Posted by: Green Knight | March 30, 2011

Hi-Pro Glow

I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been busy tracking the progress of Patrick, the little pit-bull mix that was starved near to death, bagged, and dumped in a 19th-floor trash chute in New Jersey.  He’s doing amazingly well considering how close he came…he didn’t even have a measurable body temperature when they picked him up.  Check out “The Patrick Miracle” page on Facebook.  We need a national law to hit animal abusers with serious felony charges.  There have been a few others in the news this week as well, all horrible cases of abuse and even torture.  I don’t get serious about too many things, but mistreatment of animals gets me very riled indeed.  Here in St. Louis, my pals at Stray Rescue took a street dog to their staff vet last week; she had such a bad case of heartworms that she looked like a blimp from fluid retention.  Etta’s condition is guarded but we’re all rooting for her.

The other part of my weird (as usual) title relates to all the hysteria about radiation exposure on the West Coast.  People are potentially taking way too much potassium iodide and just freaking out in general.  What I’ve seen over the decades is that a little information can be more dangerous than the perceived threat; people are concerned but not informed.  Quick, in three sentences, describe the difference between radiation and radioactivity.  See?

The people IN Japan are the ones who need to worry about Cesium-137, Strontium-90, and Iodine-131 (which has a half-life of only 8.02 days, meaning it breaks down quickly).  The Japanese get plenty of iodine from kelp and other sources already.  The US EPA’s 12 monitoring stations in the Pacific and along the coast have measured slight increases but nothing coming anywhere close to established levels of concern.  If you can borrow a Geiger counter from somewhere, scan your little shaker of no-sodium salt substitute sometime.  Instead of sodium chloride, it’s potassium chloride, and what’s making it click is the portion in there that’s Potassium-40.  Not to worry, bananas have just as much.  If you’re suiting up to do a hazardous waste cleanup, or doing any other kind of hot work or play, you want to keep your potassium and zinc replenished to avoid deadly heat stroke, and some of it’s gonna be K40: that’s just nature, and it’s basically no worse than the background levels we evolved with.  Radon is the highest input of radiation we all get all the time, from the earth’s crust and building materials.  Again, it’s only when we get much above background that we need to be concerned.

If you really want the meter to go nuts, scan your smoke detector sometime (but don’t dismantle it, just take the main cover off.)  That’s that little chunk of Americium-241 in there; it’s what makes the damn thing WORK.  And incidentally, that’s why, when it ceases to function, you’re supposed to send it back to the manufacturer for reprocessing.  How many people bother?  The old Coleman (and other brand) lantern mantles will buzz like crazy too, from the thorium salt it’s impregnated with.

So put away the KI and the mask, think twice about nuclear power plants in earthquake zones, and adopt a pet from your local shelter, or at least donate.  It doesn’t take much more than that to make me happy.



  1. I should also have mentioned that we all got a lot more exposure in the ’50s and ’60s from all the atmospheric testing. The French were doing aboveground testing in the Mururoa Atoll in Polynesia up until the early ’80s, when my colleagues at Greenpeace made them go underground, at the cost of having the shit beat out of them by French Marines, but getting it on film for international news distribution. After a few years of underground testing in a deep well they drilled on the atoll, the base of that coral island fractured, and has been releasing radioactive particles into the local seawater for about 20 years. No apparent panic reaction from THAT, perhaps because there aren’t many rich countries in the southern hemisphere to get all paranoid?

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