Walking a Fine Line: U.S. Authorities Try to Keep Public Calm and Address Health Risks


Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place. How can the government convince the American public that there are no health risks – zip, nada, zero – tied to radiation from Japan while simultaneously monitoring the food supply and issuing warnings not to drink rainwater? That’s an awfully tough line to walk – certainly difficult to walk convincingly.

Radiation has been detected in more than a dozen states, and some, like Virginia, are officially warning people not to drink rainwater (although officials are saying it’s okay for pets). One big concern is people in rural areas collecting rainwater in cisterns for drinking, cooking, bathing, etc. Many states are moving up scheduled tests on vegetables, in an attempt to head off any potential exposure. Officials credit these preventive measures to an “abundance of caution,” but the situation at least shows state and local officials are paying attention to the health risks that undeniably exist here in the United States.

The risk from contaminated food and rainwater is very different from the risk posed by “background” radiation, which is often used as a way to downplay health effects. The big risk here is not external exposure but internal exposure, from consuming the radiation via food or water, where it can accumulate. Once inside the human body, there’s a whole new level of risk that far exceeds things like x-rays and flying in airplanes. You can see the growing concern.

I would add that we don’t really know how much radiation is coming from Japan from day to day. It’s doubtful that the officials there even know, and if they do, we can be sure they’ll be slow to admit to the actual levels. It’s a bad situation, and amid the “don’t worry” messages from our public officials, we have to consider this as a bottom line: Americans today are being warned not to drink rainwater because of possible radiation contamination.

Here’s a story from NBC out of Washington: http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/118773249.html

© Smith Stag, LLC 2011 – All Rights Reserved

1 comment

  • Officials find it hard to issue cautions because they do not know; the expenditures on public safety have never been on a level with the expenditures of industries which may imperil that safety.

    The science available for remediation for effects of industry have never as cutting-edge as the science originally utilized for profit; the Fukushima reactors relied on firetrucks pumping sea water to remedy the situation.

    What is the long-term health risk of the USA’s ignoring the problem of nuclear waste? This situation is a paradigm: no one will spend the money nor force industry to spend it, and the science available to remedy any disasters down the road will be fairly primitive.

Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

Follow Us

© Stuart H Smith, LLC
Share This