Berkeley Residents Panicking Over Almost Non-Existent Radiation

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The Daily has an article (not that I can read the whole thing in my iPad-less state!) about irritating Berkeley, Calif. residents being irrationally afraid of radiation from the nuclear crisis in Japan. They are flocking to the area's health food vitamin apothecary-places to buy potassium iodide, which protects against thyroid cancer resulting from exposure to radioactive iodine. This, despite the fact that no elevated radiation levels have been detected in California.

People don't trust the government in Berkeley, though, so potassium iodide and grim apocalyptic pronouncements it is! And impromptu evacuations: The Daily talked to an apothecary owner whose first customer that day had already loaded up the car and was ready to get his family the hell out of the pure, as of yet un-radiated air of Berkeley.

They also talked to a lady who doesn't seem to actually quite grasp what's going on:

"The EPA is failing us on air quality standards," Casby said. "My understanding is that prostate cancer is possibly caused by long-term exposure to low levels of radiation. We need to get away from nuclear power, and try other sources of energy."

I think she might actually mean thyroid cancer, which is one of the most common cancers linked to radiation exposure. Potassium iodide can help to prevent this, but is in fact sort of useless for adults; the adult thyroid gland is not very sensitive to the carcinogenic effects of radiation. It's children that are truly the concern vis-a-vis the thyroid gland and radiation exposure; Scientific American talked to a scientist who said that after Chernobyl, "Something on the order of 6,000 extra cases of thyroid cancer occurred among the children that had been exposed to increased radioactive iodine." (Note: potassium iodide will do nothing to prevent other types of cancer besides thyroid.)

Yes, it's a real risk if radiation levels are high. But that was Chernobyl, and this is the west coast of the United States, where the level of radiation has been measured and is "far too low to cause any harm to humans." The real concern is what's happening in Japan itself, hippies. Due diligence and safety are smart. Paranoia is not.

[rgray@villagevoice.com] [@_rosiegray]


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12 comments
Lewis
Lewis

You're a fool, Rosie.

Marc
Marc

Is this stupidity the new tone of the Village Voice? Is Rosie Gray a pseudonym for Sarah Palin?

DrStrangelov
DrStrangelov

I grew up near Berkeley. They claim they are a nuclear free zone, but exempt medical x rays, CT scans, isotope imaging, and other ways nuclear technology benefits. The University of California boasts a world class nuclear engineering and accelerator program.

george
george

I wouldn't have a problem with Berktonians being leery of radiation from Japan, if they weren't ignoring the real more present dangers. There is an ironworks in Berkeley, spewing heavy metals into the air and has been for years. In nearby towns, when it rains, low flying planes get re-routed over house tops, and Berktonians love their wood fires, both of which release tiny particulates that lodge in the lungs and DO cause serious, verifiable health risks. Why isn't anyone concerned about these issues?

Becky O'Malley
Becky O'Malley

"The Daily"? What's that? Possibly you mean the student newspaper, the Daily Californian? I can assure you that this article didn't appear in the non-student Berkeley Daily Planet, of which I'm editor. People in Kansas are also buying up and hoarding KI, which they shouldn't be doing because the kids in Japan might actually need it, but stupidity is not unique to Berkeley.

Nick Betz
Nick Betz

Great, the tool they pass off as the editor calling people who are preparing stupid? If the country does get high levels of Iodine-131 which is likely because the jet stream consists of wind speed between 100-150mph, the particles are light and have a half-life of 8 days and the jet stream only takes 6 to get from Japan to the West Coast. You do the math, Not being prepared is stupid, being prepared is simply prudent. Potassium-Iodine is cheap and stores forever! Even if we don't end up needing it now, we may in the near future, the US is littered with the same reactors that are melting down currently in Japan and ours too are built in earthquake prone areas, you never know...

Ask How
Ask How

i could name numerous accounts of the health and goverment misleading the public, to be leary and cautious of what is being fed to the media is smart...we will only begin to hear from reporters like yourself a year or two later how the misjudged, and a new scandle will unfold. if reports could actually report on more factual findings than force fed articles maybe then you would see the public trusting what you have to say.

Sdsaulka
Sdsaulka

Typical liberal candy asses.

Concerned
Concerned

we are in redding and we packed up iosat in hand gun in the other lol

marky mark
marky mark

The government has detected an increase in radiation in Sacramento. You might want to get your facts straight...

"This, despite the fact that no elevated radiation levels have been detected in California. "

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