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Media Silent on Fukushima Radiation Impact in US

Sometimes the big news stories can only be seen by the shadows they cast. You would think that it would be easy to find detailed updates on the Fukushima disaster’s impact on the fishing industry, milk production, global radiation distribution patterns, etc.  You would be mistaken. The massive media coverage the initial disaster has fallen nearly silent.  Some frustrated environmental advocates have suggested that there may be a media blackout.  Maybe not, but media follow-up stories are few and far between these days.

In July of last year there were major stories about Fukushima and the  plum of radiation reaching across the Pacific Ocean towards North America.  On July 16, 2012, Deborah Dupre of the Examiner reported the following:

“As hair falls out of a Fukushima victim’s head, a new German study reports that North America’s West Coast will be the area most contaminated by Fukushima cesium of all regions in Pacific in 10 years, an “order-of-magnitude higher” than waters off Japan, according to a new German study followed by a former New York Times journalist going inside the no-entry zone and reporting radiation levels over 10 times higher than Tepco’s data.”

The article was accompanied by this scary graphic:

Radioactive Seawater Impact Map


The article went on to say: “”After 10 years, the concentrations become nearly homogeneous over the whole Pacific, with higher values in the east, extending along the North American coast with a maximum (~1 × 10−4) off Baja California,” a new research report states.”

Then, on August 22, 2012, NHK News reported that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant says it has detected radiation 380 times the government safety limit in a fish caught off Fukushima Prefecture.


Since then not much else has been reported on the spread of radiation to North America.  It has been reported that tons of debris from the tsunami continues to wash up on the Pacific coast, but very little, especially in the main stream press, about how we are being effected.  http://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2012/12/fukushima-debris-to-keep-hitting-the-pacific-coast-this-winter/

Perhaps my internet search skill are not the best, but the fact that I have to search for follow-up information is a warning sign.  Journalists and the media should paying more attention to to this topic. The one recent article related to radiation fallout from Fukushima I found was a  scientific study published in November, 2012.  It focuses primarily on how tracing  the travel of radionuclides gives insight into atmospheric air circulation in the Northern Hemisphere.

I think we all deserve to know more about what the US, Canadian and Mexican governments are doing to monitor radiation levels, track distribution rates and study how it may be impacting our food supply.

Below is a reference to the recently published study.

Science of The Total Environment Volume 438,

1 November 2012, Pages 80–85

Tracking the complete revolution of surface westerlies over Northern Hemisphere using radionuclides emitted from Fukushima

 M.A. Hernández-Ceballosa, G.H. Hongb, R.L. LozanoaY.I. KimcH.M. Leeb, S.H. Kimb,S.-W. YehdJ.P. Bolívara, ,M. Baskarane


Massive amounts of anthropogenic radionuclides were released from the nuclear reactors located in Fukushima (northeastern Japan) between 12 and 16 March 2011 following the earthquake and tsunami. Ground level air radioactivity was monitored around the globe immediately after the Fukushima accident. This global effort provided a unique opportunity to trace the surface air mass movement at different sites in the Northern Hemisphere. Based on surface air radioactivity measurements around the globe and the air mass backward trajectory analysis of the Fukushima radioactive plume at various places in the Northern Hemisphere by employing the Hybrid Single-Particle Lagrangian Integrated Trajectory model, we show for the first time, that the uninterrupted complete revolution of the mid-latitude Surface Westerlies took place in less than 21 days, with an average zonal velocity of > 60 km/h. The position and circulation time scale of Surface Westerlies are of wide interest to a large number of global researchers including meteorologists, atmospheric researchers and global climate modellers.



Mental Health Screening in Schools – In the Wake of Newtown

The horror of the mass killings of six faculty and twenty Sandy Hook Elementary School children is still painfully fresh, but it isn’t too soon to begin thinking about what needs to change to try and prevent this from happening again somewhere else.  Much of the discussion following this tragedy will rightly focus on adopting some sensible gun regulations.  But there are other areas that we need to focus on as well because our propensity for social violence is a broad and multifaceted problem.  Our mental health system is another important area to address.  Particularly with respect to children, our ability to identify and treat behavioral problems and mental illness needs to be strengthened.  One aspect of this involves early mental health screenings.  What follows here is a brief and partial list of articles, studies and references on the topic.    It’s not too soon to start educating ourselves.

American academy of pediatrics



Summary: The purpose of Health, Mental Health and Safety Guidelines for Schools is to help those who influence the health and safety of students and school staff while they are in school, on school grounds, on their way to or from school, and involved in school-sponsored activities. The guidelines recognize that the primary mission of schools is to educate students. Schools also have a responsibility for students’ health and safety while they are at school. By addressing health, mental health, and safety issues (including transportation and motor vehicle safety), schools can improve students’ academic performance today and contribute to their increased longevity and productivity long after they leave school.

Excerpt: Early identification of students with, or at risk for, transient or on-going mental disorders, followed by early intervention can mitigate the severity and duration of these problems and reduce personal, social, educational, and financial costs to the student and family and the educational and health systems. Up to three-quarters of U.S. children receiving professional care for a mental health problem obtained services through a school-based program.

Citations: Suggested citation, prior to written publication:
Taras H, Duncan P, Luckenbill D, Robinson J, Wheeler L, Wooley S: Health, Mental Health and Safety Guidelines for Schools. (2004); Available at http://www.schoolhealth.org 

Mental Health Screening in Schools


Summary: This article discusses the importance of screening students in

schools for emotional/behavioral problems.  Elements relevant to planning and implementing effective mental health screening in schools are considered. Screening in schools is linked to a broader national agenda to improve the mental health of children and adolescents. Strategies for systematic planning for mental health screening in schools are presented. Careful planning and implementation of mental

health screening in schools offers a number of benefits including enhancing outreach

and help to youth in need, and mobilizing school and community efforts to promote

student mental health while reducing barriers to their learning. When implemented with appropriate family, school, and community involvement, mental health screening in schools has the potential to be a cornerstone of a transformed mental health system.

Excerpt: “Youth with internalizing disorders such as depression, anxiety, or suicide ideation are not as easily identified as those with acting-out or externalizing disorders. Individuals with internalizing conditions comprise a significant population; the 2003 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a nationally representative sample of more than 15,000 high school students throughout the United States, found that in the 12-month period preceding the survey, 16.9% had seriously considered attempting suicide, 16.5% had

made a plan for attempting suicide, 8.5% had attempted suicide 1 or more times, and 2.9% had made an attempt requiring medical attention.

Citation: Weist MD, Rubin M, Moore E, Adelsheim S, Wrobel G. Mental health

screening in schools. J Sch Health. 2007; 77: 53-58.

Screening Mental Health Problems in Schools


Summary:  This brief highlights the following issues:

• How appropriate is large-scale screening for mental health problems?

• Will the costs of large-scale mental health screening programs

outweigh the benefits?

• Are schools an appropriate venue for large-scale screening of mental

health problems?


• Advocates for large-scale MH screening in schools see major benefits to individuals and

society of finding many more students with problems in order to treat them before the

problems become severe. In citing benefits for screening children and adolescents, the

assumption is that those identified will receive effective treatments. Based on this

assumption, key benefits claimed are preventing problems from becoming worse and

enhancing student success at school, which generates other benefits for students, their

families, and their teachers and for the society in terms of future productivity and which

reduces costs because there is less need for intensive treatments and special education.

In citing benefits for using schools as a venue for public health programs, as compared to

other community venues, matters of ready access and reduced costs are stressed, as well

as the benefits to schools of having students with problems treated.

• Those who oppose large-scale screening raise a host of concerns (i.e., potential costs). For some, there is a fundamental fear that society will mandate such screening and thereby interfere with what should remain a personal family matter and will violate rights to privacy,  consent, and parental control. Others are concerned that screening will increase referrals for nonexistent treatment resources and that the dollars budgeted for screening will reduce the dollars allocated for treatment. Still others point to the evidence that available screening methods used in schools produce too many errors (e.g., false positive identifications, inappropriate over-identification of subgroups such as some ethnic groups and boys with externalizing problems and girls with internalizing problems). Relatedly, they argue there will be insufficient follow-up assessment resources to correct for false positive identifications.  And, some argue there are significant costs resulting from selffulfilling prophecies and stigmatization.

In arguing against using schools, there is the social philosophical argument that mental

health is one of those matters that should remain a domain for family, not school,

intervention. More pragmatically, it is argued that scarce school time and resources should not be used for matters not directly related to teaching. Others point to the lack of enough competent school personnel to plan, implement, and evaluate large-scale screening.

Examples of documents covering the issues:

Screening Aimed at Preventing Youth Suicide (2005)

by Ellie Ashford for the National School Board Association’s School Board News

http://www.nsba.org/site/print.asp?TRACKID=&VID=55&ACTION=PRINT&CID=682&DID=36189  Provides a quick overview for school boards of some of the controversies and places them in the context of current events.

Screening for Depression: Recommendations and Rationale (2002)

by U.S. Preventive Services Task Force for Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/3rduspstf/depressrr.htm  and

Screening for Suicide Risk: Recommendation and Rationale (2004)

by U.S. Preventive Services Task Force for Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality



Citation: The Center is co-directed by Howard Adelman and Linda Taylor and operates

under the auspices of the School Mental Health Project, Dept. of Psychology, UCLA,

Write: Center for Mental Health in Schools, Box 951563, Los Angeles, CA90095-1563

Phone: (310) 825-3634     Fax: (310) 206-5895    Toll Free: (866) 846-4843

email: smhp@ucla.edu website: http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu

Mental health screening in schools


Summary: This article discusses the importance of screening students in schools for emotional/behavioral problems. Elements relevant to planning and implementing effective mental health screening in schools are considered. Screening in schools is linked to a broader national agenda to improve the mental health of children and adolescents. Strategies for systematic planning for mental health screening in schools are presented.

Excerpt: When implemented with appropriate family, school, and community involvement, mental health screening in schools has the potential to be a cornerstone of a transformed mental health system. Screening, as part of a coordinated and comprehensive school mental health program, complements the mission of schools, identifies youth in need, links them to effective services, and contributes to positive educational outcomes valued by families, schools, and communities.

Citations:  Weist MDRubin MMoore EAdelsheim SWrobel G.

Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Center for School Mental Health Analysis and Action, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA. mweist@psych.umaryland.edu


Study pushes early identification of kids’ mental health problems


Lisa Chedekel, Conn. Health I-Team Writer

Publication: theday.com

Published 09/14/2012 12:00 AM

Updated 09/15/2012 12:13 AM

Josue, 15, was born to a 12‐year‐old mother. Exposed to domestic violence and abuse, he struggled in school early on and received a special education evaluation in Grade 4 that found weaknesses in reading, math and writing.

By 13, he had been diagnosed with symptoms of bipolar disorder, depression, learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder. Yet, he started high school with limited support services and ended up suspended from school and referred to the juvenile justice system.


“Red flags for mental and behavioral health problems are often clear before the end of second grade,” said Andrea Spencer, educational consultant to the Center and dean of the School of Education at PaceUniversity, whose work was funded with a grant from the Connecticut Health Foundation. “It is imperative that we improve screening and identification, so support for these children can be provided before their academic careers are at risk.”

Please go to the above URL address to continue reading.

Clearing the Air – We’ve Made Progress in Fighting Pollution

Government regulation is so demonized today in part because it is a victim of its own success.  Who needs air pollution standards when skies are blue and the air smells sweet?  Aren’t federal government regulations just a drag on the economy?  As progress is made in cleaning up the air we breath, push back to dismantle the regulations that have been working becomes greater sometimes.  The same powers of industry that created unbearable air quality in the past are pressuring Congress today to ease up on clean air emissions standards.  We must hold the line and, in fact, move forward with improved standards.

Below are some picture that tell a story all by themselves, followed by a reminder that the relatively clean air and water we enjoy today was a hard fought bipartisan victory thanks, in part, to Richard Nixon.
This post began with the following note  from a friend:  My Urban Policy studies lead me to these websites.  My favorite is Planetizen.  If you are at all interested in how the commonwealth works, give these a look.
Anyway, here’s a look at Pittsburgh before government regulation of industrial pollution.  This is what unfettered capitalism will do.  The Republicans of today would have us believe that regulation is the devil.  Shall we go back to theEden that was America?

What Pittsburgh Looked Like When It Decided It Had a Pollution Problem

by Mark Barnes – June 5, 2012

In 1941, influenced by a similar policy introduced in St. Louis four years earlier, the city of Pittsburgh passed a law designed to reduce coal production in pursuit of cleaner air. Not willing to cripple such an important part of the local economy, it promised to clean the air by using treated local coal. The new policy ended up not being fully enacted until after World War II.

While the idea was a small step in the right direction, other factors ultimately helped improvePittsburgh’s notorious air quality. Natural gas was piped into the city. Regional railroad companies switched from coal to diesel locomotives. And, ultimately, the collapse of the iron and steel production industries in the 1980s led to rapidly improved air quality leading into the 21st century.  Control of coal smoke made it possible to clean soot-covered buildings and to re-plant hillsides, helping provide the city a look it could hardly envision in the depths of its industrial heyday.

Below, a look at downtown Pittsburgh between 1940 and 1945, courtesy of the University of Pittsburgh’s Smoke Control Lantern Slide Collection: [note: Only a small selection from website appear here.  Go to the website to see all the photographs.]


Remarks on Signing the Clean Air Amendments of 1970.
December 31, 1970


The year 1970 has been a year of great progress in this field. In February, you will recall that I submitted the most comprehensive message on the environment ever proposed by a President of the United States. During the year, there have been some administrative actions, some legislative actions.

Time, however, has been required for the Congress to consider the proposals of the administration and, finally, to agree on the legislation that will be sent to the President for signature.

This is the most important piece of legislation, in my opinion, dealing with the problem of clean air that we have this year and the most important in our history.
It provides, as you know, for provisions dealing with fuel emissions and also for air quality standards, and it provides for ‘the additional enforcement procedures which are absolutely important in this particular area.

How did this come about? It came about by the President proposing. It came about by a bipartisan effort represented by the Senators and Congressmen, who are here today, in acting. Senator Randolph, Senator Cooper, and Congressman Springer represent both parties and both Houses of the Congress. [snip]

And if, as we sign this bill in this room, we can look back and say, in the Roosevelt Room on the last day of 1970, we signed a historic piece of legislation that put us far down the road toward a goal that Theodore Roosevelt, 70 years ago, spoke eloquently about: a goal of clean air, clean water, and open spaces for the future generations of America.

Read more at the American Presidency Project:Richard Nixon: Remarks on Signing the Clean Air Amendments of 1970.

Some Tea Bags Contain Plastic? Who knew!

DATA DRIVEN VIEWPOINT:  Time to switch to loose tea?  I accidentally came across this snippet of an article in Wikipedia explaining how some tea bags use plastic in the their manufacture.  I have been trying to get away from plastics, especially in hot food and drink applications (anyone know where I can find an all steel automatic coffee maker?)  Below is the article and some information about PVC and PP, the two plastics mentioned in this Wikipedia entry.

From Wikipedia:


Main article: Filter paper

Three different teas in tea bags

Tea bag paper is related to paper found in milk and coffee filters and is a blend of wood and vegetable fibers. The vegetable fiber isbleached pulp abaca hemp, a small plantation tree grown for its fiber, mostly in the Philippines and Colombia. Heat-sealed tea bag paper usually has a heat-sealable thermoplastic such as PVC or polypropylene as a component fiber on the inner tea bag surface.


How can PVC affect my health?

Exposure to PVC often includes exposure to phthalates, which are used to soften PVC and may have adverse health effects.
Because of PVC’s heavy chlorine content, dioxins are released during the manufacturing, burning, or landfilling of PVC. Exposure to dioxins can cause reproductive, developmental, and other health problems, and at least one dioxin is classified as a carcinogen.
Dioxins, phthalates, and BPA are suspected to be endocrine disruptors, which are chemicals that may interfere with the production or activity of hormones in the human endocrine system.


Health Risks of PVC Plastic
PVC is dangerous to human health and the environment throughout it’s entire life cycle, during production, in our homes, and in the trash. At each stage it releases poisonous chemicals such as mercury, dioxins, and phthalates, which can cause cancer and harm the immune and reproductive systems. Workers at PVC plants may face life-long health risks from exposure to PVC and other hazardous chemicals used to make PVC. Babies and young children are especially vulnerable to these toxins and exposure greatly increases the following health risks:
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Reproductive and developmental problems
  • Allergies in children
  • Brain cancer
  • Leukemia or cancer of the blood.
  • Scleroderma or hardening of connective tissue throughout the body
  • Cholangiocarcinoma – a malignant tumor near the gall bladder and liver
  • Angiosarcoma – a malignant tumor arising from a blood vessel
  • Lymphomas or cancer of the lymph system
  • Liver cirrohosis
Disposing of PVC plastics is an environmental nightmare.

What is polypropylene (PP)?

Polypropylene (PP) is known for its high melting point, which makes it ideal for holding hot liquids that cool in the bottles (for example, ketchup and syrup). It can be manufactured to be flexible or rigid. PP is used to make containers for yogurt, margarine, takeout meals, and deli foods. It is also use for medicine bottles, bottle caps, and some household items. It is identified as number 5.

2.6 Observations in man

Skerfving et al. (19) briefly stated in their case report on polyethylene fume asthma that they have also seen a case of bronchospasm caused by polypropylene fumes; but the patient had a pre–existing bronchospasmic disease.  An asthma case in the production of polypropylene bags has been reported (16).

The exposure levels of the degradation products were not measured. The patient reacted in the challenge test where polypropylene was heated at 250ºC. No exposure data was given. When the patient was exposed to formaldehyde, no bronchospasmic reaction was elicited.  Epidemiological studies of polypropylene production workers and carpet manufacturing employees who used polypropylene showed a significant excess of colorectal cancer (1, 2, 20-22). These studies were based on clusters of colorectal cancer. In one study, 5 of the 7 cases were diagnosed within a 5–month period and in the other study 5 cases were diagnosed within an 18–month period. The exposure data were very poor in these studies, and it is not even possible to state if there had been any significant exposure to the thermal degradation products of polypropylene. Recent updates of these two original study populations have found no continuation of the excess of colorectal cancer, thereby indicating the chance nature of the clusters (9, 10, 14, 15). Other investigations of polypropylene production workers in Canada (18), Germany (12), Australia (3, 6) and the United Kingdom (4) found no link with colorectal cancer. Lagast et al. (13) pooled the results of the above studies and calculated an aggregate number of 20 observed cases and of 14.65 expected cases. The difference is not statistically significant.  As a whole, the combined weight of epidemiological evidence does not support an association between the work at polypropylene production and colorectal cancer.