Monday, December 17, 2012

Fuksuhima and the Privatization of Risk: Introduction

Every morning I look at the Fukushima webcam and I wonder at what I am seeing.

I see strange brownish-purplish colors in vertical shafts, auras of blue-green, and ephemeral manifestations of red and orange.

I see strange, variable pixilation that seems to undulate at times.

I have no way of telling what I'm seeing - I lack the training and education - but I know one thing for sure: emissions at Fukushima have not ceased.

We are now closing in on two years, in March.

We know for near certain that ocean emissions continue unabated. See here

I admit I cannot decode the exact interpretation of the webcam imagery. Still, I'm personally convinced that atmospheric emissions have been serious. I can only quote with certainty Tepco's Aug 2012 admission that atmospheric releases continued at ten million becquerel an hour. See here

Japan's insistence on incinerating radioactive debris adds to the problem.

What are the risks posed for the people in Japan and elsewhere from the sheer volume of radiosotopes that are being absorbed into the environment?

I argue that the probabilities for disease, death, and intergenerational sterility are not known for certain. Or, at least, that precise information is not available publicly in the scientific research journals. The risk models that are available are contested scientifically and I see holes.

Moreover, new research on genomic instability and epigenetic processes threaten to up-end older risk models. DNA processes are far more complicated than thought, was the conclusion of the Human Genome Project published in 2001. That is why the next project, launched in 2001, was the Human Proteomic Project.

Read why its necessary to study proteomics

Proteomics studies the processes that can affect protein production other than the actual DNA sequence. It turns out that much DNA sequence can produce a variety of proteins depending upon a complex system of "epigenetic" signalling that activates and silences DNA.

Epigenetic processes are, unfortunately, very vulnerable to disruption.

For instance, endocrine disruptors (found in plastics, cosmetics, etc) can have significant effects across a range of doses and large effects can be seen from small doses during vulnerable times in development (Smith and Robert, 231).

The idea of a dose-effect relationship where larger doses produce more severe effects does not hold for endrocrine disruptors.

New understandings of the disruptive effects of low-levels of some chemicals on subtle human systems vital for health should raise alarm.

There is research linking the endocrine disruptors in Round-Up to tumor production in animals.

I bet radiation is far more damaging, far more lethal, than endocrine disruptors if ingested.

But, no alert will be raised because the entire structure of our society generally and our power structure specifically is based on the production, consumption, and exploitation of chemicals and radiation.

Even our food system is controlled by chemical companies through genetically modified seed, herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides.

So, the alarm will not be raised and the current risk-models will prevail, based as they are, on outdated and sometimes questionable data.

For instance, the BEIR IV relies on the Japanese atomic bomb studies (among other studies; see here), which have been subject to criticism for excluding people who showed less overt symptoms of exposure but nonetheless suffered over time with declining health. See here and also here for discussions of post WWII atomic cover-ups in Japan. So, I question the predictive value of the BEIR IV.

No. I believe there is too much conflict over, and new research on, genomic instability to accept with confidence the BEIR and ICRP risk models.

So, we are left with uncertainty about what diseases and debilitating forms of life the radiation contamination will wreck upon us and future generations.

What is certain is that privatize citizens are going to be absorbing the bulk of the economic, social, and personal costs of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

This is the book that I'm writing that should be published in mid to late 2013. It is an academic book  but I think interested readers will find it instructive. 

In a series of posts, I will talk about what I do in the book (a synopsis of my argument), and provide some relevant sources of information. My blog discussion will reflect my personal opinions and beliefs about selective data and issues raised in the book.

My blog posts will be informal discussions.

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