As someone who has basic understanding/education in physics and how radiation works, there is something that is confusing me and which I would like to shed some light on (I posted about this previously, but the discussion diverted to the risk of radiation in North America from the Fukushima incident, rather than the biological processes of ingesting radioactive particles).

With background radiation, and even relatively high levels of surrounding radiation, I understand that the risk is non-existant to very minimal. However, it seems that lately, people and officials are saying that food near and even in Fukushima is completely safe to eat.

In the case of surrounding radiation, sitting next to something that reads 3000 μSv/h is completely different to eating food that also emits 3000 μSv/h of radiation. In the former situation, once you walk off, the exposure stops. In the latter, radiation is constantly emitted inside your body.

Even more, the amount of radiation is not absorbed by the body equally, but it is usually very concentrated in a particular area of the body, as the particles lodge somewhere and sometimes bioaccumulate. From my understanding, the exposure to the surrounding cells is therefore more intense and prolonged.

To what degree is ingesting radioactive particles in food considered safe (or if at all), such as those in food near Fukushima, when taking into consideration that a concentrated and continuous source of radiation is different from an external one?

  • $\begingroup$ You are asking too many questions at once. Please narrow it down to, preferably, single question. $\endgroup$ – another 'Homo sapien' Feb 20 '17 at 16:31
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    $\begingroup$ @another'Homosapien' Edited it into one question. $\endgroup$ – samseva Feb 21 '17 at 6:39

Your question has a rather glaring assumption which is that the amount of radiation emitted by food sources is equivalent to the amount of radiation received while sitting on top of the Fukushima plant. Even if a fish was as radioactive as an equal mass of concrete at the site, the dose you are getting at the site is because of all of the other things surrounding you.

The answer is simply that the food sources near the plant have been deemed (by the officials you mention) to emit a dose of radiation that is less than the level deemed harmful (again, by the officials you mention). It is of course possible that either the estimate of the radiation dose from the food is low, or the level deemed harmful is too high; that discussion is too broad for an answer here.

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    $\begingroup$ "The answer is simply that the food sources near the plant have been deemed to emit a dose of radiation that is less than the level deemed harmful." Any reference to back up that claim? I would strongly doubt that ... as far as I know, there are still places in Europe you shouldn't collect mushrooms because of radiation poisoning caused by Chernobyl. $\endgroup$ – AlexDeLarge Feb 22 '17 at 16:48
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexDeLarge I carefully used the word "deemed" in my answer: I'm referring to the comments made by officials that say the food is safe. Personally, I'd avoid eating food from that area. I only meant to answer the OP's edited question about continuous internal vs external radiation. I edited my post to clarify this. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Feb 22 '17 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause That was an example (and yes, slightly exagerated to make a point) and a very small part of the post. 3000 μSv/h isn't the equivalent of "sitting on top of the Fukushima plant." It's possibly more than 1000 times less than that. $\endgroup$ – samseva Feb 25 '17 at 15:52

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