On the Record

Misuse of NOAA Graphic to Perpetuate Fukushima Fear

Scientists, researchers and nuclear experts from around the globe have investigated the impact of the nuclear incident in Fukushima Japan following the tsunami there and time and time again have concluded that the effect on commercial seafood has been essentially negligible.

Here’s a Washington Post report that finds the probability of contamination in seafood from Fukushima “was nearly zero.” The Seattle Times reveals, “testing finds no nuke disaster radiation in Alaska seafood.” Research from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution confirms trace levels of radiation found on North America’s west coast are “well below internationally established levels of concern.” And on and on it goes. Month after month, year after year, expert after expert, from the World Health Organization (WHO), to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to the UN Food Agriculture Organization (FAO) the risk from commercial seafood is debunked.

But that doesn’t stop uninformed, hyperbolic pronouncements from being made by voices that are wholly ignorant of the science. In some cases, like the latest case, it’s not merely ignorance it’s outright deception that drives an inaccurate fear narrative.

FukuMapImage100416This image, generated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is being misrepresented as radiation contaminating the entire Pacific Ocean. That is not what the image depicts. It is a representation of wave energy from the tsunami, not radiation. Websites that claim this is NOAA’s illustration of radiological contamination are just plain wrong. But beyond just being wrong they are actively deceiving their readers and promoting misinformation.


What in the World is Joshua Ozersky Talking About?

-27 January 2014
Food writer, editor, and Esquire blogger Joshua Ozersky claims that “fish on the U.S. Pacific coast are showing many times the acceptable level of radioactivity, to the point that many have developed tumors” because of radiation from Fukushima.

Clearly Mr. Ozersky has stumbled upon a major scientific breakthrough that completely refutes the consensus of the international scientific community.

Or not.

Mr. Ozersky’s claims are downright false and although it would be easier for food writers if everything could be explained with a hyperbolic and totally fictional Simpsons reference, independent scientists and governmental regulators have made it clear when they say there is no health risk associated with consuming seafood from the Pacific.

Mr. Ozersky is puzzled, though. He says, “for some reason, very few people are reporting” about this “enormous crisis”. Um, maybe that’s because most journalists tend to prefer reporting about real stories. He should try it.

Responsible reporters consult agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – the leading authority on food safety – before giving important nutrition recommendations to readers. If Mr. Ozersky went to either FDA or the World Health Organization (WHO), he would find multiple reports concluding that fish from the Pacific are safe to eat. Levels of radioactivity found in fish on the U.S. West Coast were roughly 300 times lower than levels that would prompt FDA to investigate further. Far below the regulated standard and nowhere near the point of “tumor development.” To put it in perspective, the levels of radioactivity found in Pacific seafood are lower than what’s found in a banana.

Mr. Ozersky’s piece embraces hyperbole and misreporting, but lacks in research and facts. And while this brand of reporting may earn his blog more views, it is irresponsible to his readers, scaring them away from seafood and costing them the myriad nutritional benefits.

The Expert-Man Cometh

-26 January 2014
According to Energy News Dr. Daniel P. Aldrich, is the latest nuclear expert reporting on the relative risk resulting from the accident at Fukushima. Dr. Aldrich says, “fish caught off coast of America and of course near Hawaii have had high level of cesium.” That would be a new and interesting development, if it were in fact accurate.

Here’s the problem, Dr. Aldrich is a doctor… but… he’s a doctor of political science.  It appears his professional training provides him zero experience or background in nuclear medicine. He has however researched “the socialization of women and men through experience.” Interesting, not relevant in any way to the topic at hand, but interesting.

Dr. Aldrich and others are entitled to their opinion about many things including Fukushima. But the media has a responsibility to vet them and put what they say in perspective. The fact that Dr. Aldrich said fish caught off coast of America contain a high level of cesium means, in large part, nothing. Three different studies published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and one in the Journal Biogeosciences Discuss conclude that the Cesium found in Pacific seafood have been in “very small concentrations.”

Keep in mind, we have seen the media parade around a disgraced TV Chef and a former Soap Opera actor as Fukushima experts as well.

Reporting on Dr. Aldrich’s erroneous proclamations should be followed by his full bio so consumers and scientists alike can see where his expertise lies.

Wine Consultant/Former Soap Opera Actor Moonlights as Radiation Expert… Apparently the Journalism Apocalypse Has Begun

-10 October 2013
The Top Information Post is a digital news aggregator. Unfortunately it is not a commonsense aggregator. Here the site marginalized itself with a report titled “Fukushima is here: ‘ALL Bluefin Tuna Caught In California Are Radioactive’.” Reporters tasked with researching Fukushima and its impacts on seafood can learn a lot from this letter to the site’s editors, who apparently believe a wine consultant with a history as a Soap Opera actor is an appropriate source for radiological information.