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Radiation in beef and on ground? 2011/7/15 04:20

I've been in Japan for a month and a half now; while I have been in Osaka for the past 2 weeks, the first few weeks were spent in Yokohama. I will be leaving in 2 weeks from now, after a total of 2 months.

I'm concerned about a couple of things. The first is the radiated beef issue. I've been unable to find much useful information on the subject as I can't read very many kanji and thus must rely on an internet translator... Anyway, since the beef was distributed (I think) to both of the areas I've been living, I'm a little nervous. I've had 6 hamburgers since arriving in Japan. I'm wondering the following:

1) Did any reports say exactly where the meat was distributed to (the restaurant names, or if it was even distributed to restaurants, etc.)? I know there have been problems tracking the beef down, but is there any information about, for instance, if the beef was exclusively sold to super markets or anything like that?

2) What are the health implications of eating the meat? One translated article said something like, ''eating one portion will probably not have too adverse of health implications''.... What the heck does that mean.... Does that mean possible cancer or what? I know I should probably ''calm down,'' but given the little information I have here, it is hard to do so.

I'm 21 years old, female, and not pregnant, by the way. Any information about what I should do or what to expect ''in case I ate the beef'' would be great.

The next thing I'm stressing about is sort of a long story. I'll try to make it quick, though. Near the end of June, I was at Asakusa waiting for the Himiko water bus to Odaiba when an American man (a stranger) approached me for small talk. He was perhaps in his 50's and told me he was in Japan on scientific business and that he'd even written an article for the Japan Times on the radiation/nuclear reactor situation (namely his two cents on how to continue cleaning up after the accident). I think he may have been telling the truth about this because he gave me his full name and told me the name of his article (both of which I've forgotten since he scared me a bit as I'm about to get to).

Anyway, he mentioned something about how when you place the radiation/geiger reader to the ground, the reading is actually 500 times higher than normal (or at least that much higher from what it reads not on the ground), but that the Japanese government has been ''very hush hush'' about this. I immediately thought he was a conspiracy theorist lunatic and went on with my day after ending the conversation quickly.

But, now I'm kind of having nightmares about what he said. What did he mean by that? Is the reading normally higher on the ground? Was he probably just making that up because he was crazy or something? I hate that he told me that.

Sorry for all the of the paranoid questions. I have been running into strange people, for sure. The beef thing is what's worrying me most.

Thank you, everybody!
by GoLizzy  

beef etc 2011/7/15 12:56
I follow a Facebook page where the guy takes ground readings with different instruments every few days at different places around Tokyo, and he always finds radiation levels to be "safe" or "acceptable".

There are loads of independent groups taking their own readings, so basically no way for the government to hush anything up. I'm no expert of course, but I also wonder if it's scientifically possible for readings 2 metres above the ground to be 500x higher than those on the ground, that sounds really odd.

Most hamburger chains use beef from Australia so the chances of you having eaten contaminated beef are tiny. Even if you have, there are apparently only health risks if you ate that beef every day for a long period of time. "No adverse effects on health" means that it won't give you cancer, since cancer would definitely be an adverse effect on your health!

I don't think you have too much to worry about :-)
by Sira (guest) rate this post as useful

. 2011/7/15 14:33
Hi GoLizzy,

First of all, we've been living in Yokohama and my teenager has had more than 6 hamburgers worth of some sort of unidentified beef since 3.11.

As far as I know, no reports say exactly what shops or restaurants the beef in issue was distributed to.

And yes, what I always hear/read is the likes of "eating one portion will probably not have too adverse of health implications." Of course, I would yell to myself, "What about two then?"

But all in all, since 3.11 we've all been learning that the problem with contaminated food happens mainly when it piles up on you. Specialists do say that it would be risky to "keep eating" contaminated food for a long period of time, but that it most likely will not affect you just because you accidentally ate it a few times.

Whatever, it's no use looking back. On the other hand, specialists keep saying that balanced meals will help you keep yourself healthy, and that makes sense to me. For example, I heard that some of the radioactive substance is similar to nutritious substances such as kalium or calcium. That means, the specialists say, that if you are taking enough natural kalium/calcium, your body won't try to absorb the radioactive substance instead. These are mere examples. Either way, natural nutrition is supposed to build a strong body that can fight against any kind of risks, not just radiation.

The other thing is stress. By reading books on mental stress, I feel that mental stress can make you as unhealthy as radiation. So by trying not to worry, you can maintain a body that can fight against any disease that radiation may cause.

Now, if you need to find that man's article, all you have to do is to go to a library and look for archives on the Japan Times. But I think you did right by refusing to do so then. Some people try to give you scary information thinking it's for the best. Others say it's wrong to shut your ears against that kind of information.

But I don't think so. There is a time when a person is ready to hear information and there is a time when the person is not. One has the responsibitily to chose the right time for yourself.

I can say one thing, though. The government is not at all "hush hush" about the fact that the radiation level on the ground is much higher than that in the air. However, I'm not sure where the "500 times" is coming from, but I'll get to that later.

Anyway, Japan has been monitoring radiation in the air for years, and this is mainly due to the Chernobyl crisis as well as our domestic nuclear power plants. To watch out for these things, it was important to monitor the air. However, the Fukushima plant accident had affected our ground, and the ground had not been officially monitored until this new crisis.

So the government has indeed started to encourage the monitoring of the ground or the areas close to it, and they have been reporting the measurements on their official websites.

For example, click 全国大学等の協力による空間放射線量測定結果 on the following Ministry's site.

According to this, for example, our city of Yokohama shows 0.08μSv/h today at 1.0 meter above ground, while it is 0.027μSv/h at 23 meters above ground on the same day.

But hmm, 500 times? I still don't get it. For example, before 3.11 Yokohama was always like 0.023μSv/h. And 0.02 x 500 is 10, so that's as high as the plant itself. Even the critical Namie-cho, Fukushima-ken is 8.8 right now. I did a quick Google search on 地浮フ放射煤@500倍 (meaning "radiation on ground surface 500 times") and even the rumors only gave me information on things like "they say that the radiation leak from Fukushima's accident seems to be 500 times the leak from the A Bomb of Hiroshima."

Besides, TV has been showing ordinary people walking around on their own with measuring tools in their hands, and even those don't show anything even close to 500 times.

But the reading is, of course, higher on the ground, because due to the explosion in mid March (15th, was it?) the radioactive substances had piled on the ground a bit. That is why schools in Fukushima have shoveled out the surface soil of their schoolgrounds, and that is why contamination in Kanagawa was found from new tea leaves after all these weeks.

But generally speaking, most people aren't worried about it unless you're literally licking the ground (which some toddlers indeed do, so that's something to be concerned about). Reasonable adults can wash your vegetables, wash your hands, and you can eat/breath anything in Yokohama area or further. You can also see that most of the ground is still safe, as no other crop has been reported contaminated in Kanagawa.

I regret that I'm too busy today to post any more sources, but you can refer to other threads on this forum for more details. You can also ask again if there is anything still unclear to you. I'll try to come back.

By the way, try to talk to your friends. I mean, not by text but by voice. This may decrease your stress.
by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

burgers 2011/7/15 17:18
I'd probably be more concerned about the poor nutritional value of the hamburgers rather than any slight possibility of eating radition-affected beef.........
by mooooo! (guest) rate this post as useful

Don't worry 2011/7/16 07:40
The most dangerous isotopes coming from the crippled nuclear plant are iodine radioactive isotopes and radioactive isotopes of cesium. Radioactive iodine is only found at the close proximity of Fukushima Daiichi, since its half life is of only 8 days and most of it now has decayed. The measures of radioactivity are done 1 meter above ground since the ground itself is naturally radioactive. That is standard procedure around the world. For radioactive contamination in soil is necessary to do a different sampling and test. I suggest you to read closely the IAEA report on Fukushima's incident, the Japan Atomic industrial Forum web page, and TEPCO's press releases and reports about radiation in Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushima Daini. The USA's DOE and Japanese government did a radiation survey over western Fukushima in late April, and the most contaminated region by the radioactive plume is from the nuclear plant up to 45 Km northwest, but even in most of the evacuation zone the radiation levels are relatively safe.
by Kyusaku Natsume2 (guest) rate this post as useful

Your Initial Instinct was Correct... 2011/8/2 10:35
That guy was a nut.

Enjoy yourself - there is nothing to be worried about. I am a Chemical Engineer, meaning I know only enough about radio-isotopes to be dangerous...but still far more than 99.9% of the people you would meet on the street (and have probably forgotten more than your Asakusa idiot ever knew.) I just took my 16 year-old daughter to Yokohama and Tokyo for ten days and never thought twice about it. I would have taken her for two months if I could afford it. ;^)

Oh...and yes we ate burgers. I highly recommend Teddy's Original Burgers in Omotesando!
by lex luther rate this post as useful

sssss 2011/8/2 18:44
One instance of infected beef was found in Bento boxes served on a Shinkansen. You should be fine, but this site has everything you need to know, it's no bullshit reporting of what's happening in Japan at the moment, I suggest you read it, there are a lot of articles in there, but they're very relevant to your concerns.


Hope that helps.
by Concerned (guest) rate this post as useful

no worry 2011/8/3 18:20
Probability eat such beef is more difficult than become a millionaire Casino.
And now even slightly suspect cattle cannot be shipped.

No worries!

from Japanese living in Sendai
by tone (guest) rate this post as useful

... 2011/8/3 19:00
... and even if you were to win the lottery and you would have eaten the beef, you would have to win the lottery again everyday for more than a year in order for the contaminated beef to maybe cause a slight risk increase for cancer from radiation. But if you were to eat that much beef, your health would likely be damaged much earlier from different reasons than radiation.
by Uji rate this post as useful

Look at your rear 2011/8/5 02:32
1. Radiation adds up over time.
Compare the skin on your tush vs your face or arms.
Softer? Fewer spots?

The energy from radiation, when it hits your body, gets converted to heat, while doing other things like dna breakdown.

Lower level stuff won't be noticed for years, higher level stuff will have hair falling out like Hiroshima or Chernobyl.

2. Effects on kids.
Damage to your dna, esp. Eggs, is passed on. Many chemical pesticides used earlier have resulted in mothers delivering malformed babies. Same in Chernobyl.

3. What level of radiation you are exposed to that will cause what level of damage is not clear and not exact.
Some people get one small exposure and it leads to cancer years later. Other, no change.


Thus, like sun exposure and aging skin later, it is always best to minimize your exposure now, so you reduce the problems that may appear later.

An educated person knows it's dangerous. A smart person avoid it.
by I'd worry (guest) rate this post as useful

... 2011/8/5 22:36
Radiation adds up over time.

What do you mean with "adds up"? The body can handle constant amounts of radiation without problems. And nothing is adding up.

There is also a common misconception that the radioactive cesium remains in the human body for decades because its halflife is 30 years. The fact is that the human body discharges the cesium within weeks.

And even eating one kilogram of the most contaminated piece of meat found so far (which by the way did not make it onto the market) causes less radiation to the human body than a single intercontinental flight.

A responsible person will certainly try to avoid it (the contaminated meat more than the intercontinental flight), but will also try to put things into perspective and avoid unnecessary panic.
by Uji rate this post as useful

. 2011/8/5 23:52
Uji wrote;
What do you mean with "adds up"? The body can handle constant amounts of radiation without problems. And nothing is adding up.

I don't know if "adds up" is the correct English to express it, but according to official announcements, we are to be careful not to take in excess amount of radiation per year. So while it's quite alright to accidentally eat a little bit of contaminated food, it's not alright to keep eating them for a long period of time, and we should also keep in mind the contamination in the air or other enviromental means. I think that that was what the other poster was trying to say. Again, of course, short term visits or life in the south requires little to worry about.

There is also a common misconception that the radioactive cesium remains in the human body for decades because its halflife is 30 years. The fact is that the human body discharges the cesium within weeks.

That is a fact that we should keep in mind, but we all know that the chances of being affected by internal radiation exposure in that process is not zero. And for example in Fukushima, there are indeed many ordinary residents who had test results proving they had internal radiation exposure, although most of them are told they need not worry about it. Again, of course, I'd like to point out that I can't recall seeing any news about people in, say, Tokyo with test results showing they had internal exposure.

And even eating one kilogram of the most contaminated piece of meat found so far (which by the way did not make it onto the market)...

Contaminated meat (beef) did make it to many supermarkets. Some names are now open and reported all over major media. You can easily find sources by Googling 汚染牛 スーパー. But again, I'd like to point out that the government says that it wouldn't affect your health even if you had accidentally eaten them.

Of course, I agree that it's not wise to panic, and I think that worrying will only lead you to excess stress that may cause illness, but denying all those facts that have been openly informed to us through major media and official annoucements, I have to say, is over the top. Most of those residing in Japan, indeed are being and should be careful, and I think that was what the other poster was merely trying to point out.
by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

... 2011/8/6 00:26
Contaminated meat (beef) did make it to many supermarkets.

Of course I am not denying that. I tried to say that the particular piece of meat (with the so far highest detected contamination) did not make it into the markets. I should have dropped the remark in the parentheses. It is confusing.
by Uji rate this post as useful

Thanks 2011/8/6 01:01
Uji, I see what you were trying to say.
by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

no need to worry 2011/8/8 07:56
you're probably fine and no need to worry. that said, i wouldn't blindly trust what the gov't posts as safe either. maybe as a guideline but a bit of cynicism doesn't hurt.

check out this link: http://tinyurl.com/3o9jyo5

its about the grandma who discovered high radiation levels near her home even though the gov't said it was safe. And former gov't officials back her findings.
by hopuchan rate this post as useful

Interesting article... 2011/8/10 01:58
Here's a link to article about how the government has been hiding radiation info from people. That's scarier than possible radiated meat in my opinion. How to trust...? http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/09/world/asia/09japan.html
by Guest (guest) rate this post as useful

buy a meter 2011/8/10 07:00
If it’s that big of a concern just buy a meter. But you need to find out what normal back ground for the area you are in was first so you will have something to compare to. You can find a unit conversion calculator online if you really want to get into it.
by lo lo (guest) rate this post as useful

. 2011/8/10 13:04
Meters are expensive, scares and the ones that are accurate are difficult to handle.
by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

Hogwash 2011/8/12 03:05
Simply follow the money. Historically, conspiracy-emotional theorists have beaten a lucrative path by sweeping-up vulnerable victims. You just have to trust your own research, logically, as opposed to listening to a Wacko with a cheap meeter.
by Mac (guest) rate this post as useful

Radioactive materials accumulate... 2011/8/13 09:06
Radiation is something everyone gets naturally from the sky and ground everyday. This is a 'constant' source of radiation that our bodies are exposed to.

Whether this radiation leads to some cancers is unknown, but generally believed to be 'safe' and not something to worry about, esp. since there's nothing one can reasonably do to stop exposure from such natural sources.


Radiation from radioactive particles from Fukushima is something that is not 'natural'. It is man-made, and a source that potentially many times more potent than a 'natural' radiation source found in everyday lives.

When these particles enter the body, the accumulate. You take in xx grams of radioactive particles today, tomorrow, you take in yy grams, and so forth - it all accumulates and adds up.

Naturally, some particles exit the body later through the other end, but some, in the lungs especially, never entirely leave. (One reason smokers have such problems with lung cancer.) Some also decay and eventually become harmless over time (days, months, years depending on the radioactive particle).

The time during which you're exposed to the radiation, whether externally or internally does affect your cells. Whether that is enough to cause cancer and such is still not entirely predicable or clear at low does levels.

Other metals which cause problems and rarely exit the body entirely include asbestos, mercury, and lead. All people exposed to high levels of such and radiation typically have medical problems that require treatment in the future.

Like any unknown, avoid if possible, and let those who want to try their luck take your place in line.
by =) (guest) rate this post as useful

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