Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
It Won’t Taste Like Radiation;
There’s no Fear in Phobias
We gotta radioactive for a tad here. The whole subject is closer to home than it might seem.
As the nuclear crisis in Japan continues to pulsate – one day looking a bit better, the next day melting back down to critical levels -- I’m one of the many folks worrifully wondering about the destination of all the seawater being used to cool down the plant. There are somewhat conflicting reports over the amount of radioactive water making it back into the Western Pacific. What is coming to the fore, via science and maybe a bit of optimism, is the current leakage back into the sea presents little if any big-time danger. This is based primarily on how radioactivity becomes diluted within the massive water quantities of the ocean. In fact, there seems to be a sense that it’s preferable for the most common radioactive materials from the plant, mainly Iodine-131 and Cesium-137, to ooze into the ocean instead of going airborne.
Seawater very near the plant has been found to contain radioactive iodine more than 1,850 times the legal limit.
It is not exactly clear how far the contamination will spread, mainly eastward. For some odd reason no one has every experimented by dropping huge amounts of nuclear stuff in the ocean to see exactly what it does.
What is known is the half-life of iodine-131. It actively lurks for a mere 8 days. Within 30 days, it drifts off to I-137 heaven. Alarmingly, in its short life, it can hideously impact the thyroids of humans, primarily young children. Cesium-137 is in it for the long radiation run. It has a half-life of 30 years and can lollygag for centuries, becoming halved and halved again until the half-life cows come home.
It’s now up to the boys with big brains to estimate the impacts of what radioactivity is wafting and worming out of the Fukushima Daichi plant I northeast Japan.
Almost exactly half-way around the planet, Dr. Ulrich Rieth of the Johann Heinrich von Thünen-Institut Institute of Fishery Ecology is doing one of the more intense studies of what the plant’s leakage might do to the ocean and the life therein.
Being fed real-time data from a research vessel only 20 miles off the coast from the Daichi reactors, Heinrich’s research team has discovered (and this will get a tad over-technical for a short stretch) there is an average 42 becquerels of iodine-131 and 16 Bq of cesium-137 in one liter of seawater off Fukushima. As we all know, a becquerel is the International System unit of radioactivity, based primarily on the decay rate of nuclear material.
A tad easier to grasp is the fact that a mere 20 miles out from the plant, both the Cs-137 and I-131 concentrations had become diluted by 90 percent of what they had been when adjacent to the reactors. That’s not to say the sinister stuff had simply disappeared, it had simply blended in with the Pacific waters, and theoretically would continue to do so until virtually undetectable, possibly within 100 miles out.
The scientists of the Johann Heinrich von Thünen Institute report that the fish from the Pacific fishing areas are not threatened by radioactive waste from Fukushima. Their information is being scrutinized by the European Union, assigned with determining any threat in purchasing Japanese seafood in the near future.
The closest United States fishing zones to the crippled nuclear plant are 2,500 miles away, in the Bering Sea. Those areas are famed for massive pollack harvests. In fact, those flash-frozen pollack often reach our local supermarkets and are often used by fast-food chains.
Again, if the radioactive materials from Fukushima are diluted by 90 percent within just 20 miles of the plants, the odds of any dangerous concentrations traveling thousands of miles, through storms and currents, are infinitesimal.
In a published report, the Rieth team expects absolutely no detectable change in radioactivity measurements in the Bering Sea.
Ironically – and pathetically – the radioactive measurements in the Bering Sea are actually a tad high already, though not dangerously so. They reflect the contamination of the oceans by fallout from atmospheric nuclear weapons tests carried out in the 1950s and 1960s.
Way closer to home, Ken Buesseler, senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts, assures the most common radioactive isotopes from the plant will be absorbed by the ocean, long before it becomes dangerous to humans or marine creatures.
“For cesium and iodine, they are soluble,' Buesseler said. “This time of year off the coast of Japan, they would mix with water down 100 feet to 300 feet and be diluted by a factor of about 100. The currents there would move it to the south, just north of Tokyo, and then out to sea.”
Bill Camplin, group manager of radiological and chemical risk at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science in Lowestoft, England, also assured seafood isn't a major risk, especially when compared with land-based foods, impacted by radioactivity in the air. Already, vegetation near the plant have shown elevated radiation levels, as has milk from cows.
“But my advice would be not to eat seafood caught from within the evacuation and sheltering zone (20 miles offshore),” Camplin said, adding. “Effects on wildlife in the sea are unlikely to be severe.”
Numerous scientists have noted that prevailing west to east winds in Japan this time of year has, in many ways, saved the day. Had the winds been northeast to southwest, the atmospheric radioactive material (fallout) would be blowing across the entire nation. Airborne radiation does not dilute quickly, as is evidenced by the showing of trace amounts of Japan radiation all the way to the west coast of North American.
Referencing our own Oyster Creek Generating Station – and momentarily running with the always-sweating worst-case scenario crowd -- an Oyster Creek meltdown in winter, with the season’s prevailing northwest winds, would have LBI dangerously downwind. Should radiation leak during the summer months, the seasonal south winds would blow it north, more toward Toms River and over to Seaside. It’s the luck of the prevailing wind draw. However, there is no out for any waterborne radioactivity leaking out of Oyster Creek. Unlike the deep Pacific water off Fukushima, the thoroughly shallow Barnegat Bay, which is pretty 95 percent landlocked, would hold the likes of Cs-137 forever. Please note: This is an absolutely worst-case comparison, a little like guessing what it would be like f we got tsunami-ed.
RELATED RADIOACTIVE EMAIL: I had an email question regarding radioactive fish. Seriously. It reflected one of those trickle-down fears when disasters like Fukushima occur.
Hypothetically melting down our Oyster Creek Generating Station, (as I already did above), the writer wanted to know if, in a meltdown aftermath, you could remove radioactivity through cooking affected fish or seafood.
I saw the PCB logic leaking in. There are, in fact, some heavy metals and ugly things, known as persistent organic pollutants (PCB, DDT, dioxins), that get into the fat of fish and can be cooked off, to some degree. However, mark my glowing words, there is no way to cook off the likes of Cs-137 in effected meats or seafood.
Adding to the confusion is the practice concept of irradiated foods, which are bombarded with ionizing radiation meant to mangle the DNA of organic food spoilers, like bacteria. Yes, it’s odd that the public dreads the thought of radioactive material sneaking into the food system, while companies actually bombard pure foodstuffs with radiation.
FEAR ITSELF: Oddly related to the fear of fallout, I was emailed a bizarre list of full-blown phobias from a fellow I had written about a year back. His wife suffered – almost to a debilitating point – from a fear of fish. It is technically known as icthiophobia.
Being the good husband, he told me of times when he’d get a beer buzz on with the boat fishing boys, come home and, as the missus serenely read the evening paper, chuck a Ziploc-ed fish on her lap -- just to see her go screamingly psychotic.
Hey, that’s just how he told it to me – with his nearby spouse hissing, indicating it was all too true. Not to worry, the couple is actually very close, so fear not that he was trying to cash in on a life insurance policy.
Anyway, sending me a list of medically documented phobias, he pointed out that icthiophobia is not that rare. I read the list and was thoroughly stunned. No, not about the commonness of a fear of fish, which includes the fear of eating fish. The list is what got to me. It was a who’s-who of mortal fears.
The odd part is the way the list began talking to me -- and soon kinda scaring me. I even got to wondering if there is a fear of lists, possibly Listafobia. Inconveniently, that sounds too much like a fear Franc Liszt music.
I might strongly warn pondering a rundown of first-class phobias is akin to reading a list of the most diabolical diseases, during which you are utterly certain that you’ve somehow contracted an illness thought to be limited to a small tribe of albino pygmies.
“I swear, George, reading these symptoms I just know I’ve got West African Malawi rhino-nosed bat fever.”
“Sure you do, Edna. Just like the time you looked in the mirror, saw an ugly black spot on your back and drove people off the road rushing to the ER, claming you had the plague.”
“Hey, it’s better to be safe than sorry. “
“Oh, Edna, the damn black spot was on the mirror, for cryin’ out loud.”
Anyway, as I eyed the list of phobias, I found myself wondering if I was a sufferer. Hell, one of the first fears of the list was algophobia, the fear of pain. Fear of pain? Correct me if I’m wrong …
But pain fears melted in the face of of something called achibutyrophobia. Don’t even try to putz around with those 2 failed years of Latin you once took, in hopes of figuring out the root of this fear. It is the debilitating fear of peanut butter sticking to roof of mouth. You can’t make this sh...tuff up. If you really must have a phobia to, let’s say, secure a second mortgage, I guess a peanut butter-based fear is decent. Face it, it’s not like a fear of snakes (near the top of the phobia registry), where you turn over rock, see a garter snake and commence to doing Curly circles on the ground. It might be fun to chase an arachibutyrophobic around the block with a four-pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, or, walk up to one, assume a very serious continence and say, “Is there something stuck to the roof of your mouth?”
I doubly related when I read about astraphobics, a fear of being struck by lightning. “Hello, my name is Jay and I’m an ass-kickin’ astraphobic.” That’s a frickin’ survival skill, not a fear. However, turns out there are astraphobic folks who walk zigzag-style down the street even on a blindingly blue sunny day, just in case a sneaky bolt is stalking them. That’s the type person to trail with cymbals in hand.
I also have to note the fairly common fear of staying in bed, clinophobia. No, this is not the fear of sleep, somniphobia, which is a lot more understandable, with the likes of demons and trolls constantly lurking in closets and under the mattress. Clinophobia is a deathly fear that you’ll hunker down in the sack and, uh, never get up. I’m thinking a stratolounger might be a decent cure.
There’s even a fear that might explain many of the abjectly poor people of the world. Albeit rare, a goodly number of folks suffer from chrematophobia. It is the fear of money. You heard right. And we’re not talking merely the fear of touching money. Imagine working your fingers to the bone but when you get handed your pay, you go screaming off in terror? “Best dadburn employee I ever had,” says the owner.
I won’t belabor this fear-factor thing much further but surely the most eye-opening phobia on the entire long list is optophobia. Check it in the medical journals if you disbelieve. It’s the fear of opening one’s eyes. While I can relate in some instances, like that head unscrewing scene from “The Exorcist,” I can’t remotely imagine having that fear tapping on my forehead 24/7. I should note that phobia explains half the drivers out there. As for messin’ with optophobics, I can see quietly standing real close in front of one until he finally fearfully opens one eye – then lunge at him with a big scream.
“OK, sir, did you get a good look at the screamer? Sir? You-hoo. Anybody home in there?”
I noticed the list didn’t have any highly academic phobias. Not for everyone is the fear of, say, inert gases. I’m guessin’ you really gotta know what you’re doing in that case.
Oh, wait, I do have to add one more. There is a bona fide fear of ticking packages. Duh. What keeps you and I off that list? Even when a package is opened and it’s found to be just an alarm clock within, the tickingboxaphobic (my word since I already lost the frickin’ phobia list) still screams bloody murder and runs blindly into some nearby sticker bushes. By the by, aichmophobia, is the devastating fear of sharp or pointed objects
SIDEBAR: I once saw a full-blown phobia at work, someone with amathophobia, fear of dust.
While we all know a number of homemakers who seem to have an irrational dread of dust build-up, that Pledge-based woe is miniscule when floated beside the troubling case of dust-aphobia I once saw while visiting a lady friend residing at Ancora Psychiatric Hospital, near Hammonton.
There was this gowned patient freely wandering around the large-windowed sun-drenched meet-and-greet room, where I was carrying on an one-sided conversation with my serenely sedated friend. I would talk about what a nice day it was -- on the outside – and she would just silently smile, reach out and touch my lower lip with her fingers.
As I self-conversed, the amathophobia kept stealing my attention. He would stare into the space, then suddenly make a lightening-fast grab outward, with very scary speed and conviction. He’d then take a few more steps and repeat his snake-strike snatch move.
I had no idea what the hell he was grabbing at but I found myself beginning to concentrate on the air area he was working. I was only 21 at the time but I had already come to realize that crazy people weren’t always as crazy as they seemed. Soon, all but ignoring my friend, I found myself mesmerized by the possibility of small grab-worthy things in the air. I began looking around like a nervous meerkat.
At some point, before I actually made any lunges, the very alert orderlies thought it best that I end my stay.
I said my good-byes, giving the amathophobic a knowing blink of the eye – and a hearty “Keep up the good work” -- and signed out.
It was at the desk I learned the grabber actually suffered from a fear of dust, one the drugs had quelled to a indefatigable desire to simply rid the word of dust, one dust speck at a time. That was over 30 years ago and I, for one, think there isn’t as much dust at there used to be.
NY FREELY RESPONDS: Seeing that entire state of New York reads my column, it came as no surprise that the Empire State responded to me fears that NJ, as a free saltwater fishing state, would siphon off huge numbers of NY anglers, who needed to pay money to saltwater fish.
Here’s part of a Recreational Fishing Alliance press release:
“ New York's saltwater fishing license is being repealed!
“According to the Associated Press, New York lawmakers and the Cuomo administration have just reached an agreement to end the state's $10 annual saltwater fishing license and replace it with a free registry for the state's coastal waters. Legislators announcing the change yesterday say it will cover two years.
“The Recreational Fishing Alliance received a "high priority" email sent through DEC channels yesterday afternoon regarding the license repeal, noting that budget discussions between Governor Cuomo and the New York state legislature helped facilitate the repeal effort, which is said will take place in the next 180 days.
“Last Tuesday, March 15th, a Senate Budget Resolution calling for the repeal of the MTA Payroll Tax for public and private schools, as well as full repeal of the saltwater fishing license was passed in the New York Senate. "I made clear from the beginning of the Budget process that I would not support any new taxes or fees," Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said last week.”