U.S. Army research unit marks four decades in Kenya
Credit: Rick Scavetta via US Army Africa on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

July 14th, 2014 I completed an article for Environment 911 about the Fukushima nuclear crisis.[1] At the time, I presented whatever credible evidence I could find about it since August 2013.

As you may recall, in November 2013, a state secrecy bill[2] was passed in Japan. The Liberal Democratic Party of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said "the law is needed to encourage the US and other allies to share national security information with Japan."
What this means for those (like me) seeking information isn't good: 
  1. Public workers or others privy to information could face 10 years in jail for "leaking" information. 
  2. Journalists and others in the private sector could face up to 5 years in jail for using "grossly inappropriate" ways to find out information or encourage such "leaks."
The public has a 'right to know' and 'freedom of information' is paramount to public safety. The Fukushima disaster has (and will) continue to affect people all over the world. It's for this reason that I making public the studies and findings that don't add up (in my mind).
I welcome the thoughts of anyone in the scientific and medical communities to chime in. I will be forwarding my article to experts in the field.

What's Been Nagging at Me

June 28th, 2014 I wrote an article about radon.[3] At the time, I wrote that the World Health Organization had drastically revised their acceptable levels of exposure to radon. 

In fact, the Radiation Safety Institute of Canada wrote: "The WHO’s new recommended maximum level of radon gas is 100 becquerels per cubic meter - one tenth of its previously recommended maximum of 1,000 becquerels, issued in 1996."
At the time I didn't question this recommendation. I mean, who questions the World Health Organization?
But when I searched for conclusive studies which pointed to this new finding, I couldn't find any. 
Here's what I did find:
A 2003 World Health Organization bulletin titled Meta-analysis of residential exposure to radon gas and lung cancer[4] reported the findings of Maria Pavia, Aida Bianco, Claudia Pileggi, and Italo F. Angelillo. I draw your attention to two sentences in the Discussion and Conclusion sections:
These results show a consistent pattern of risk related to indoor exposure to radon, although the magnitude of the risk seems to be low.

Although no definitive conclusions can be drawn on the role of radon residential exposure on the risk of lung cancer, our results suggest the existence of a dose-response relation.

Here's the thing: lung cancer isn't some rare cancer that is barely studied or documented, so I kept looking.

A 2005 report titled Residential Radon and Risk of Lung Cancer: A Combined Analysis of 7 North American Case-Control Studies[5] by Daniel Krewski, Jay H. Lubin, Jan M. Zielinski, Michael Alavanja, Vanessa S. Catalan, R. William Field, Judith B. Klotz, Ernest G. Letourneau, Charles F. Lynch, Joseph I. Lyon, Dale P. Sandler, Janet B. Schoenberg, Daniel J. Steck, Jan A. Stolwijk, Clarice Weinberg, and Homer B. Wilcox concluded:

There was "an association" between lung cancer and residential radon. This "association" was made on the basis of miner data and animal and in vitro studies.

Further along in the study, on page 143, I read: "The control studies are subject to measurement error. No formal adjustment for this source of error was attempted."

Next up, I found a report written by medical student Christopher Stamler titled Residential Radon Gas Exposure and Lung Cancer: A review of the literature and perspective for family physicians.[6] On page 7 it states:

When the individual studies where reviewed separately, 21 of the 22 studies showed no statistical significant relationship between residential radon gas exposure and lung cancer, with some range of variability with risk.

I began to feel someone (or rather, a whole bunch of researchers, doctors, and oncologists) should question the WHO's new recommendation about radon.

Finally, I accessed the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention. In the 2012 study by Zeng-Li Zhang, Jing Sun, Jia-Yi Dong, Hai-Lin Tian, Lian Xue, Li-Qiang Qin, and Jian Tong titled Residential Radon and Lung Cancer Risk: An Updated Meta-analysis of Case-control Studies[7] it states in the abstract:

A number of studies assessing residential radon exposure and lung cancer risk has yielded "inconsistent" results. [By inconsistent, do they mean low risk, an association, or no statistical significant relationship?]

The next sentence states: Therefore, we performed a meta-analysis of relevant case-controlled studies in the PubMed database through July 2011. [Remember, the Fukushima disaster date was March 11th, 2011].

The question I have is this: why would anyone want to rewrite [dare I say alter drastically] statistical evidence to show that what was once considered a non-existent or (at best) a weak correlation is now a 10-fold greater risk to the public?

And radon? A naturally occurring gas - something we can't blame anyone for, right?

If Fukushima radiation (airborne) were to cause lung cancer (and a country wanted to lessen the evidence) it would seem plausible to restate correlations so that one could "blame radon" rather than the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. 

Furthermore, having people rush to test radon in their own homes, send off the results to a lab (a lab they trust will provide them with accurate results) and mitigate any problem would certainly hide evidence that Fukushima radiation was causative of their cancer.

I don't like the optics of all of this and I welcome any and all input from those in the community.

Radon is 10 Times Worse Now?

I'm not sure I'm buying this new statistic

Credit: GrrlScientist on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

No Answers Yet

On July 21st, 2014 I wrote Fukushima's Radiation: Why I Fear for Canadians. Some of you might recall that I wrote to my favourite grocery store and asked them about radiation levels in food that might (or might not) be on their shelves.

Their PR department said: "it is best to contact David Wilkes from the Grocery Division of Retail Council of Canada at dwilkes(at)retailcouncil dot org."

So I wrote David Wilkes on July 22nd, 2014 and I haven't had a response from him (yet).

In my search for answers, I also wrote to world renown environmental activist David Suzuki via the David Suzuki Foundation. A volunteer responded to me, citing a few of Dr. Suzuki's articles. 

I had a problem with this: 

The average Canadian that reads the title of Dr. Suzuki's article Despite Fukushima, scientists say eating West Coast fish is safe[9] will interpret this as "Scientists (many scientists) say eating ALL West Coast fish (from anywhere) is safe." Yet at the end of Dr. Suzuki's article he says: "Fish will stay part of my diet, as long as they're caught locally and sustainably, and will remain so until new research gives me pause to reconsider." [Caught locally? Where? Most Canadians don't have that luxury.]

I also don't agree that with what was printed in Dr. Suzuki's article How Citizen Scientists Can Fill in Information Gaps About Fukushima[10] where it states: "the majority of the cesium-137 will remain in the North Pacific gyre -- a region of ocean that circulates slowly clockwise and has trapped debris in its center to form the 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch' -- and continue to be diluted..."

I've said it before, there is no such thing as diluting radioactive isotopes. "Radioactive isotopes," as Dr. Helen Caldicott explains, "re-concentrate by orders of magnitude in each step of the food chain."

Finding radiation levels in water is not important right now - finding it on our food store shelves is since both the FDA and CFIA stopped looking for radiation in our food two years ago (in 2012).

How Harmful is Radiation to Us?

According to Dr. Helen Caldicott, here are the dangers she spells out at the 3:46 point the YouTube video Fukushima Felonious "Sharing" of Radioactive Waste.[11]

Key points:

  • Children are 20 times more sensitive to the effects of radiation than adults
  • Little girls are twice as sensitive as little boys [to radiation]
  • Fetuses are thousands of times more sensitive to radiation than adults

Up next is an easy-to-follow video (without a dialogue) which explains in diagrams and screen text how 70 - 90% of all radiation enters our bodies through food. The music gets a bit loud, so feel free to mute the video (you won't miss anything).

Notice at the 2:09 point Dr. Richard Besser

mentions how radiation enters the food chain:

Can You Understand Why I'm Concerned?

I'm worried about the next generation - my grandchildren's health and their children. Right now, we need to ensure that whatever goes into our bodies is as free of radiation as possible.

I plan to continue writing these types of articles and to seek out answers. I will post any responses I get from authorities, researchers, doctors, and scientists. Check back for updates and thank you for reading.

August 5th at 10:12 am ET

I received the following email from David Wilkes

Good morning Rose,  apologies for my delay in responding.  I had been on holidays and just catching up with various emails and other requests.

Please give me a call at (416) 467-3767 and I would be pleased to do my best to help you with your questions


Immediately I emailed him back:

Dear David Wilkes,

I really appreciate your quick response stating: "Please give me a call at (416) 467-3767 and I would be pleased to do my best to help you with your questions" however, since I am a writer, I'd much rather have your responses to my questions in written form - so that there is no possibility that I could misunderstand or misinterpret them.
You've already taken the time to write to me, so I await the answers (that you would give me over the phone) via email.
Again, they are:
1) Can you address the concerns that many people in the medical and scientific community have about imported food in Canada which may or may not contain radiation?

2) What is being done (at the retail level) to monitor imported food for radiation in Canada?

2) Since I have access to a Geiger counter, what should I do if I detect high levels of radiation in store-bought food?

I patiently await your responses. 


Rose Webster

Canadian freelance writer