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Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Is 100 CPM somehow a "normal background?"

In addition to the more spectacular attacks against our health from reckless extraction and power production there is also the reckless and wasteful way that we've mined Uranium and similar toxic substances. All over the world, including in the USA and Canada there are these toxic sites and contaminated neighbors. People are trying to get something about this done and Margaret Flowers of Global Research reported on this on April 23rd as "America's Secret Fukushima". Please read this article. The people hurt by uranium mines are hurt badly and they need our help as much as the folks impacted by Fukushima, or Chernobyl:

But I worry that this article is an example of information control as influence on the environmental movement. The article is about a good thing -- efforts to assist folks damaged by reckless and wasteful mining of radium, uranium, thorium and other fossil deposits for use in bomb making or power generation. The article notes:

"In Riley Pass, one of the largest AUMs in South Dakota, the deadly effect of the mine was apparent. As the group approached the bluff, the tree line ended abruptly at the edge of the mine. At Ludlow, the group measured radioactivity with a Geiger counter at an elementary school playground that was 44 microrems/hour. This is the equivalent of more than 150 Counts Per Minute (CPM), over the 100 CPM threshold, which means it cannot be attributed to background radiation. During the tour, people from every community spoke of health problems related to uranium exposure and their high level of concern over the lack of information about the AUMs and action to remediate them."

But the article also reflects years of efforts at controlling information. We (possibly unconsciously) pass on the claim that counts of 100cpm or less are somehow "normal" and can be attributed to "normal background" when we are trying to argue with the nuclear industry. Indeed it turns out that when one gets a radon test. The threshold for doing something about radon radioactivity is "4pCi/L" which translates to counts per minute of about 100 CPM, so we are living under this threshold for most things we do. But it is disturbing as the normal level of radon in a home or in the air is .4pCi/L so we are talking a threshold some 10x what ought to be safe as a start.

Well less than 100 cpm is not normal even if it is gradually becoming the "new normal". Even low level internal exposures to radioactive isotopes increase possible cancer epidemiology.

The National Cancer Institute notes:

Radon is a radioactive gas released from the normal decay of the elements uranium, thorium, and radium in rocks and soil.
Radioactive particles from radon can damage cells that line the lungs and lead to lung cancer.
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and is associated with 15,000 to 22,000 lung cancer deaths each year.
Testing is the only way to know if your home has elevated radon levels. Health authorities recommend radon testing and encourage corrective action when necessary.

So there are no safe levels of radiation exposure. Even if it comes from radon escaping natural deposits deep in the earth. We have to take exposure seriously. It's not the end of the world (hopefully) but it's not something trivial either.

Those exposed to radium, uranium, thorium and decay products suffer terrible health problems even with radiation levels nominally much lower than 100 cpm.

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