium-137 released into the environment due to the March 2011 nuclear accident in Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan, has been decreasing faster than in the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, a study has found.
The study was conducted by institutions including the University of Tsukuba, Fukushima University and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency.
The nuclear accident at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. <9501> caused 2,700 trillion becquerels of cesium-137 to fall on the ground, of which 67 pct is estimated to have been deposited on forests, 10 pct on paddy fields, 7.4 pct on other cultivated land and grassland, and 5 pct on urban areas.
The team studied more than 210 scientific articles on the cesium-137 situation in the wake of the accident, and compared the contamination levels within 80 kilometers of the Fukushima No. 1 power plant with those of the Chernobyl accident in the former Soviet Union.
In Chernobyl, most of the contamination was on forests and abandoned farmland. In Fukushima, meanwhile, much of the contamination was on urban areas and cultivated land, and decontamination work was carried out, leading cesium-137, whose half-life is about 30 years, to dive deep in the soil quickly.
AP, etc: Estimate of Fukushima release of Cs-137 goes up. Terabecquer-what-the-hell-is-that involved.
A Norwegian researcher, gathering data from a worldwide network, reports at the on line site of Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics that the multiple-meltdown nuclear plant disaster at the tsunami-flooded Fukishimp power planet last March released more than twice as much radioactive Cesium-137 as Japanese authorities have said it did. The AP’s Malcolm Ritter, filing from New York, called the lead author and got instant perspective on the numbers. The researcher – whose paper has not, it says here, yet finished peer review – told Ritter that while higher than the official figures, his calculations are estimates so inherently imprecise that a factor of two difference does not mean much. As we shall see, the meaning of the events behind the news has yet to be discovered. Few news accounts give readers any idea how uncertain scientific information is concerning the scale of radioiactive release and what it means for human health. But a few tried to boil it down to something simple – and simply did nobody any good in the process.
If the latest calculation is correct, the cesium release is, Ritter reports, roughly 40 percent as large as that of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. One thinks Ritter might have gone a bit further, however, in comparing Fukushima and Chernobyl. While Fukishima’s fuel rods largely melted and emitted many radioactive gases, Chernobyl with its graphite core did not merely melt, they were spectacularly on fire. The huge blaze and its plume pumped a lot more than Cesium into the air – by one estimate its escaped radionuclides were emitting 100 megaCuries of radiation, including 2.5 from Cesium 137. The latter is among the most dangerous of waste products from reactors, to be sure. I am no expert, but Cs is not the only metric for measuring these disastrs. I do wonder how, in the end, the Japanese disaster will compare with that in Ukraine. I wonder about a lot that’s not addressed in this and other accounts of the new estimate.
Coverage of this spot news may leave readers believing that overall releases from Fukishima were twice what officials in Japan have told their people. The study’s prime topic however appears to be one specific isotope’s contribution, not the whole nasty stew that went into the air and the sea. One is left wondering how this information, while sure to raise anxiety and while certainly something that needs to be reported, provides readers with any greater understanding of what happened and whether they need to be a little, a lot, or a ton more worried.
- The Guardian (UK) Ian McCurry: Fukushima released ‘twice as much’ radioactive material as first thought/ Far more radioactive caesium was released into the atmosphere than previoiusly estimated
- The Telegraph (UK) Danielle Demetriou : Fukushima disaster released twice as much radiation as initially estimated Am quite sure that headline implies and rather unambiguously that total radiation was twice the official figure. The story deals only with Caesium, as they spell it in Britain. Isotopes of iodine and strontium, surely were doing their share too.
- Voice of America (blog) Fukishima Fallout May be Much Higher Than Thought Better head, but the lede too declares flatly “twice as much radiation” while the story deals only with the one isotope.
- Tokyo Reporter:TEPCO plant at Fukushima released double radiation of earlier estimate, AP says Shows how the conflation of Cs-137 with all radioisotopes gets further distorted as a piece of news gets rewritten and cut down. This one contains the sentence, “The Norwegian study estimates the disaster in Fukushima released about 42 percent of the total radioactive material released by the Solviet Union’s 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident.” I dunno what that means. Total Radioactive Material? Is that about tons of stuff, or the radiation load is delivers per unit time, the total during all its half-lives integrated forever, what? The unit terabecquerel comes up. It seems to be treated as a sum total. Far as I can tell it’s a rate of decay. How can Caesium alone be a proxy for all the hot fuel waste and such that escaped?
I looked around for a more careful assessment. Here’s one:
- NatureNews – Geoff Brumfiel: Fallout forensics hike radiation toll Finally we here here a story, while hardly crystal clear, that at least sorts through several lines of evidence and their pertinence to more than one isotope. Brumfiel clearly distinguishes Cs-137 as among the most dangerous to humans due to its half life and, presumably, chemical properties and behavior in the human body. But other isotopes released carry even more radiation, it says here. It remains confusing, even to experts, how much came out and what the hazards are. But it was a lot, and it is significant. ONe thing for sure. It does not boil down to a flat 40 percent of a Chernobyl, nor to twice the radiation earlier declared by officials in Japan. It’s much more complicated than that. For one thing, the study concluded that the Xenon-133 radioisotope load released from the plant, while not a major human health peril, was larger than that from Chernobyle (the paper, down below in Grist, calls it the largest radioactive noble gas release in history not associated with a nuclear bomb test.)
Grist for the Mill: Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics article
10 Years After Japan's Fukushima Daiichi Meltdown, I'm Still Worried | Opinion
Nearly 10 years ago, I boarded a flight from Boston to Tokyo, filled with anxiety.
I was flying from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where I work, to Japan, the site of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The plant was devastated by a tsunami on March 11, 2011. It was reportedly releasing dangerous levels of radioactive materials, most of which was ending up in the ocean. My job, along with a handful of other marine scientists, was to survey the contamination in the surrounding oceans. My expertise as a marine radiochemist would come in handy. I was worried about what we might find.
I'll never forget what it felt like when I stepped out of the taxi near the coast that had been hit by a 9.0 earthquake and 15 meter-high waves only weeks before.
The damage went on and on: All I could see, for miles, was flattened earth. Almost every building, tree or structure that had once been there was gone, reduced to soggy rubble. Piles of cars, debris from houses and vegetation dotted the landscape, all awaiting disposal. I was standing on a spot where more than 18,000 people died or went missing the thought was staggering.
Soon after arrival, I boarded a research boat sent from Hawaii to measure radioactivity&mdashboth types and amounts&mdashin the nearby ocean.
We were always at least 30 kilometers from the shoreline, but even that far away the ocean contained debris dragged out by monstrous waves, around which our captain had to deftly navigate. Occasionally, we saw tree limbs, boxes and trash floating in the water, vestiges of a once-normal life that had been washed away.
The radioactivity levels in the ocean immediately following the accident were unprecedented&mdashmillions of times higher than what was there before. But heroic actions on land soon reduced the flow of contaminated water to the sea, and the ocean recovered quickly: By the time we got there in June, radioactivity close to the power plant was already about 1,000 times lower than at its peak in early April.
Still, the fish contained relatively high levels of cesium-137 and cesium-134, two products of nuclear fission, making them potentially unsafe to eat. Japan shut down the local fisheries and kept them closed for years. More than 100,000 fish have been tested since 2011, and since 2015, only a couple fish exceeded Japan's strict limits for cesium. I have no hesitation eating seafood when I am in the region.
I've been back to the region roughly once a year since 2011.
It's been encouraging to watch the marine life rebound without the pressure of local fisheries. Although we still use nets to gather plankton and other microorganisms for testing, a simple pole will often do to catch larger fish these, I've been told, are now more prevalent in the nets of the local fishermen.
The shoreline looks nothing like it did before the accident. Spaces that once held housing and communities are still mostly open land, but the coastline is largely covered by bus-sized blocks of concrete meant to serve as barriers to prevent damage from any future tsunamis.
But not all aspects of the recovery are proceeding apace.
The Japanese government said in the past that everything is "under control," but measurements from the ocean show that the reactors are still leaking radiation.
But these small leaks&mdashwhich pose little risk to swimmers&mdasharen't what keep me up at night. Instead, 10 years after this devastating event, I and other experts are worried about the safety risks posed by the 1,000 tanks that together contain more than 1 million tons of radioactive waters, sitting at the power plant only steps from the shoreline.
This water grows in volume by roughly 100 tons each day, as groundwater still enters the buildings and mixes with the contaminated water used for cooling the damaged reactors. The future of these tanks needs to be decided.
We knew the tanks contain high levels of tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen that is hard to remove from water during remediation efforts because water itself contains hydrogen as well. Luckily, at low doses, tritium causes less damage to living cells than many other forms of radioactivity.
In 2018, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which operated the plant and is cleaning up the site, announced for the first time that the tanks also contain concerning levels of other, more harmful radioactive materials such as cobalt-60 and strontium-90, which are much more likely to end up on the seafloor or be incorporated into sea life.
We shouldn't be hearing about this for the first time seven years after the accident. We should be getting more complete and accessible information. Although TEPCO regularly communicates with the public, the only data we have about non-tritium elements come from a fraction of the tanks&mdashabout 200&mdashand don't include other potential contaminants, such as plutonium.
The figures are also often buried in hard-to-find PDF files. To analyze these data, I have to type hundreds of numbers by hand into an Excel spreadsheet.
To win back the trust of the public and experts like myself, TEPCO and the Japanese government must do a better job of releasing data about the state of the remaining 1,000 tanks and demonstrate that they have cleaned up the non-tritium contaminants before they propose to release the water into the ocean. Independent assessments and monitoring of the ocean are needed.
We may need to give more consideration to ocean dumping alternatives, like continued and safer storage on land, until the radioactivity can naturally decay.
There is no time to waste: In February 2021, an earthquake near the site caused overflow of some of this deadly wastewater and prompted dozens of tanks to shift in their positions, though no evidence of ocean releases were reported.
Ten years after the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, we are still asking: Is it safe? Only with more transparency, better communication and continued independent studies will we begin to put this disaster behind us.
Ken Buesseler is a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who studies radioactivity in oceans. The article was produced withKnowable Magazine.
Global Weather Machine
That public concern inspired Buesseler to found Our Radioactive Ocean, which relies on crowdfunding and crowdsourcing to collect data. To test a site in the continental U.S., citizen scientists are asked to raise $550, is enough to ship a sample kit and run the required tests on the sample.
Meanwhile, Cullen, who had been running a blog on ocean-related issues, found himself inundated with questions about radiation from readers on his side of the Pacific. He decided to start the inFORM network, which pairs his offshore research cruises and fish sampling with crowdsourced water sampling.
“It has engaged people in ways that even surprised me,” said Buesseler of the crowdsourcing model. “We’ve reached a wide range of people who had this concern that wasn’t being addressed, and that’s what we’re most proud of.”
Kai Vetter, a professor of nuclear engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and Steve Manley, a professor of biology recently retired from California State University, Long Beach, run KelpWatch, a campaign focused on testing the radionuclide uptake of kelp. Though their test results have all come back negative, Vetter and Manley have been adamant about publishing them.
“One of the reasons we continue our measurements is to continue to inform the public about the radiation in the world around us,” Vetter said.
Transparency, they have found, is the best way to combat fear. Even after four and a half years, the questions continue to roll in. For everyone from surfers and swimmers to moms planning vacations, the fear of radiation seems to have a much longer half-life than the particles themselves.
In North America, Vetter said, “The biggest health impact from Fukushima has been the psychological impact.”
New highly radioactive particles found in Fukushima
The 10 year anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident occurs in March. Work just published in the Journal 'Science of the Total Environment' documents new, large (> 300 micrometers), highly radioactive particles that were released from one of the damaged Fukushima reactors.
Particles containing radioactive cesium (134+137Cs) were released from the damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP) during the 2011 nuclear disaster. Small (micrometer-sized) particles (known as CsMPs) were widely distributed, reaching as far as Tokyo. CsMPs have been the subject of many studies in recent years. However, it recently became apparent that larger (>300 micrometers) Cs-containing particles, with much higher levels of activity (
105 Bq), were also released from reactor unit 1 that suffered a hydrogen explosion. These particles were deposited within a narrow zone that stretches
8 km north-northwest of the reactor site. To date, little is known about the composition of these larger particles and their potential environmental and human health impacts.
Now, work just published in the journal Science of the Total Environment characterizes these larger particles at the atomic-scale and reports high levels of activity that exceed 105 Bq.
The particles, reported in the study, were found during a survey of surface soils 3.9 km north-northwest of reactor unit 1 (Fig. 1).
From 31 Cs-particles collected during the sampling campaign, two have given the highest ever particle-associated 134+137Cs activities for materials emitted from the FDNPP (specifically: 6.1 × 105 and 2.5 × 106 Bq, respectively, for the particles, after decay-correction to the date of the FDNPP accident).
The study involved scientists from Japan, Finland, France, the UK, and USA, and was led by Dr. Satoshi Utsunomiya and graduate student Kazuya Morooka (Department of Chemistry, Kyushu University). The team used a combination of advanced analytical techniques (synchrotron-based nano-focus X-ray analysis, secondary ion mass spectrometry, and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy) to fully characterize the particles. The particle with a 134+137Cs activity of 6.1 × 105 Bq was found to be an aggregate of smaller, flakey silicate nanoparticles, which had a glass like structure. This particle likely came from reactor building materials, which were damaged during the Unit 1 hydrogen explosion then, as the particle formed, it likely adsorbed Cs that had had been volatized from the reactor fuel. The 134+137Cs activity of the other particle exceeded 106 Bq. This particle had a glassy carbon core and a surface that was embedded with other micro-particles, which included a Pb-Sn alloy, fibrous Al-silicate, Ca-carbonate / hydroxide, and quartz (Fig. 2).
The composition of the surface embedded micro-particles likely reflect the composition of airborne particles within the reactor building at the moment of the hydrogen explosion, thus providing a forensic window into the events of March 11th 2011 (Fig. 3). Utsunomiya added, "The new particles from regions close to the damaged reactor provide valuable forensic clues. They give snap-shots of the atmospheric conditions in the reactor building at the time of the hydrogen explosion, and of the physio-chemical phenomena that occurred during reactor meltdown." He continued, "whilst nearly ten years have passed since the accident, the importance of scientific insights has never been more critical. Clean-up and repatriation of residents continues and a thorough understanding of the contamination forms and their distribution is important for risk assessment and public trust.
Professor Gareth Law (co-author, University of Helsinki) added, "clean-up and decommissioning efforts at the site face difficult challenges, particularly the removal and safe management of accident debris that has very high levels of radioactivity. Therein, prior knowledge of debris composition can help inform safe management approaches".
Given the high radioactivity associated with the new particles, the project team were also interested in understanding their potential health / dose impacts.
Dr Utsunomiya stated, "Owing to their large size, the health effects of the new particles are likely limited to external radiation hazards during static contact with skin. As such, despite the very high level of activity, we expect that the particles would have negligible health impacts for humans as they would not easily adhere to the skin. However, we do need to consider possible effects on the other living creatures such as filter feeders in habitats surrounding Fukushima Daiichi. Even though ten years have nearly passed, the half-life of 137Cs is
30 years. So, the activity in the newly found highly radioactive particles has not yet decayed significantly. As such, they will remain in the environment for many decades to come, and this type of particle could occasionally still be found in radiation hot spots."
Professor Rod Ewing (co-author from Stanford University) stated "this paper is part of a series of publications that provide a detailed picture of the material emitted during the Fukushima Daiichi reactor meltdowns. This is exactly the type of work required for remediation and an understanding of long-term health effects".
Professor Bernd Grambow (co-author from IMT Atlantique) added "the present work, using cutting-edge analytical tools, gives only a very small insight in the very large diversity of particles released during the nuclear accident, much more work is necessary to get a realistic picture of the highly heterogeneous environmental and health impact".
Title: New Highly Radioactive Particles Derived from Fukushima Daiichi Reactor Unit 1: Properties and Environmental Impacts
Authors: Kazuya Morooka, Eitaro Kurihara, Masato Takehara, Ryu Takami, Kazuki Fueda, Kenji Horie, Mami Takehara, Shinya Yamasaki, Toshihiko Ohnuki, Bernd Grambow, Gareth T. W. Law, Joyce W. L. Ang, William R. Bower, Julia Parker, Rodney C. Ewing, and Satoshi Utsunomiya
Journal: Science of The Total Environment
Professor Gareth Law, University of Helsinki
Email: [email protected]
Phone: +358 294150179
Associate Professor Satoshi Utsunomiya, Kyushu University,
E-mail: [email protected]
Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.
Bluefin tuna were struggling before Japan&rsquos Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant flooded their spawning grounds with radiation. The fish&rsquos popularity on the sushi platter has plunged population numbers. Now traces of radiation from the nuclear disaster are showing up in the muscles of bluefins off the California coast.
This radiation, however, might be a good thing. The levels are low enough that they won&rsquot harm fish or restaurant-goers. In fact, the traces of radioactive isotopes are helping scientists track the torpedo-shaped fish, and could aid conservation efforts.
Bluefin tuna are not classified as endangered but their numbers have been hard to measure. The Pacific bluefin tuna's population may be down by 96.4 percent from preindustrial fishing levels, according to the most recent stock assessment, reported in December 2012 (pdf). Researchers know the tuna are in trouble, but they still need to figure out where the tuna spend most of their time and what triggers their transoceanic migrations.
Stanford University graduate student Dan Madigan is one of the scientists trying to track bluefin. Researchers do not know exactly what proportion of the bluefin population is cruising either side of the Pacific at any given time.
Pacific bluefin tuna spawn in waters surrounding Japan. Scientists think that the tuna spend the first year of their lives foraging there before either staying in the western Pacific or migrating to California's coast. Once they migrate to California, they may stay for several years to fatten up, he says. The western shores of several continents often have strong prevailing westerly winds that push surface waters away, allowing cold, nutrient-rich waters to flow up from the deep canyons that snake close to shore. This coastal upwelling system makes the California coast an ideal feeding ground for many marine species, including bluefin.
Understanding why the tuna choose to migrate, at what size, and whether they return to the western Pacific could help researchers model the population and inform fishing strategies. "It's all about figuring out how each side contributes to the other side and hopefully implementing that into a management model," Madigan says.
As the Fukushima disaster unfolded, Madigan wondered if radiation would show up in the tuna he studied in California. Sure enough, he and his colleagues found radioactive isotopes from the disaster in 15 bluefins caught by fisherman five months after the tsunami. Radioactive materials from the damaged reactors bled into groundwater and the ocean. Young tuna absorbed cesium 134 and cesium 137 isotopes while swimming in the accident-afflicted area and likely by eating contaminated plankton and small fish.
Madigan and his colleagues found the cesium, but they next needed to see if the levels could tell them anything about the fish&rsquos movements. To test the radioactive tracer idea, Madigan took samples of tissue from 50 fish caught in the waters near San Diego during the summer of last year. He shipped the samples to Stony Brook University, S.U.N.Y., where a colleague analyzed them for cesium levels.
The two cesium isotopes decay at different rates. Cesium 137 has a half-life of 30.1 years, cesium 134, 2.1 years. The entire Pacific Ocean basin still holds slightly elevated levels of cesium 137 from the nuclear weapons testing that peaked in the 1960s, but the Fukushima power plant is the only source of cesium 134. Elevated levels of cesium 134 therefore would indicate if the California-caught tuna are recent migrants from Japan. By comparing the ratio of the two isotopes, Madigan and his colleagues were able tell approximately how recently the migrants had arrived. With its shorter half-life, cesium 134 levels fall faster than those of cesium 137. A higher ratio of 134 to 137 therefore indicates a more recent immigrant.
The work Madigan and his colleagues did prove that the cesium isotopes work as a tracer. So far the technique confirms what scientists know about bluefin tuna: They found that all fish younger than 1.6 years old were migrants. Only five of the 22 fish older than 1.7 years were migrants. The larger fish had left Japan earlier in the year, but the smaller fish hung around their birthplace until early- or mid-June.
The transpacific journey took an average of approximately two months for the fish Madigan sampled. One bluefin may have managed to make the trip in just 30 days&mdasha figure that jibes with the known daily swimming speed of approximately 172.3 kilometers per day. The team reported their results in the March issue of Environmental Science & Technology.
Using Fukushima-derived radiocesium is a novel way of tracking the movements of oceangoing animals, wrote Texas A&M University at Galveston marine biologist Jay Rooker in an e-mail. The approach "shows promise for tracking the movement of other highly migratory species in the Pacific Ocean&mdashwhales, turtles and sharks," he added. Because the mixing of populations and transoceanic migrations can affect scientists' ability to estimate population size and fishing mortality, these kinds of studies are vital to informing management strategies Rooker wrote.
The short half-life of the cesium 134 means that soon the levels will be too low to be useful, but Madigan explains that there are other chemical techniques that researchers use to track migrating marine animals. The cesium isotopes provide unequivocal evidence that the tuna came from the waters near Japan. By matching the isotope signature with other methods&mdashsuch as stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen, which vary from region to region&mdashresearchers can use the longer-lasting isotopes as a proxy for the same information. "One method is finite and one is infinite," Madigan says. "Once you've hammered down the relationship you can just use the infinite one in the future."
The next steps for Madigan and the team are to look at other species. Those ocean-dwelling animals include albacore tuna, blue sharks, Pacific loggerhead sea turtles, salmon sharks, common minke whales and even birds such as sooty shearwaters. If any of those animals carry cesium isotopes from Fukushima, they can be classified as Japanese migrants. The fallout from the disaster could unlock secrets of ocean life.