How much was that again?

It seems like every news program out there has been breaking out the animations, diagrams and charts to try and explain what is going on in Japan with the nuclear reactors. One large TV and radio network (to remain unnamed) has pegged this disaster as “the end of the world as we know it“. Every story is about the potential for total meltdown of every reactor at the impacted site, and a blowing cloud of radiation hitting the west coast of the United States. Another major network (also to remain unnamed) seems to be focusing more on the human toll of the tsunami (the earthquake did not kill all of these people, it was the tsunami that followed that did all of the damage to property and people). They are sprinkling in analysis and some technical details, but have devoted far more airtime to the human toll of this disaster. I’ve been watching/listening to both networks since last Thursday, but I like to listen to the later more.

In all that I’ve seen on TV since the Earthquake, I’ve not seen anyone boil it down to something that anyone can understand. I don’t know about you, but when talking complex scientific equations and measurements I’ve never encountered or understood, I always like an analogy to put it all in perspective. What does it really mean in terms that I can understand? Well, several sites on the Internet have posted a very easy to understand equivalents equation that everyone can understand (dare I say, even a monkey). They’ve equated radiation exposure to bananas.

Banana Dose Equivalents of Radiation. (here’s the Wikipedia page for BED)

I never knew that bananas were radioactive!?! I love bananas, I really love bananas. So I eagerly read through several websites and Wikipedia to understand this banana equivalent dose equation. I picked the above link out of all the others because they have an update with the radiation spike yesterday equated to bananas (30 banana’s a day). Depending on when you are looking at the past week, radiation at the plant in Japan has ranged from 1 or 2 bananas per day all the way up to a full year’s worth of bananas (365) in a single day. This was most likely yesterday when the crews at the plant were briefly evacuated.

Here’s another chart from a site trying to put it all in perspective that quantifies some standard annual exposures:

Bottom line is the average US citizen is exposed to 360 millirem’s per year in normal everyday life. So if you are a banana fan like me, 3.6 millirems of that exposure are from that daily banana. While listening to Anderson Cooper tonight on my way home from work, they were talking about their radiation badges that they are wearing while in the disaster zone in Japan. I believe they said that their 24 hour exposures were .001 millirems for Anderson and .003 millirems for the other reporter.

And on a slightly different topic related to my post a few nights ago on gouging consumers, we have the sudden rush on iodide pills and Geiger counters (related article, Potassium iodide and Geiger counter sales spike after Japan disaster (and virtually any other source of iodide on the market, like kelp pills)). Most likely because of the media, there is a frenzy of buying taking place on the Internet of iodide (even the liquid form). The Economist had a post today on “Herd Behaviour: Preparing for the worst” as did Google.” It is so sad to see the cost of a packet of 14 pills that normally sell for $10 running up to $540 on the Internet. Even worse, many companies are now out of stock with new supplies not coming available for several week. They are really only recommended for those living close to an accident like the one in Japan. I sure hope that the Japanese government has a stockpile of these pills. Wouldn’t it be tragic if they were in urgent need of these pills for their residents affected by the disaster, and all of the supplies have been sold out to people across the globe that will likely never have a real need for the pills? And what of people who take these out of panic and end up getting side effects or allergic reactions (related article, Potasium Iodide can be dangerous if taken incorrectly)?

And the last phenomenon I will mention tonight is the tsunami of scams involving donations to Japan. Many organizations are now warning of Internet based scams using donations to Japan as their bait to steal your money and your identity (and credit card numbers). Security Week posted an article on this trend soon after the earthquake warning people of the coming wave of scams coming to a screen near you. This article states that the first scams on FaceBook related to the Japan earthquake and tsunami appeared minutes after the earthquake. If you are going to make a donation to aid the Japanese at least pick a reputable organization like the RedCross.


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