Fake Science Alert: Fukushima Radiation Can’t Be Compared to Bananas or X-Rays


Nuclear Energy Apologists Are Going Bananas

Nuclear apologists pretend that people are exposed to more radiation from bananas than from Fukushima.

But the EPA explains:

The human body is born with potassium-40 [the type of radiation found in bananas] in its tissues and it is the most common radionuclide in human tissues and in food. We evolved in the presence of potassium-40 and our bodies have well-developed repair mechanisms to respond to its effects. The concentration of potassium-40 in the human body is constant and not affected by concentrations in the environment.

Wikipedia notes:

The amount of potassium (and therefore of 40K) in the human body is fairly constant because of homeostatsis, so that any excess absorbed from food is quickly compensated by the elimination of an equal amount.

It follows that the additional radiation exposure due to eating a banana lasts only for a few hours after ingestion, namely the time it takes for the normal potassium contents of the body to be restored by the kidneys.

BoingBoing reports:

A lot of things you might not suspect of being radioactive are, including Brazil nuts, and your own body. And this fact is sometimes used to downplay the impact of exposure to radiation via medical treatments or accidental intake.


I contacted Geoff Meggitt—a retired health physicist, and former editor of the Journal of Radiological Protection—to find out more.

Meggitt worked for the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority and its later commercial offshoots for 25 years. He says there’s an enormous variation in the risks associated with swallowing the same amount of different radioactive materials—and even some difference between the same dose, of the same material, but in different chemical forms.

It all depends on two factors:

1) The physical characteristics of the radioactivity—i.e, What’s its half-life? Is the radiation emitted alpha, beta or gamma?

2) The way the the radioactivity travels around and is taken up by the body—i.e., How much is absorbed by the blood stream? What tissues does this specific isotope tend to accumulate in?

The Potassium-40 in bananas is a particularly poor model isotope to use, Meggitt says, because the potassium content of our bodies seems to be under homeostatic control. When you eat a banana, your body’s level of Potassium-40 doesn’t increase. You just get rid of some excess Potassium-40. The net dose of a banana is zero.

And that’s the difference between a useful educational tool and propaganda. (And I say this as somebody who is emphatically not against nuclear energy.) Bananas aren’t really going to give anyone “a more realistic assessment of actual risk”, they’re just going to further distort the picture.

Most “Background Radiation” Didn’t Exist Before Nuclear Weapons Testing and Nuclear Reactors

Nuclear apologists also pretend that we get a higher exposure from background radiation (when we fly, for example) or x-rays then we get from nuclear accidents.

In fact, there was exactly zero background radioactive cesium or iodine before above-ground nuclear testing and nuclear accidents started.

Wikipedia provides some details on the distribution of cesium-137 due to human activities:

Small amounts of caesium-134 and caesium-137 were released into the environment during nearly all nuclear weapon tests and some nuclear accidents, most notably the Chernobyl disaster.


Caesium-137 is unique in that it is totally anthropogenic. Unlike most other radioisotopes, caesium-137 is not produced from its non-radioactive isotope, but from uranium. It did not occur in nature before nuclear weapons testing began. By observing the characteristic gamma rays emitted by this isotope, it is possible to determine whether the contents of a given sealed container were made before or after the advent of atomic bomb explosions. This procedure has been used by researchers to check the authenticity of certain rare wines, most notably the purported “Jefferson bottles”.

As the EPA notes:

Cesium-133 is the only naturally occurring isotope and is non-radioactive; all other isotopes, including cesium-137, are produced by human activity.

Similarly, iodine-131 is not a naturally occurring isotope. As the Encyclopedia Britannica notes:

The only naturally occurring isotope of iodine is stable iodine-127. An exceptionally useful radioactive isotope is iodine-131…

(Fukushima has spewed much more radioactive cesium and iodine than Chernobyl. The amount of radioactive cesium released by Fukushima was some 20-30 times higher than initially admitted. Japanese experts say that Fukushima is currently releasing up to 93 billion becquerels of radioactive cesium into the ocean each day. And the cesium levels hitting the west coast of North America will keep increasing for several years. Fukushima is still spewing radiation into the environment, and the amount of radioactive fuel at Fukushima dwarfs Chernobyl.)

As such, the concept of “background radiation” is largely a misnomer. Most of the radiation we encounter today – especially the most dangerous types – did not even exist in nature before we started tinkering with nuclear weapons and reactors. In a sense, we are all guinea pigs.

Mixing Apples (External) and Oranges (Internal)

Moreover, radioactive particles which end up inside of our lungs or gastrointestinal track, as opposed to radiation which comes to us from outside of our skin are much more dangerous than general exposures to radiation.

The National Research Council’s Committee to Assess the Scientific Information for the Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program explains:

Radioactivity generates radiation by emitting particles. Radioactive materials outside the the body are called external emitters, and radioactive materials located within the body are called internal emitters.

Internal emitters are much more dangerous than external emitters. Specifically, one is only exposed to radiation as long as he or she is near the external emitter.

For example, when you get an x-ray, an external emitter is turned on for an instant, and then switched back off.

But internal emitters steadily and continuously emit radiation for as long as the particle remains radioactive, or until the person dies – whichever occurs first. As such, they are much more dangerous.

As the head of a Tokyo-area medical clinic – Dr. Junro Fuse, Internist and head of Kosugi Medical Clinic – said:

Risk from internal exposure is 200-600 times greater than risk from external exposure.

See this, this, this and this.

By way of analogy, external emitters are like dodgeballs being thrown at you.  If you get hit, it might hurt.  But it’s unlikely you’ll get hit again in the same spot.

Internal emitters – on the other hand – are like a black belt martial artist moving in really close and hammering you again and again and again in the exact same spot.  That can do real damage.

There are few natural high-dose internal emitters. Bananas, brazil nuts and some other foods contain radioactive potassium-40, but in extremely low doses. And – as explained above – our bodies have adapted to handle this type of radiation.

True, some parts of the country are at higher risk of exposure to naturally-occurring radium than others.

But the cesium which was scattered all over the place by above-ground nuclear tests and the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents has a much longer half life, and can easily contaminate food and water supplies. As the New York Times notes:

Over the long term, the big threat to human health is cesium-137, which has a half-life of 30 years.

At that rate of disintegration, John Emsley wrote in “Nature’s Building Blocks” (Oxford, 2001), “it takes over 200 years to reduce it to 1 percent of its former level.”

It is cesium-137 that still contaminates much of the land in Ukraine around the Chernobyl reactor.


Cesium-137 mixes easily with water and is chemically similar to potassium. It thus mimics how potassium gets metabolized in the body and can enter through many foods, including milk.

As the EPA notes in a discussion entitled ” What can I do to protect myself and my family from cesium-137?”:

Cesium-137 that is dispersed in the environment, like that from atmospheric testing, is impossible to avoid.

Radioactive iodine can also become a potent internal emitter. As the Times notes:

Iodine-131 has a half-life of eight days and is quite dangerous to human health. If absorbed through contaminated food, especially milk and milk products, it will accumulate in the thyroid and cause cancer.

(In addition to spewing massive amounts of radioactive iodine 131, Fukushima also pumped out huge amounts of radioactive iodine 129 – which has a half-life of 15.7 million years. Fukushima has also dumped up to 900 trillion becquerels of radioactive strontium-90 – which is a powerful internal emitter which mimics calcium and collects in our bones – into the ocean.).

The bottom line is that there is some naturally-occurring background radiation, which can – at times – pose a health hazard (especially in parts of the country with high levels of radioactive radon or radium).

But cesium-137 and radioactive iodine – the two main radioactive substances being spewed by the leaking Japanese nuclear plants – are not naturally-occurring substances, and can become powerful internal emitters which can cause tremendous damage to the health of people who are unfortunate enough to breathe in even a particle of the substances, or ingest them in food or water.

Unlike low-levels of radioactive potassium found in bananas – which our bodies have adapted to over many years – cesium-137 and iodine 131 are brand new, extremely dangerous substances.

And unlike naturally-occurring internal emitters like radon and radium – whose distribution is largely concentrated in certain areas of the country – radioactive cesium and iodine, as well as strontium and other dangerous radionuclides, are being distributed globally through weapons testing and nuclear accidents.

Cumulative and Synergistic Damage

A military briefing written by the U.S. Army for commanders in Iraq states:

Hazards from low level radiation are long-term, not acute effects… Every exposure increases risk of cancer.

(Military briefings for commanders often contain less propaganda than literature aimed at civilians, as the commanders have to know the basic facts to be able to assess risk to their soldiers.)

The briefing states that doses are cumulative: the more times someone is exposed, the greater the potential damage.

In addition, exposure to different radioactive particles may increase the damage. Specifically, the International Commissionon Radiological Protection notes:

It has been shown that in some cases a synergistic effect results when several organs of the body are irradiated simultaneously.

(“Synergistic” means that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.)

Because different radionuclides accumulate in different parts of the body – e.g. cesium in the muscles, kidneys, heart and liveriodine in the thyroid,  and strontium in the bones – the exposure to many types of radiation may be more dangerous than exposure just to one or two types.

As such, adding new radioactive compounds like cesium and iodine into the environment may cause synergistic damage to our health.

The Bottom Line

Even though the nuclear industry and government have been covering up the dangers of radiation ever since nuclear weapons were invented, there is overwhelming scientific evidence that even low levels of radiation can damage our health.

Postscript: Any environmentalist who thinks that nuclear power is necessary to reduce greenhouse gasses has fallen prey to false propaganda from the nuclear industry.

This entry was posted in Business / Economics, Energy / Environment, Politics / World News, Science / Technology. Bookmark the permalink.
  • Thud

    Poison becomes powerfull medicine, it’s just the dose…
    Radiation hormesis, why should it not work similarily? Ever heard about the Taiwanese apartments with Cobalt-60?

    • Voodude

      Thud is correct. An unexpected “experiment” was conducted on residents in Taiwan in the 1980s. Steel used to construct apartments was “inadvertently” contaminated with the high-energy gamma-ray emitter, 60Cobalt. The residents were dosed. Cancer rates plummeted, well below the normal Taiwanese resident. A normal dose is 3-6 mSv, and 1,100 of the residents received around twenty times the normal exposure. 8,000 people received around ten to fifteen times the normal exposure.

      Chen, W. L., et al. 2007 “Effects of cobalt-60 exposure on health of Taiwan residents suggest new approach needed in radiation protection.” Dose-Response


  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Leslie-Corrice/100001938983145 Leslie Corrice

    Mixing apples and oranges? You’re mixing apples and onions. ANY of the 14 naturally-occurring elements ingested will produce exposure. There is no such thing as “net-zero). Plus, the bit about most natural background didn’t exist before nuclear weapon detonations (and nuke plants) is a boldfaced LIE! Either thet, or you have no idea what you are talking about. And, “Cesium in the reproductive organs”? It’s a muscle-seeker, PERIOD! And, the above is just the tip of the ice-berg. If this were court testimony, you would be held in contempt! Tell it like it is! Enough with your fairy tales.

    • AldivosTarril

      “Even the very lowest levels of radiation are harmful to life, scientists have concluded in the Cambridge Philosophical Society’s journal Biological Reviews. Reporting the results of a wide-ranging analysis of 46 peer-reviewed studies published over the past 40 years.” http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121113134224.htm

      Nukes add radiation to our biosphere which exposes billions of people to risk of cancer and death. People who compare bananas or granite rock with the kind of radioisotopes released by nukes simply do not know what they are talking about. Or they are liars.

      • novelPhenomena

        Is the type of radiation released by potassium-40 the same as the type of radiation from Caesium-137?

        • nuclearexpert

          Yes, it is. They both emit gamma rays. K-40 emits a 1460 keV gamma ray while Cs-137 emits a 661.7 keV gamma ray (both of those are the most likely gamma ray energy to be emitted during decay).

          • Dennis Mitton

            @nuclearexpert, Right in concept but not quite exact: K-40 emits gamma and beta radiations, while Cs-137 is a pure beta emitter. It’s metastable daughter Ba-137, though, dose emit gammas.

        • AldivosTarril

          Eating a banana is not the same as ingesting Cs-137. That’s why we don’t evacuate tens or hundreds thousands of people because of bananas.

          The nuke liars really shot themselves in the foot with their banana propaganda.

        • Dennis Mitton

          Cesium and potassium do have very similar emissions. Both emit beta radiation in the range of around 1.3-1.5 kev. And the body makes no differentiation between radiation types. Contrary to Aldivos’s statement below a micro-Curie of K-40 from a banana will be virtually the same as ingesting a micro-Curie of Cs-137 with the main difference being cesium’s 70 day biological half-life (the time it takes your body to ride half the chemical) to potassium’s 30.

      • nuclearexpert

        Wrong wrong wrong. It’s actually suggested that low levels of radiation are healthy. Check out radiation hormesis.

        • AldivosTarril

          You produce a “suggestion” in response to science?

          National Academy of Sciences: “The committee concludes that the assumption that any stimulatory hormetic effects from low doses of ionizing radiation will have a significant health benefit to humans that exceeds potential detrimental effects from the radiation exposure is unwarranted at this time.”

          In other words, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Keep working on your “expertise”!

      • Voodude

        “Nukes add radiation to our biosphere” … but, what radiation was there, in our biosphere, prior to mankind’s Atomic Age? A tremendous amount. Most of the typical person’s dose is from medical procedures, which varies from person to person … Aside from medical exposure, the majority of your radiation dose comes from naturally occurring 222Radon. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ee7ab5ff723b006e6a1265380f4ba4cdaf3412123013b2959b08b008790833cd.jpg

        The exposure to natural radiation sources is about 3mSv for some places, like Florida, Texas … and around 6mSv for other areas, like the high Colorado Plateau (the Denver area), Utah’s Salt Lake City, etc.


        “People who compare bananas or granite rock with the kind of radioisotopes”

        It matters little what radioisotopes you get exposed to; what matters is the dose you receive from it.

        Dose factors all that in. An external beta or alpha Bq is not the same as an internal Bq. But the Sv or Gray rating of dosage takes that into account. A Bq of Alpha (internally) is 20X a Bq of Gamma … but a Gray is a Gray is a Gray, regardless of the emission of an Alpha, Beta, Neutron, or Gamma. Similar calculations go into a Sievert.

        Your single largest internal damage from radioactive material comes from naturally occurring 40K, radioactive potassium. 170 μSv of a total 306 μSv. 120 μSv comes from ingested (or inhaled) Uranium or Thorium … almost totally natural, very little of that is from Mankind’s Atomic Age “contamination”.

      • Voodude

        “”Even the very lowest levels of radiation are harmful to life…”

        ”Careful long-term follow-up of the atomic bomb survivors does not support the claim that the tiniest dose of radiation is harmful.”

        ”And we know that trivial amounts of radiation do not cause cancer or other harm, and that computer models that multiply trivial individual radiation doses by millions of people to get thousands of cancer deaths are not just improbable. They are not conservative. They are simply wrong….

        Orient, J. 2014 “Fukushima and reflections on radiation as a terror weapon.” Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons



        Doss, Mohan 2012. “Evidence supporting radiation hormesis in atomic bomb survivor cancer mortality data.” Dose-Response


      • Voodude

        “Even the very lowest levels of radiation are harmful to life…”

        The actual data contradicts your opinion…


        Chen, W. L., et al. 2007 “Effects of cobalt-60 exposure on health of Taiwan residents suggest new approach needed in radiation protection.” Dose-Response


    • Voodude

      Leslie C is correct. Caesium is a salt. You pee it out, just like potassium. Potassium leaves the body a little quicker than Caesium, but then again, radioactive potassium is everywhere, so the next food item you ingest has radioactive K40 in it, yet the radioactive Caesium is decreasing rapidly from food items:

  • Deborah Rodriguez

    These videos posted on youtube will give you the learning curve you need. Learn everything you can about this radiation that is circling our earth.

    Queen Elizabeth, Queen Beatrice and Barbara Bush have much in common…evil, evil, evil.

    I have embraced the horror, I own my own horror. I have no choice.

    Nuked Radio Special: Nuked in the skies w/ Leuren Moret part 2
    10 celebrities displaying symptoms of possible radiation sickness after excessive flying. Historically, some famous actors and actresses have been nuked before…so it wouldn’t be the first time.

    Part 1: Kim Kardashian, Lil Wayne, Kelly Osbourne

    Part 2 NUKED IN THE SKIES: Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, Justin Bieber & more.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ii99KNruzUo

    Program recorded March 25th, 2013.
    Air date March 29th, 2013.

    A more detailed look at our current situation can be found here:

    2 years of Fukushima Part 1:Current status of Fukushima & comparisons to Chernobyl

    2 years of Fukushima Part 2: Excess Mortality & Fallout Avoidance

    2 years of Fukushima Part 3: Synergistic Relationships between Chemicals & Radiation: Multiplier Effect

    2 years of Fukushima Part 4: Mutations in Plants, Animals & Humans: Chernobyl, Three Mile Island & Fukushima

    2 years of Fukushima Part 5: What we learned from Atmospheric Testing

    2 years of Fukushima Part 6: How do we fix it?

    Archive of past shows: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=

    Best of Leuren Moret playlist: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=

    Leuren Moret’s email: leurenmoret@yahoo.com

  • Marty

    This is great article with references to back up the main points. Bravo. Cesium 137 is not emitted by bananas. It is dangerous. More has been released by fukishima than Chernobyl and there is no end in sight. Thanks for writing real journalism.

    • nuclearexpert

      Cesium 137 emits alpha particles which aren’t dangerous to humans unless ingested. You obviously don’t have the first clue of what you’re talking about.

      • AldivosTarril

        When Cs-137 is ingested due to nuke radiation leaks then people get cancer and die.

        Keep working on your “expertise”!

        • Voodude

          “When Cs-137 is ingested due to nuke radiation leaks then people get cancer and die.”

          Anyone who ate seafood from the Northern Hemisphere’s oceans, since the sixties, ate radioactive 137Cs.

          Post-Fukushima, the dose you would have acquired from eating only contaminated pacific blue-fin tuna, every time you ate seafood:


          …compared to the dose you’d get from the natural 210Po and natural 40K in that same tuna …

          0.90 μSv from Caesium
          12.70 μSv from 40K
          558 μSv from 210Polonium

          0.16% of your dose came from Caesium.
          97.6% of your dose came from natural Polonium

        • Voodude

          “When Cs-137 is ingested due to nuke radiation leaks then people get cancer and die.”

          Anyone who ate seafood from the Northern Hemisphere’s oceans, since the sixties, ate radioactive 137Cs.

          The bomb tests contaminated the northern hemisphere with radioactive Caesium. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d650cfd969eb43ec94628c9538bc3bb050787778ad60c12347fcf1e887bca3ad.jpg

          Ten months after Fukushima, Northern Pacific Ocean sample sites at tropical locations through sub-arctic sampling sites all showed 0.5 to 3 Bq/m^3 of seawater (with a few around 30Bq)… but natural 210Polonium is about 2000 Bq, and 40K, 11,000 Bq per cubic metre.

          The radioactive material in a cubic metre of seawater, without any contamination, is around 13,000 Bq/m^3. That’s the natural portion.

          If you had a chance to be a tourist in the Dead Sea, would you swim in it? I would. The excess salt makes a tremendous buoyancy. The Dead Sea has more than 183,000 Bq/m^3 of radioactive material in it. Natural radioactive material ” … found in the Persian Gulf (22 Bq/kg) [22,528 Bq/m^3], the Red Sea (15 Bq/kg) [15,360 Bq/m^3], and the eastern Mediterranean (14.6 Bq/kg) [14,950 Bq/m^3]. ”The average activity (both natural and anthropogenic) for the world’s oceans is 13.6 Bq/kg water. [13,926 Bq/m^3] More than 88% of this activity is due to the naturally occurring potassium isotope 40K [12,255 Bq/m^3]”.

          P. Varskog 2003
          Naturally occurring radionuclides in the marine environment – an overview of current knowledge with emphasis on the North Sea area
          Norse Decom AS http://www.forskningsradet.no/csstorage/vedlegg/radionuclides_marine_environment.pdf

      • Dennis Mitton

        No, Cs-137 does not emit alpha radiation.

    • Voodude

      “More has been released by fukishima than Chernobyl”


      Chernobyl was ten times bigger than Fukushima. The bomb tests were a hundred times bigger than Fukushima and Chernobyl combined.

      Lin, W., et al. 2015 “Radioactivity impacts of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident on the atmosphere.” Atmospheric Environment


      ”The Fukushima nuclear accident (Mar. 11, 2011) … The release of radionuclides into the environment in the course of this accident has only been exceeded by the Chernobyl nuclear accident and the cumulative release from atmospheric nuclear explosions”

      Merz, Stefan, Katsumi Shozugawa, and Georg Steinhauser 2015. “Analysis of Japanese Radionuclide Monitoring Data of Food Before and After the Fukushima Nuclear Accident.” Environmental Science & Technology

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4351624/ https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/072ae9c98a00546c107803151f756ebc5d1beefcc0e0897080c5423a9558ae86.jpg

  • ChuKo

    Both the nuclear power plant industry, the military, and the medical-dental industry have been promulgating misleading comparisons to ionizing radiation, apart from the banana story. Such as that medical x-rays are comparable to a day in the sun or a flight in an airplane (discussed in “The Mammogram Myth” by Rolf Hefti).

    Radiation hormesis is another deceptive notion, failing to account for the supra-linearity of radiation toxicity and the real biological effects and nature of ionizing radiation.

  • http://www.citizensforethics.org/ Richard & Rachel

    Fear Sales, and most people will swallow it whole. This is beneficial for supporting both big subsidies for wind and solar AND ensuring any reduction in the burning of fossil fuels would result in very high energy bills and/or blackouts.
    Please people get your information from multiple credible sources with different points of view.
    Don’t just believe BoingBoing when he tells you Wikipedia is wrong.

  • Dennis Mitton

    Yes. Fake science. One of the most glorious collections of pseudo-science I’ve seen since the last Bigfoot movie. But I have to say thanks. I read this a wile ago and noticed a reference to the EPA saying that our bodies have developed repair mechanism for radiative via evolution. I looked it up , wrote the EPA and explained how this is not possible and they have changed the Rad Town listing. Score one for real science! I tell all about it at http://www.dennismitton.wordpress.com/


    Does anyone know where I can find a blank “K 40 Form” to fill out?

  • Voodude

    “Postscript: Any environmentalist who thinks that nuclear power is necessary to reduce greenhouse gasses has …”

    That’s gases, as in “Greenhouse gases” – the plural of gas.
    An action taken, by a person who fills up his truck with petrol, is a person who gasses up his truck.

  • Voodude

    “Naturally-occurring internal emitters like radon and radium – whose distribution is largely concentrated in certain areas of the country”

    First off, natural emitters are distributed throughout the world, not just your country.
    Secondly, not very many places can avoid naturally occuring radiation emissions…

  • Voodude

    “radioactive cesium and iodine, as well as strontium and other dangerous radionuclides, are being distributed globally through weapons testing and nuclear accidents.”

    Distributed globally, yes, but not uniformly:

  • Voodude

    “But cesium-137 and radioactive iodine – the two main radioactive substances being spewed by the leaking Japanese nuclear plants – are not naturally-occurring substances,”

    Yes, they are. Even Plutonium is natural. Not that it makes any difference at all, except technically.

    All of the plutonium we deal with is man-made. All the radioactive Caesium is, too. But, for history’s sake, The Shibata Prize was awarded to P. K. Kurota for the discovery of natural Plutonium, in meteorites, Lunar samples, carbonaceous chondrites, and, in the 1970s, 244Pu in the Oklo pit in Gabon, Africa.

    The first uranium reactors were in Gabon, Africa … they spewed forth Plutonium and radioactive Caesium approximately two billion, to 1,950 Million years ago …

    Gauthier-Lafaye, François, and Francis Weber 2003. “Natural nuclear fission reactors: time constraints for occurrence, and their relation to uranium and manganese deposits and to the evolution of the atmosphere.” Precambrian Research


    ”Nature, not man, had constructed the world’s first nuclear fission reactor. Eventually, six reactor zones were identified in the Oklo pit [in modern-day Gabon, Africa] …

    Cowan, George A. 1976 “A natural fission reactor.” Scientific American

    The Shibata Prize was awarded to P. K. Kurota: