Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mr. Wizard and Dr. Strangelove share a Perrier

Good Evening,

On some days, writing this blog, I feel like I'm writing for Mr. Wizard's world, as presented by Dr. Strangelove or vice versa. At this point, everyone has presumably heard about the radioactive drinking water, declared unfit for babies at "twice the maximum levels". If not, a couple of good articles are the NY Times article on tap water (good factual reporting with consistent explanations for adults vs. infants) and NPR's article on "contaminated milk".  If you have read the latter, let's just say it's a much greater number of milk glasses than it ever took the owl to get to the center of the tootsie pop...

OK, so now the Mr. Wizard Strangelove bit:

The reactor shutdown properly last Friday, the 11th. It is now Wednesday, the 23rd. Post Chernobyl, the brilliant folks in the life sciences field found that Iodine-131, a particularly radioactive version of Iodine, was the primary health issue. People typically have an iodine shortage in their thyroid (no big deal typically), so when this particular version shows up, the thyroid drinks itself full.

I-131 has an 8.2 day half life. The last time any was produced at this plant was over a week ago, so it means that there is 50% less to worry about then when the earthquake hit. If the current level is about 200  becquerel, and 100  becquerel (I keep thinking "baklava") is safe for children (300 is safe for adults), then 8.2 days from now the problem is 100% gone away. Risk level is increased thyroid cancer years in the future, as opposed to radiation poisoning now. (Most of this data comes from when the US was testing A-bombs in the atmosphere and not really thinking about the random particles strewn across creation).
More good news: If you're over 40, this is unlikely to matter at all! Nice to be loved by mother nature....

Theory on where did this come from anyway:
I don't know for sure, but I believe that we are just seeing run-off from the rainstorm a day and a half back, possibly from the release last Tuesday, the 15th. It's been a while since I've studied hydrology, but it makes sense that the northernmost water filtration plant might be seeing some excitement as rain falls and runs downhill.

Will continue to experience shortages in the oh-so-critical bottled water supply, and encourage people to drink beer, wine and unfrozen drinks. Will soon read about "increased levels of radiation in the water supply", which will have zero effects on anyone including the fish.

For us, we think (a) these amounts shouldn't matter and (b) our activated carbon filtration systems will take care of this, but carefully consumed wine and beer this evening just to be safe, while our little one enjoyed more fruit juice than normal.

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