via Daily Kos / January 27, 2014 / There have been a number of diaries over the last few months about the contamination of the Pacific Ocean by huge and ever increasing releases from the Fukushima Daiichi disaster site. I have written about the ramped-up PR effort to minimize the possible impact of those releases as the waterborne plumes begin to reach the western coasts of North America.
As part of the PR effort, academics have been enlisted to add their cachet of authority, even if they’re not ‘experts’ on the subject of nuclear technology or radiation. Including those whose fields are psychology and even just risk assessment. Then there are the oceanographers such as Ken Buesseler of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (among others), who did some sediment, water and life form testing off Fukushima and across the Pacific in 2011 and 2012, documenting the levels of Fukushima isotopes and degree of bioaccumulation in food chains. Their most maddening tendency – to me, as someone who does know a bit about radiation and its gnarly effects on biological tissues – is to equate the concentrations of Fukushima radionuclides to ‘natural’ background levels of exposure for the purpose of minimizing possible public concern for the increased presence of man-made radioisotopes in our environment and food supplies.
At the present time, just as the leading edge of the first major plumes are hitting the coasts and Japan has legislated new secrecy laws that make it a crime to report things the government doesn’t want reported, our own government is shirking its responsibility to monitor the situation and inform the public of any dangers this contamination may present. To the point where now that he recognizes the need and public desire for further real-time monitoring of radiation levels, even Ken Buesseler is having to ‘crowdsource’ funding so he and his colleagues can do that job.
NRC, EPA, FDA, even DHS have all declined to do the monitoring that should by all rights be done. Some California university departments and ocean concerns have gotten together to do their own monitoring, dubbing the project Kelp Watch 2014. It will do regular testing of kelp forests off the coast of California, Oregon and Washington, using departmental funding and contributions from concerned citizens and groups. Because state and federal governments won’t do it. They don’t want to know, or maybe they just don’t want YOU to know.
I could of course go on and on about the effects of low level internal and exterior radiation exposure, but the fact of the matter is that our collective radiation exposure – background PLUS man-made and elective (medical) exposures – have gone up significantly over the years since nuclear technology first made its debut on the human scene. Fukushima is adding to that daily, with its recognized status as the most serious radioactive contamination incident the world has ever seen. We can do many things to limit our exposures simply by following health physics developed housekeeping habits and watching out for our food choices, but we’re all going to get exposed to a certain amount of it. Despite what anyone in the industry PR effort tells you (with or without a degree of shame for the disinformation), radiation exposures are always cumulative – in addition to natural background, never the “same as” or “less than.”
So in this diary I want to say a little something about the most basic – and effective – way to minimize radiation damage from both natural and unnatural sources. It’s a darned good starting point for awareness and the confidence of knowing that there’s something you can do. That means something in our new, more radioactive world.
Many people these days are aware of the value of antioxidants for protecting our bodies from the effects that come with aging as well as protecting us from various disease conditions from arthritis to cancer and beyond.
I happened upon a research paper the other day about a clinical study of radiologists and radiological staff (like the teeth-cleaner and x-ray assistant at your dentist’s office, and hospital/clinic personnel who do everything from setting up and standing aside for x-ray and MRI and CT type procedures to delivering those deadly radiation therapy doses to cancer patients. There’s no open source for the full paper, but the abstract is informative enough –
Effects of Melissa officinalis L. on oxidative status and DNA damage in subjects exposed to long-term low-dose ionizing radiation. Demonstrating, as ‘conclusively’ as the side-by-side double-blind medical research a few years ago during the swine flu epidemic established that elderberry tincture is as or more effective as an anti-viral than Tami-Flu, that good old Lemon balm, as a tea taken twice a day, diminishes the biological damage done by chronic low-level radiation exposures.
Radiologists have always demonstrated an increased risk of cancers, primarily leukemia, but also breast, skin and other cancers. In the early days doses were much higher, so it happened much more often. There’s a reason they don’t put fluoroscope machines in shoe stores anymore… But the risks are still higher than most people’s from ‘natural’ background, and the cancer rate of radiologists is still something researchers pay attention to. Our risks from increased doses (over background) are just as considerable, even when we are subjected to nuclear industry PR campaigns designed to make us think it’s not a problem.
There are many antioxidant food sources, primarily fruit and vegetable, known for their protective abilities against cancer and other ailments. There’s a number of dietary supplements that doctors advise as well, including vitamins A, C and E. There are many herbs used regularly by people all over the world in cooking and health maintenance that are amazingly high in antioxidants in addition to these vitamins. The reputation of Lemon balm as one of these has been growing over recent years, and that is why this particular herb was the subject of the above-linked research project.
A good overview of the herb as part of gardening and landscaping as well as health maintenance and medicinal uses can be found at Wise Living Journal. This is every bit as delicious an herb as spearmint or bee balm for adding to summer iced teas or winter hot teas. Its lemony flavor with minty background mixes well with other infusion-worthy herbs.
So for those keeping track and a little bit concerned about ongoing contamination from the Fuku disaster, get a pot of propagated lemon balm (or some seeds) this spring and grow it in a prominent place with good sun to dappled shade. It’s really pretty growing, would make a nice surrounding for your outdoor pole light or mailbox, along the borders, in the flower beds… anywhere a 12-18 inch planting would look nice. It’s lush, has pretty purple flowers, and thrives the more you harvest the upper sprigs.
Try it… maybe you’ll like it! [emphasis added]