Monthly Archives: June 2014

Bleedin’ (nosed) straw men

Japan Focus never ceases to amaze me with the quality of their articles, with this one on the Oishinbo controversy being a non-stop parade of straw men. The executive summary is that we can’t be sure, so FOOKOOSHIMAR!

The controversy, centered on the issue of the main character suffering nose bleed after a visit to the plant, and another character modeled on the former Futaba Mayor, warning people against living in the prefecture.

Curiously, this most important point is not addressed; are we to take the author’s silence as agreement?

Essentially there are two views. One is “denial of the fact” that many people have experienced nose bleeding after the Fukushima incident, with the assertion that nose bleeding cannot be caused by the radiation emitted from Fukushima Dai-ichi. The other view is that it is reasonable that the nose bleeding observed among the people of Fukushima prefecture and surrounding areas including Tokyo could be caused by radiation, as suggested in the comic.

Just two views? It is reasonable that nosebleeds in Tokyo could be caused by radiation? Of course, they “could” be caused by a wide variety of things, but the point of science is to try to uncover the truth by examining whether observations fit a hypothesis, not spreading doubt for the sake of it.

The fact is that no scientifically definitive proof has been found for the cause-effect relationship in the case of nose bleeding.

Good, so that’s the article finished then?

No serious studies have been conducted on this issue.

Perhaps because there isn’t a serious hypothesis?

The question is then whether the scientific arguments “against” causality are more reasonable than the arguments “for” causality or the reverse.

Nope, it’s whichever is backed by more evidence.

If the former (against) is reasonable, and is very likely based on the best human knowledge available, it would suggest that it is not necessary to worry about the entire issue of radiation effects on living organisms at current levels.

Oh, for goodness sake! A towering giant of a straw man!

They deny categorically the facts depicted in the comic.

(My emphasis) No bias here from the author!

The incident suggests the desperation of the government and the industry to suppress the facts concerning the danger of radiation.

He’s still remaining quite neutral.

However, it is to be recognized that the damages caused by radiation are indeed more serious than rumors such as these.

By whom? Is he saying Fukushima radiation is even worse than nosebleeds?

Unfortunately, precise, accurate and detailed data are non-existent or have been hidden from public scrutiny.

SafeCast.

This indicates that nose bleeding incidence was significantly higher (by 3 to 4 times) in towns close to Fukushima Dai-ichi compared to that in a place far from it. Other symptoms including headache, dizziness, nausea and fatigue were also high among people living in Futaba-machi.

OK, so we have an observation – what scientific reason is there for it? “The radiations did it” is not one. If I were from any town along the Tohoku Pacific coast having had my home destroyed, perhaps some relatives died, and living in a Portacabin, I suspect I would have many of these symptoms. This has been well-documented, with alcohol abuse being a serious problem, as it was in Chernobyl. 

The government is of the opinion that these [thyroid] cancers have nothing to do with radiation from the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident.

The incidence of thyroid anomalies in Fukushima is a concern, and ongoing real science will uncover the reason, I hope. Furthermore, it is not just the government that is of that opinion, many of the doctors involved also believe that it is the Screening Effect they are witnessing.

How low is the radiation level in Fukushima? This question cannot be answered immediately.

Yes it can.

How is Sv defined? Exposure dose of who? How is Sv determined, and how meaningful is the Sv value thus determined?

I think the author is just spewing out questions. All these questions have quite simple answers, but a “Think of the children!” cry attracts more ears than cold scientific fact, sadly.

A number of organizations as well as individuals have measured radiation in various locations.

I thought he just said “precise, accurate and detailed data” was non-existent? I suspect his come-back might be “Not precise enough!”

It shows that more than 40 kBq/m2 has been deposited over the area about 300 km from Fukushima Dai-ichi; this includes Tokyo.

That sounds like a big number (which is probably why he used it), but converting to mSv, it comes to somewhere in the order of 0.5 mSv per year, and most of that decayed or was washed away pretty quickly.

Common sense indicates that “internal” exposure is more serious than “external exposure”

We’re talking science, not common sense.

“NO, it is Not Caused by Radiation” – Mistaken Reasoning

Now we will try to see how reasonable or unreasonable the “NO” answers are.

This is where it gets fun.

nose bleeding can only be induced by damage to platelets produced in bone marrow. Damage to platelets can be brought about only by severe destruction of the bone marrow. Destruction would occur only at a high exposure dose, something like more than 2 Sv. Therefore, the current level of exposure, i.e., less than 20 mSv, would definitely not cause nose bleeding

This argument comes from a K Noguchi, who was published in the Oishinbo manga magazine. I have no idea who he is.

Besides, this argument entirely ignores a possibility that a minute radioactive particle may get into the nose through breathing and stick to the surface of the capillary vessel in the nose. The radioactive particle emits a, b or g rays (depending on the radioactive isotopes contained therein) in the surroundings and may destroy the membrane of the blood vessel. In this situation, a and b as well as g can cause damage to the tissue. How large this damaging effect is on the capillary membrane is yet to be studied, but it is likely possible9. However, to prove it scientifically may not be easy.

I have no idea about the validity of this argument, but it seems wonky to me. Looking at the reference, the argument is proposed by a Ochiai, E., none other than the author of this article.

Another “NO” answer depends on the notion that the damage causing nose bleeding is due to active oxygen produced as a result of radiation from the radioactive particle stuck to the surface of the capillary […] The argument includes certain quantitative calculations which themselves may be reasonable, though the assumptions are wrong.

They can be found on this random blog.

Anyway, the basis for the argument of denial is flawed, and hence its conclusion that the current low level would not cause nose bleeding is questionable.

Apparently the rebutter ignored hydroxyl free radical, thus s/he is wrong. However, the nasal demons theory is accepted as fact, but if it were true, wouldn’t there also be lots of cases of lung damage? Is there any evidence of this?

“Stress caused by fear of radiation effect rather than radiation itself is the cause.” This idea was first expressed by the Soviet government right after the Chernobyl incident.

It’s all a communist plot!

In order to absolve themselves of responsibility for the consequences of the disaster, particularly the ill health effects on people, they invented this excuse.

Err, nope, there’s studies from both Chernobyl and Fukushima on this.

This opinion is difficult to debunk but also difficult to prove. To prove it scientifically it would be necessary to start with defining “stress, what kind of stress, its causes, its seriousnes etc” and then see how it affects people’s health, and determine causality.

Unlike Mr Ochiai’s radical nasal demons, which are a scientific fact.

Yet, the so-called authorities are making many baseless arguments

Now, now, your biases are showing just a little too much!

“Yes, it could be Caused by Radiation” – some Scientific Reasoning

The argument for the causal relationship between nose bleeding and low-level radiation is based on a reasonable assumption that minute floating radioactive particles might enter a nose and stick on the surface of the capillaries. […] There is again not enough data to verify this hypothesis.

…but let us assume it is true. Scientific Reasoning indeed!

It has been argued, however, that the trade deficit has increased because Japan has to import more petroleum and natural gas, as a result of shutdown of nuclear powers. Yet the main reason for the trade deficit is not increased imports of energy sources, but lowering the exchange rate of Japanese “yen”. 

The reference for this is an anti-nuclear blog.

Moreover, nuclear power reactors are inefficient in using nuclear energy. They convert only about one third of the energy produced by the reactor into electricity, and the remaining two thirds of heat is released into the environment.

As does fossil fuels. Here the 10,000 figure represents about 30-40% efficiency, and the lower the more efficient. Furthermore, steam turbines, due to Carnot’s Efficiency Law, can never be more than 40% efficient!

More scientific errors from the Japan Times

In an article entitled “Food not checked for radiation poses risk in Fukushima: study“, we once again see a couple of errors in the Japan Times’ reporting.

Researchers followed nine people, who were the only ones out of 30,622 examinees from the city to have internal cesium-137 levels greater than 50 becquerels per kilogram in screenings between March 11, 2012, and March 10, 2013. That’s roughly equal to 0.1 to 0.2 millisieverts per year.

That’s pretty impressively reassuring figures – only 0.03% of the tested population coming up “hot”!

Cesium-137 levels among the nine participants ranged from 3,230 to 15,918 becquerels per body, which corresponds to between 0.07 to 0.53 millisieverts per year

I’m not quite sure why 50 becquerels per kilogram was 0.1 to 0.2 millisievers per year in the first quote, but now 0.07 in the second. Furthermore, the report says the figures were calculated as 0.14 to 0.97 mSv/year, although that figure combined both Cs-134 and Cs-137.

Finally, the introduction to the report itself says:

Accordingly, serious health threats have emerged in radiation-contaminated areas after nuclear accidents such as the Chernobyl accident [2], and similarly, cumulative radiation exposure is currently a serious public health concern in Fukushima [3].

Looking at the two references here, both are not, as the casual reader might suspect, related to contamination, but instead appear to focus on the mental health of people from the worry about radiation. They seem to be odd references to me.

Ugg, sore head

First, I wrote an article about Gregory Clark’s denial of the Nanking Tiananmen Square Massacre – it was all a British plot, and the protesters started it, and it wasn’t in Tiananmen Square anyway, but then my browser crashed and the article disappeared.

Next, Just Be Cause is out, but I’m baffled. Is 者 really an honorific? Why does only one gloss of 移民 have a (sensitive) tag in Jim Breen’s dictionary? This PDF says there were about 100,000 people on trainee visas in 2008. Dr Arudou states that there are “dozens of deaths per year” amongst trainees, but this table gives, if we assume the trainees are 50:50 male and female in their twenties, an annual death rate of 0.5 in 1,000, or about four dozen people. One could argue about them having harsher working conditions so an increased death rate versus having less opportunity to get in accidents due to drinking and/or driving, but I think we’d remain in the same order of magnitude for these figures.