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Mutant Butterflies and Other Scary Stories

By Joe Rothstein — August 20, 2012

Editor, EINNEWS.com

If you’ve ever been in the business of reading bed time stories to young ones chances are you are familiar with the Caldecott Medal, which annually recognizes "the most distinguished picture book for children" published in the United States. It’s the young readers’ equivalent of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

That “Caldecott” is often mistakenly associated with Helen Caldicott, an Australian pediatrician who has spent most of her career sounding the alarm about nuclear dangers. For her efforts, Helen Caldicott has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and has received numerous international awards. The Smithsonian Institution has named Caldicott as one of the most influential women of the 20th century.

The story Helen Caldicott tells is decidedly not suitable for bedtime reading to children. It’s scarier than any book about ghosts and goblins, because her story is based on real life threats.

Earlier this month Caldicott was interviewed by David Bernstein of Consortium News. Read these excerpts from that interview. But, fair warning, they may cause you to lose some sleep.

“The situation in Fukushima is dire. They are now looking at children under the age of 18 in the Fukushima prefecture, and they've examined 38,000 so far. And 36 percent of them, over one-third, have thyroid nodules, cysts and nodules, almost certainly related to their exposure to both external radiation, gamma radiation, but also to inhaling and ingesting in their food, radioactive iodine.

“You would expect solid tumors not to occur, for another, hmmm, 10 to 15 years---and this data is coming within the first year after the accident. So it clearly indicates these children got a whopping dose of radioactive Iodine-131.

“The cedar pollen in Fukushima was so full of cesium it was almost unbelievable. And that was blown all over the place. Someone tested some dust in a tenth floor apartment in Tokyo recently and there was a lot of cesium 137, and 134 in it, uranium 238, 235, and the like, from the Fukushima accident, tenth floor of a Tokyo apartment.

“And the food is radioactive, much of it. The rice, much of the rice grown in Japan is grown in the Fukushima prefectures. It's being harvested with cesium in it so they're mixing it with non-radioactive rice. Doesn't matter, you know, it reconcentrates back in the body.

“Sixty-three percent of the fish caught 100 kilometers from Fukushima have cesium in them. Tuna being caught off the coast of California is carrying cesium from Fukushima. Spinach, the mushrooms are full of cesium and other isotopes, but they're only just measuring cesium.

“Cesium lasts for 600 years, it's in the soil. Every time it rains it gets washed down from the hills, into the rivers and into the ocean, and concentrating in the food chain consistently. So, therefore, the food will be radioactive for hundreds of years so it's not just the fact that people have radioactive elements already in their bodies, which will continue to be there for some years, until they're excreted, finally. But that they will be eating radioactive foods for hundreds of years.

“On top of Building Four is a cooling pool of spent fuel rods over a hundred tons, it's a hundred feet above the air. And it's very damaged. If there's an earthquake greater than, on the Richter scale of 7.0, they predict Building Four will collapse. Down will come the cooling pool.

“The zirconium cladding of the fuel rods will burst into flames reacting with air at very high temperatures. Ten times more cesium and radioactivity will be released from that cooling pool than from Chernobyl. And they are talking now, senior politicians in Japan, about evacuating Tokyo, should that happen. And then it will contaminate enormously the northern hemisphere.

“Some areas of America, quite a high fall-out initially from Fukushima. The ambient levels of radiation in Seattle went up 40,000 times above normal. There was radioactive iodine in the kelp off Anaheim, where Disneyland is. Because that was brought through the currents in the air, and then obviously fell down with the rain.

“Tuna caught off the coast of California contained cesium. Now, it's quite dilute but, you know, the dilution really doesn't matter. The dilution factor … because if you eat tuna, happen to eat it with some cesium in it, the cesium goes to one of your muscles or into your brain. Because cesium is the potassium analogue, it's like potassium and our bodily cells are reaching for potassium. You only need a single mutation in a single cell induced by a very small amount of cesium to induce cancer.

“The incubation time for cancer is anytime from five to 17 years. And when the cancer arrives, say you get a headache, or lose your vision or something and you actually are diagnosed with a cerebral tumor, it will not be noted. It doesn't say, ‘I was made by some cesium in some tuna, 20 years ago.’”

Helen Caldicott’s interview predated a report by Japanese researchers that butterflies exposed to the Fukushima radiation are mutating at an extraordinary rate, both physically and genetically, with the share of those showing abnormalities increasing from 12 percent in the first generation to 18 percent in the second and 34 percent in the third.

Also since her interview one of two nuclear reactor units at Connecticut’s Millstone facility had to shut down because the sea water that keeps its reactors cool had become too warm. It’s been an extraordinarily hot summer. And with global warming, summers, and seawater, are not likely to get cooler.

The prognosis for existing U.S. reactors that depend on fresh water isn’t any better. Not as long as drought becomes an annual part of our lives.

Don’t take the wrong message from all of this. Continue to read books that win Caldecott awards and charm your young ones to sleep with them. But keep your eyes open for the other Caldicott, Helen. She’s the scary one who keeps us on edge just by insisting on talking about all of those inconvenient truths despite assurances from the nuclear industry and regulatory bodies that nuclear power is safe.

(Joe Rothstein can be contacted at joe@einnews.com)

Joe Rothstein is editor of U.S. Politics Today. His career in politics spans 35 years, as a strategist and media producer in more than 200 campaigns for political office and for many political causes. He was a pioneer in professional political consulting and one of the founding members of the American Association of Political Consultants. During his career Mr. Rothstein has served as editor of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Anchorage Daily News and adjunct professor at George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management. He has a master's degree in journalism from UCLA.