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Japan Medicine Science

How Japanese Scientists Are Monitoring Fukushima Babies For Radiation Exposure 95

Posted by samzenpus
from the won't-somebody-please-scan-the-children dept.
KentuckyFC writes "Parents in the Fukushima region of Japan are intensely worried that their children may be consuming food and water contaminated with radiation. But whole body scanners used to monitor the internal radiation levels of adults don't work for children who cannot stand up inside them. What's more, the machines are not sensitive enough to detect problematic radiation levels in children. That's because children metabolize substances faster than adults and have a lower mass to start with, so the levels of radiation in their bodies tend to be lower. For example, if each adult ingests 3 Becquerels of cesium-137 every day, the internal levels would reach an equilibrium of about 400 Bq/adult body. But a similar intake for a 1-year old child would result in an equilibrium level of about 60 Bq/body, well below the 250 Bq/body sensitivity of adult scanners. Now a team of engineers has built a whole body scanner that is sensitive enough for the job and that children can play inside for the 4 minutes necessary to scan them. And they say the results of the first 100 scans of Fukushima children (average age 4.2 years) are reassuring--none show any evidence of cesium-137. So far."
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How Japanese Scientists Are Monitoring Fukushima Babies For Radiation Exposure

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  • Depends... how "young" are these "babies" of which you speak? I've seen some videos involving school uniforms...

  • Exposure .... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 03, 2014 @08:59AM (#46387091)

    That is because the radiation levels around the area of Fukisima are so low that no-one in the general population are likely to have any exposure

    If one of them has an x-ray then they will get a radiation dose much much higher than any of these figures

    This has been blown up out of all proportion to the actual likelyhood of anyone getting exposed

    • Re:Exposure .... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Dan541 (1032000) on Monday March 03, 2014 @09:03AM (#46387101) Homepage

      The anti-nuclear crowd like to terrorise people with irrational fear.

      • Re:Exposure .... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Pumpkin Tuna (1033058) on Monday March 03, 2014 @09:19AM (#46387169)

        This looks more like a way to actually monitor the real results. If the kids are fine it will go a long way towards dismissing that irrational fear. If they aren't then the fear wasn't that irrational.

        • Your optimism is a triumph, it really is.
          • Re:Exposure .... (Score:4, Interesting)

            by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Monday March 03, 2014 @10:39AM (#46387677)

            Your optimism is a triumph, it really is.

            People fear what they do not know or understand. Hard information, like this test provides, is a good antidote.

            • by kqs (1038910)

              So how do you explain the anti-vaxxers or the AGW-deniers?

              Sadly, I assert that anyone who fears the radiation in Japan has already demonstrated that hard information is unimportant to them.

        • I don't consider it irrational to fear something you can not smell, feel, see. Something you can not protect yourself from (you have to 'trust' the label on the food, e.g.) or something you can not heal from if you actually 'catch' it.
          Considering that we are talking about Japan, which had a few 100 thousand post bombing nuclear death (people who died from radiation poisoning - or how ever you want to call it - from the remnants of the two WWII bombs till into the early 1980s)
          The only 'positive' thing is tha

          • Japan, which had a few 100 thousand post bombing nuclear death (people who died from radiation poisoning - or how ever you want to call it - from the remnants of the two WWII bombs till into the early 1980s)

            Considering that there were fewer than 250,000 deaths as a result of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, mostly from the big explosions, it's unlikely they managed hundreds of thousands of deaths from radiation.

            Note, by the by, that radiation from the nuclear blast is NOT the same as radioactive partic

            • The hospital bills contradict you.
              The blast(s) happend instantly and killed both roughly 100,000.
              Already a week later noth bombs had killed an anditional 100,000 each. That means a week later we are already far beyond your proposed 250,000.
              Over the following 40 years roughly the same amount of people (another 400,000) died to late bomb effects.
              Cam all be easily googled, and unlike your country I learned that in school during the 1970s-1980s ... perhaps my country and Japan both are considered losers of the

              • by khallow (566160)

                The blast(s) happend instantly and killed both roughly 100,000. Already a week later noth bombs had killed an anditional 100,000 each. That means a week later we are already far beyond your proposed 250,000.

                Only if that actually happened. It's amazing how many of these things never happened. I think what happened here is that someone used a really bad statistical method to generate a spurious and egregious overestimate of deaths from the two atomic bombs. And then a certain gullible Slashdotter sucked that up, hook, line, and sinker.

                • Sorry,
                  You are mistaken. There plenty of books (over thousand) hundrets translated into german and english, written by people who lived during that time. The late death, mostly suffering for years and the malformed born are called Hibakusha.
                  There are dozens if not hundrets of jap. authors writing abouot their real live experiences. Just google ...
                  I'm a bit tired about the downplaying of the atomic bombs, is that a way to try to feel less guilty?

                  • by khallow (566160)

                    I'm a bit tired about the downplaying of the atomic bombs, is that a way to try to feel less guilty?

                    I think it's more that I'm getting real tired of the bullshit.

                    • Then use google or ask a history teacher.

                    • by khallow (566160)
                      I think it's better to contest these sorts of fantasy numbers wherever they appear. The US military did their own studies on deaths. They had far more incentive to exaggerate the effects of the blasts (for Cold War propaganda against the USSR) than your sources did and yet they didn't come up with 400k deaths in the first week but more like 150k deaths.

                      Let's examine something you wrote a little earlier:

                      There plenty of books (over thousand) hundrets translated into german and english, written by people who lived during that time. The late death, mostly suffering for years and the malformed born are

                      Note that this is not evidence (and yet this is the only thing so far that you have presented as such a

                    • My version is official as yours, after all most numbers I mentioned are on wikipedia with cross references.
                      Hence: it is not "my version".

                      Of course the books ARE EVIDENCE, they written mainly by people who lived in the areas and lost their families and friends. When they tell that a grand parent has survived the blast and the weeks afterwards but came into hospital 1960 where he was in a special treatment area with dozens of similar cases, and the author visited his grand pa every week for years ... why shou

                    • by khallow (566160)

                      My version is official as yours, after all most numbers I mentioned are on wikipedia with cross references.

                      Wikipedia tops out at an estimate of 250k deaths. And only 1900 deaths afterward are attributed to radiation-caused deaths.

                    • by khallow (566160)

                      Of course the books ARE EVIDENCE, they written mainly by people who lived in the areas and lost their families and friends.

                      Of course, they aren't. They don't tell us the number of deaths. No one is contesting whether there was use of atomic bombs.

                      When they tell that a grand parent has survived the blast and the weeks afterwards but came into hospital 1960 where he was in a special treatment area with dozens of similar cases, and the author visited his grand pa every week for years ... why should anybody doubt that?

                      So there were "dozens" of deaths in the aftermath of these bombings? We already know there were at least 1900. These stories don't tell us whether there was 1900 or 400k such deaths.

                      people continued dying till the late 1970s early 80s

                      People will continue to die until there are no more people. Again, you don't seem to understand what evidence is.

                      Since I pity your inability to form a logical argument, I'll give you a freebie. There are

                    • WTF a book written by an eye witness is no evidence?
                      Wow ... perhaps you should go back to school?

                    • The US version perhaps, but there is the japanese and the german and the italian ...

                      210 k - 250k death are the direct death of the attacks and have nothing to do with the people who died later.

                      A no brainer to realize the number is not conclusive if it is equal to the amount of people that died in the blast.

                    • by khallow (566160)

                      210 k - 250k death are the direct death of the attacks and have nothing to do with the people who died later.

                      A no brainer to realize the number is not conclusive if it is equal to the amount of people that died in the blast.

                      150k are. The US studied this in careful detail.

                    • by khallow (566160)

                      WTF a book written by an eye witness is no evidence?

                      Yes, you idiot. How many hundreds of thousands of deaths did those eye witnesses personally count?

                      Once again, something is evidence if it distinguishes between two hypotheses. If it doesn't, then it isn't evidence. There is no question that a lot of people died. What is being discussed here is how many.

                    • by khallow (566160)
                      Now, I imagine some people might be offended, including the person I'm replying to, but I think the label is well-justified here. If someone were on trial for the deaths of these people, I would consider these eye witness accounts as evidence for two reasons. First, that they support that the attacks actually happened and would demonstrate some of the destructive power of atomic bombs. Second, that they'd give an personal viewpoint and emotional depth to the would-be crime and would help bring the reality o
          • Something you can not protect yourself from

            But you CAN protect yourself from Cs-137. Standard anti-radiation pills (potassium iodide) work well. Cesium is chemically very similar to potassium, and the surfeit of potassium from the pills causes Cs-137 (as well as K-40 and I-133) to be excreted with your urine. If you don't have anti-radiation pills, then water purification tablets and/or "lite-salt" will also work.

            • Whater purification tablets against radiation problems?
              Wow ....
              Good luck with that.
              What good is it to take "pills" against Cs-137 when you have to fight against one hundret different radioactive isotopes?
              We are not talking about intake via the environmemt anyway, but about FOOD!
              For your interest: if you are in an Cs-137 contaminated environment and you take Cs 'pills', it only lowers the total amount of Cs-137 incorporated, it does not protect you!
              Or do you really think your body has a door with body guards

              • Whater purification tablets against radiation problems?

                Yup. Check the ingredients on your tablets. The main ingredient is usually potassium iodide.

                What good is it to take "pills" against Cs-137 when you have to fight against one hundret different radioactive isotopes?

                There may be hundreds of isotopes. But there are only a few you need to worry about. Most decay too quickly, or do not bio-accumulate. Your biggest concerns are I-131, Cs-137 and Sr-90. The iodine is absorbed by the thyroid. Cesium behaves like potassium biologically, and strontium behaves like calcium. All of these are rare enough that you can swamp them with non-radioactive substances, and cause them to be

                • Nevertheless taking such pills only reduces the amount by this effect:
                  a) no pill: you get 100mg radioactive element via nutrition and 100mg non radioactive bia nutrition. Your body needs 100mg, it takes 50mg from both sources
                  b) you take a pill with 200mg, you receive still 100mg radioactive element and you also get 100mg non radioactive via nutrition. Your total intake is 400mg, 100mg radioactive element wander through you while you digest. Your body needs 100mg, your total intake was 400mg, 25mg the body i

              • Or do you really think your body has a door with body guards that say: you are Cs-137, you may not pass, you are Cs-136, you may pass?

                No, the way it works is that quantum mechanics tells Cs-136 "sorry, pal, you're not gonna make it". Cs-136 has a half-life of 13.16 days and there's no way for it to be generated by decay of other elements (in other words, this isotope can only get produced in a live reactor).

                • Regardless what kind of sublemnt pill you take, a percentage equal to the percentage of radioactive elements you take in will be incorporated.

                  If your body needs 100mg of X and you get via nutrition 100mg radioactve ones and 100mg non radioactive ones the body will incorperate from both in a 50 / 50 relation.

                  So you take a pill to increase the intake of the non radioactive one. Now you still have 100mg radioactive and lets say for math sake the pill had 900mg non radioactive of that element.
                  Now as your body s

                  • In other words: pills don't protect you. They only lower the dose you will get in the end.

                    I don't see people stopping using antibiotics, even though you could make the same argument about them.

          • Considering that we are talking about Japan, which had a few 100 thousand post bombing nuclear death (people who died from radiation poisoning - or how ever you want to call it - from the remnants of the two WWII bombs till into the early 1980s)

            This is a highly spurious claim. As far as I'm aware, the vast majority of H&N deaths that were not immediate or mechanical in nature (killed by vaporizing, flying debris, crushing injuries, bleeding to death after injury etc.) and that were attributable to radiation poisoning happened in the few weeks following after the explosions. Any deaths following that period attributable to the bombings were cancer deaths where the exposure acted as a cause of heightened probability of getting cancer later in li

        • by Minwee (522556)

          This looks more like a way to actually monitor the real results. If the kids are fine it will go a long way towards dismissing that irrational fear. If they aren't then the fear wasn't that irrational.

          Obi-Wan once thought as you do. You don't know the power of irrational fear.

      • Re:Exposure .... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ol Olsoc (1175323) on Monday March 03, 2014 @09:40AM (#46387291)

        The anti-nuclear crowd like to terrorise people with irrational fear.

        Well, not completely irrational. If we were to take a non-nuclear but similar situation, let's look at the chemical tank leak in West Virginia. Despite authorities declaring it safe, residents still don't want to drink the water, and there are detectable levels of the poisonous chemical in the water.

        Why the irrational citizens?

        Trust.

        The fact is that there is absolutely no trust in either case, Fukushima's reactor problems, nor West Virginia's water woes.

        MCHM - a cocktail of chemicals implicated in the West Virginia incident is proven toxic.

        Radioactivity is proven toxic to humans also. With an issue of being invisible, and not readily detectable by humans -without technology - except in the case of really massive doses.

        Point is, with no trust, and reassurance that all is well and safe, how many people will look at all the footage from Fukushima, the exploding buildings, and other issues, and say, "As a completely rational person, I gotta get some of that Fukushima action in my hometown!"? It's sort of a case of the old adage, when words and actions conflict, believe the actions.

        I'm pro-Nuc power. But I also understand something about people. And if you think that your calling most people stupid and irrational is going to get you anywhere, you are badly mistaken.

      • by nospam007 (722110) *

        "The anti-nuclear crowd like to terrorise people with irrational fear."

        The Japanese know firsthand (and secondhand) that fearing nukes is nothing irrational.

      • Western journalists, fricasseed as they have been in the anti-technology faith they absorbed in the Seventies, are the ones fanning the irrational fear. The Japanese have a history of being a lot more rational about engineering risk, which is why they will restart their reactors long before we get around to building the first of our own new-generation designs.

        Having an instrument sensitive enough to detect the low emissivities cited in this article will do a lot of good, especially given that the average hu

        • by nojayuk (567177)

          The Japanese did restart a couple of reactors at Ohi about a year after 3/11 happened. Due to the way nuclear power is licenced and regulated in Japan they ran for 13 months before they were shut down for refuelling and inspection. Those two particular reactors have not yet restarted in part because the restart requires the agreement of the local government; in US terms that would be the county seat that hosts the reactors. The locals agreed to the first restart, they have hesitated allowing a second restar

          • I'm aware that those US reactors were NRC-approved, but under the US system that is just the start of a twenty-year process of legal challenges by every "environmental" activist cabal known to hypochondria. Remember, those same activists added several years to the build for the Ivanpah solar plant in California. On nuclear, their whole strategy is to keep imposing years of gratuitous delay while the bonding interest keeps steadily clicking upward. Then they can claim that nuclear "costs too much" because o

            • by nojayuk (567177)

              No, the four new reactors are being built right now, bending rebar and pouring concrete on site as I type this. The legal challenges and other distractions are done and dusted, the financial instruments are arranged with Government guarantees for the commercial-market loans (not financial payments, just guarantees) that are paying for the builds.

              I don't think there are many if any new starts going to happen this year, on the other hand about 75% of the existing nuclear fleet in the US has received licence e

              • Let's all hope that no "stakeholders" with a direct line to the Ninth Circuit show up when we least expect it.

                And sorry for the unclosed tag.

    • This has been blown up out of all proportion to the actual likelyhood of anyone getting exposed

      Which will likely, and hopefully, remain true. But what if it doesn't? And wouldn't it be exactly this sort of test which would bring it to attention?

    • by KDN (3283)
      I'm not an expert in radio isotope absorption. But my understanding of the protective effects of potassium iodide is that it floods the body with iodide, thus lowering the odds that the radioactive version will be absorbed. My understanding of strontium-137 is that it is chemically similar to calcium, and therefore is absorbed when there is insufficient calcium. I read these theories in articles on Three Mile Island, so the research may be very old. If anyone has newer research I'd be interested.

      Its good

    • by Jawnn (445279)

      That is because the radiation levels around the area of Fukisima are so low that no-one in the general population are likely to have any exposure

      [citation needed]

  • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Monday March 03, 2014 @09:11AM (#46387131)

    Okay, they've developed a new way to measure radioactivity (NOT radiation! I wish people would make the effort to distinguish between the two properly) in children.

    And, horror of horrors, found that none of the children show any sign of abnormal radioactivity levels.

    Which is why, presumably, the author of TFS added that "So far" to the end.

    It should also be noted that cows haven't started slaughtering people by the millions. So far.

    And gold hasn't started raining down from the skies. So far.

    And the sun hasn't gone supernova this week. So far (it's early in the week).

    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Monday March 03, 2014 @09:47AM (#46387347)
      You assume the story is about the radioactivity of Japanese children, rather than the technological innovation. A reasonable assumption given the motto "Slashdot: News for Japanese Parents. News about radioactive children."
      • I note that TFA didn't bother with the "So far".

        Which strongly suggests that the author of TFS is more interested in increasing the level of fear of radioactivity than in discussing the virtues of this new machine.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Hopefully they find one capable of defeating Godzilla.
  • You just count the number of fingers/toes >10, number of arms/legs/eyes >2, and note which super powers are emerging.

  • fear (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ssam (2723487) on Monday March 03, 2014 @09:27AM (#46387219)

    But can it measure the harm done by fear of radiation?

  • When it comes to internal exposure, I thought alpha and beta radiation were the more dangerous forms. Can anyone here confirm the "sensitivity" of quantifying alpha contamination through indirect detection, and how to assess beta emitter risk (any other methods that can detect it)? Any new technology companies addressing these on the horizon (that I can invest in)?

    • by Luckyo (1726890) on Monday March 03, 2014 @09:49AM (#46387365)

      They are looking for specific material - cesium137. It emits approximately 95% beta and 5% gamma. That is why they had problems looking for it in babies - they basically look for that 5% and calculate the entire exposure based on it.

      • by Idou (572394)
        I see, thank you. So I guess Cesium 137 represents one of those "certain circumstances" that beta emitters can be measured. I assume the "degraded sensitivity" model would include some kind of 1/0.05 factor for the portion of gamma energy (i.e. oversimplified, maybe the process is 1/20th as sensitive to Cs 137 compared to a 100% gamma emitter).

        Strontium 90, on the other hand, appears to be 100% beta decay (please correct me if I am wrong). Accordingly, I assume that whole-body counting process is not cap
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's easy to measure beta and alpha emitters in humans. You just have to dry the children, then grind them to a powder, finely spread it over a surface, and use a conventional geiger counter to measure the radioactivity..

      • by ssam (2723487)

        I suggest that this is done to children (especially noisy ones) on airplanes, so study radiation doses from cosmic rays.

    • by Immerman (2627577)

      You are correct that alpha and beta radiation are generally the most dangerous, for the same reason that internal emitters are almost impossible to detect - they are heavily ionized and thus "hit" just about anything in their path, initiating a cascade of generally unhealthy chemical reactions from the immense kinetic energy they dump into a highly localized area. The rule of thumb, IIRC, is that alpha radiation (helium nuclei) will be just about completely blocked by a sheet of paper, and beta radiation (

      • by Idou (572394)
        Thank you very much for the thorough explanation. This is why I come to Slashdot.
  • by JoeyRox (2711699) on Monday March 03, 2014 @10:14AM (#46387521)
    In light of all their previous obfuscation and lies about Fukushima does anyone believe Japan is monitoring anything that might make Japan Inc. look bad?
    • by greg_barton (5551)

      In light of the anti-nuclear propaganda lies spreading FUD about Fukushima does anyone believe any news about it at all anymore?

  • Most effects from radiation exposure didn't show up until exposed subjects were in their 40s or 50s, or at least that's what happened in the counties surround Hanford where we built the nuclear bomb.

    So, I wouldn't be all that happy about this short-term result.

    Some plants store heavy metals in their leaves over time, and kids eat them or play with them, putting almost anything in their mouths.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the demigodic party. -- Dennis Ritchie

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