Stop passing these scary stories about Fukushima fish around social media!

Much is being made in the news about the Fukushima radiation leakage catastrophe. Yes, it’s bad. It’s troublesome, but it’s currently not global. If it was, we’d be hearing more about it, not from questionable scare-blogs.

First, we saw a graphic of what was said to be radiation spreading across the ocean. That was a myth. It was an old map of wave sizes related to the earthquake-induced tsunami that caused the plant failure. Then, tehre was a map of fallout. Wrong.

Now, we are seeing scary stories of poisoned ocean populations. Let’s find out more about this. This post appeared on Skeptoid blog and was recommended by a marine biologist, David Shiffman, @whysharksmatter on Twitter as a point by point rebuttal of the Gary Stamper piece that got shared by scared people who are concerned this is an epic catastrophe for the world.

Are Your Days of Eating Pacific Ocean Fish Really Over? | Skeptoid.

To paraphrase an oft-misattributed quote, pseudoscience can travel halfway around the world while good science is still putting its lab coat on. This would appear to be the case for “At the Very Least, Your Days of Eating Pacific Ocean Fish Are Over,” a hysterical blog post alleging that all fish out of the Pacific will be unsafe to eat forever because of leaking radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant.

The piece was written by Gary Stamper, who runs “Collapse into Consciousness,” a website devoted to surviving the supposed coming collapse of society. It went up on August 14th, and has been reposted on numerous blogs and Facebook pages since then. It’s clear that a lot of people have read it (Stamper claims it’s gotten half a million views) and become extremely frightened. Should they be? Is there anything to Stamper’s claims of animals being burned, fish becoming inedible and thyroid cancer skyrocketing?

The short answer is no, there isn’t.

The piece goes on to pick apart some of the “facts” but mostly rumors going around in the media today. There is “hyperbolic hype”, mistakes about leaking radiation vs bomb fallout, factual inaccuracies, conspiracy mongering, warnings about injured and dead animals (even in California where the radiation has NOT reached).

The author of the Skeptoid piece likens the Stamper rhetoric with the Gish Gallop, a rapid fire barrage of words that are so meaningless and illogical you can’t even follow but sound impressive. Get the informed view about this environmental problem before playing a role in spreading misinformation and fear to your friends, family and facebook.

Check out Snopes myth busting on these two related stories.

snopes.com: Nuclear Fallout Map.  FALSE

snopes.com: Fukushima Emergency.  FALSE

Waves, not radioactive water.

Waves, not radioactive water.

  14 comments for “Stop passing these scary stories about Fukushima fish around social media!

  1. Brewhogg
    September 4, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    According to this article (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/22/radioactive-fish_n_2743899.html) bluefin tuna caught off the coast of California tested positive for radiation from the Fukushima accident. However, the radiation levels reported in the fish are well below any dangerous levels to humans.

    .

  2. Chris Howard
    September 4, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    The underlying problem is that people in the US don’t understand the concept of LEVEL of toxicity. They see the word toxic and go into a frothing, indignant, panic.

    They also don’t know the safety record surrounding nuclear energy. While its true that there have been issues, some catastrophic, the industry overall is pretty safe. The waste is another story.

  3. Lisa Barth
    September 4, 2013 at 3:15 PM

    A friend passed a scary sounding story about ” radiation making the ocean boil” on my Facebook page. She read this from the National Report & was passing it along as truth. That headline is one big red flag, but she bought it. When I called her on it she took the story down.

  4. September 4, 2013 at 3:41 PM

    This XKCD poster about radiation doses was put up shortly after the disaster, but I’m afraid it still won’t teach those who Really Should learn about these things: http://xkcd.com/radiation/

  5. Brandon
    September 4, 2013 at 5:22 PM

    There is a typo in the second paragraph:”Then, tehre was a map of fallout.” It should be “there” instead of “tehre.”

  6. F 89
    September 4, 2013 at 8:41 PM

    THANK YOU! I’ve been fighting this one tooth and nail-I have friends in Hawaii that are panicking about this: their source was Natural News. Which went on and on about the HIGH levels of radiation in CA. I pointed out if it were that high, Japan would be a wasteland, and people in Hawaii would have been feeling the effects long ago.

    • dbhungry
      December 3, 2013 at 4:01 PM

      so if there was radiation poisoning Japan (level 3 on a scale of 10), how long would it take to see the results? 10 years? Just because you can’t see any results immediately (such as Japan being a wasteland) doesn’t mean there isn’t high levels of radiation there…

      • corn holer
        January 22, 2014 at 3:17 PM

        if there is high levels then shouldn’t you see results sooner?

  7. Blargh
    September 4, 2013 at 9:20 PM

    First off, this might seem like nitpicking to you, but speaking as someone in the field, it isn’t: please try to distinguish radiation (emitted energy) from radioactivity (amounts of radioactive material). The media’s constant confusion between the two is one of the reasons it’s so easy to publish scare stories and so hard to educate the public about radiation and radioactivity (the main requirements for educating the public on ionizing radiation are a sturdy desk and a thick forehead, because the two are going to become close friends). Because of the radiation == radioactivity association, people believe for example that any radiation exposure will make them radioactive, or that food irradiation makes the food radioactive and unsafe to eat – and so everything that involves radiation becomes so much scarier in their eyes.

    (The media’s constant reporting of dose rates as doses – “radiation levels have reached 100 millisieverts!” – is just as frustrating, but another matter entirely.)
    </frustration>

    The “radiation spreading across the ocean” graphic annoyed the hell out of me when I received it from an acquaintance. You could tell from a single glance that it didn’t depict what the captions that came with it stated that it was depicting. It had a legend, for Eris’s sake – since when is radioactivity measured in units of length? And all that was needed to debunk it was to run it through TinEye to find the original, which again annoyed the hell out of me, because someone in the chain before me should have done just that instead of mindlessly forwarding it…

    Oh, and for anyone reading a scare story about radiation, the rule of thumb is “it’s not as dangerous as you probably think it is”.
    To put radiation exposure in perspective, a dose enough to cause acute radiation sickness (if received within a short enough timespan) – 1 Sv – gives you a ~5% lifetime risk of an induced cancer. Unless you’re Alexander Litvinenko or you’re reading this in between scavenging for food in the radioactive wastelands after World War III, that is simply not a dose you’re going to get from eating regular food, contaminated or not.
    By comparison, the general lifetime risk of a fatal cancer is around 23% for men and 19% for women.

    As for these releases of radioactivity into the Pacific:
    The Fukushima leak of 40 TBq (of what is unclear from that article – but I’m going to assume all nuclides, with Cs-137 being the major one) is less than what the UK used to deliberately dump into the Irish Sea every year. And while that is reckless and irresponsible, Europe is still there.

    • colt
      November 20, 2013 at 8:58 PM

      very cool. Thank you. But its been 2 years and they are still dumping… EVERY DAY. Plus Tepco is pretty incompetent. There is also the near certainty of another earthquake during the next 10 years (there storage tanks may last 5)

  8. Lisa Barth
    September 4, 2013 at 10:27 PM

    @ Blargh. Isn’t the term “fallout” also misused? Fallout seems to me to be the particles that fall to the ground after say, a nuke bomb detonation, or after Chernobyl blew to pieces. Not the same as radiation release from a power plant accident. I’ve also found that many people believe the explosion at Fuku was a nuclear explosion, & call it that. I’m no expert, but it seems like there are many myths about radiation out there.

  9. Blargh
    September 5, 2013 at 9:57 AM

    I’m perfectly fine with using the word “fallout” for that. That term’s been genericized to any deposition of airborne contamination, no matter their source. Or their content, even. And it’s a good term. :)
    (Wouldn’t fit here though, since it’s water seepage and not airborne.)

    The belief that the Fukushima explosions were nuclear and not ordinary hydrogen/oxygen explosions is partly because of the general belief that nuclear power plants are just dormant atomic bombs (a belief that no amount of education will ever make go away, I think), and partly because certain “experts” got airtime to spout absolute bollocks about them – e.g. Gundersen, who claimed (from 05:52 to ~06:40) that hydrogen and oxygen can’t detonate (♫ hello forehead my old friend \ prepare to meet my desk again ♫) and that the Fukushima reactor building explosions therefore must be nuclear… *facepalm*

    As for myths about radiation, oh yes. For example, in the latest NSF Science and Engineering Indicators survey, 33% of Americans believed that “all radioactivity is man-made”.
    But then again, over 50% answered “False” to the statement “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals” in the same survey, so maybe I shouldn’t complain…

  10. September 7, 2013 at 12:58 AM

    It’s easy to dismiss and attack claims. I think what people would like is data. To this date even experts feel unsure about what is happening in our oceans. The lack of quantifiable and reliable data is missing from either side of the argument. What I see on this forum is one side making a claim with some facts and another side attacking the person making claims. But lacking any data

    • Shon
      November 8, 2013 at 12:10 PM

      Thank you.

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