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Posts Tagged ‘fear’

Radiation From Japan Reaches Canada. RUN! PANIC! AAAAAH!

March 22, 2011 2 comments

File:Radiation symbol alternate.svgOne day, I think I’m going to open up a news website or newspaper and there is going to be a front page headline that reads “LOOK OUT BEHIND YOU!”.

This is getting ridiculous.

New outlets, including CBC, ran an article today and yesterday about increasing radiation levels detected in Canada and in Iceland. The cause of this radiation is attributed to the crisis with the nuclear power plant in Japan. So just how big of an increase in radiation was there in British Columbia?

Gary Holub says increased radiation levels were expected, and are less than the increase in radiation levels Canadians would see naturally when it rains.

Holub stressed that the increase poses no health risk to Canadians.

Seriously? Less of an increase than when it rains? Yet the CBC chose to run a headline which said: “Increased Radiation Detected by B.C. Monitors“.

Scientific American reported what the U.S. Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency had to say about the increase in radiation.

They said the radiation amounted to one-millionth of the dose rate that a person normally receives from natural sources such as rocks, bricks and the sun.

This increased level of radiation is not even newsworthy, let alone worthy of a scaaaaaaaary headline. Everyone on this side of the pacific ocean has nothing to worry about.

Actually, unless you are one of the heroic Japanese workers trying to restore power to the nuclear plant, you have very little to worry about.

Does nobody remember that there were victims of an earthquake AND tsunami in Japan recently? Are we only paying attention to the nuclear plant now because news outlets love the fear generated by the word “radiation”?

Donations to the Japanese relief effort can be made through The Canadian Red Cross

Other places to make donations can be found here.

Relative Radiation

March 21, 2011 Leave a comment

With the current crisis in Japan with the nuclear power plant, the media has latched onto the public’s fears of radiation.

And y’know what? I understand that fear. Radiation is invisible. It could be anywhere and you won’t know it until it’s too late.

But I am not afraid. Why?

The thing is that I know how much radiation we get on a daily basis, and how it compares with certain medical procedures and working near radiation sources, like a nuclear power plant. Most people do not, and the media plays on those fears to drive up ratings.

Thankfully, Randall Munroe of xkcd fame has created another wonderful (and timely) poster illustrating the relative doses associated with doing certain tasks or living near certain places.

Click on the image see the large version.

Some of the most interesting comparisons:

  • You get more than 3 times the radiation dose living within 50 miles of a coal power plant than you do living within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant
  • Flying round-trip from New York to Los Angeles would give you the equivalent dose of living within 10 miles of the Three Mile Island accident.
  • Living in a stone, brick, or concrete building for 15 years gives you a larger radiation dose than anyone got from the Three Mile Island accident.
  • Using a CRT monitor for a year gives you a larger radiation dose than living next to a nuclear power plant for a year (but then again, who uses CRT monitors anymore?)

So while the Japan nuclear crisis is indeed serious, it is no reason to stop using nuclear power in general.

Oh, and the radiation dose from cell phones is zero, because phones don’t generate ionizing radiation and they don’t cause cancer. Relax, people.

Calgary Falls to Fluoride Fear

February 11, 2011 28 comments

In a huge skeptic fail, the city of Calgary has announced that it will remove fluoride from its water supply.

The move comes after the city council voted 10-3 in favour of stopping the addition of fluoride to the city’s water.

And now, Fluoride Action Network, based in the U.S. but which has spearheaded the anti-fluoride movement in Canada and has succeeded in Waterloo and now Calgary, is moving its fight against reason to London, Ontario.

I live in Calgary now, and I used to go to school in London. Is this a personal attack against me!?

The Fluoride Action Network has a lot of similarities with the anti-vaccine movement. They are claiming that they are “are just pushing for a review that’s badly needed after decades of conventional wisdom.”

Yet the first thing you see on their homepage, in large font: “TAKE ACTION! A Reduction in Fluoride Levels is Not Enough: Tell HHS to End Fluoridation Completely”

As the CBC reports today, the city council acted without any input from Calgary’s citizens:

Earlier in the day, city council considered and rejected by a vote of 8-5 putting the fluoride issue to a plebiscite in the 2013 municipal election.

And this was my favourite quote:

Council also rejected referring the matter to an expert panel.

*FACEPALM*

So the City Council basically said “No, no. We won’t ask an expert. We know what direction the wind is blowing and we will go along with it.”

People are motivated by fear. A couple of months ago there was  this piece in Maclean’s magazine about Canadians reacting to these fear tactics, including fluoride:

the Waterloo regional council voted to stop the 43-year practice of adding fluoride to the municipal drinking water, after two local residents complained that it was making them sick. Forget the fact that the only known side effect from water fluoridation—from too-high fluoride levels, specifically—is something called dental fluorosis, a.k.a. stained teeth, and that the ban was implemented despite strong opposition from the very people who stand to benefit most from the ban, namely, local dentists. Waterloo residents are now revealed as the Birthers of dental hygiene, sticking to their thesis precisely because it is so implausible.

But anti-fluoriders stick to their convictions, saying that it is not the Government’s job to maintain the health of its people, which is a crock. The government is in place to do whats best for its people. They police the streets, they manage public transportation and they plow the roads. If adding a bit of fluoride to the water is in our best interest, why shouldn’t they do it?

Not convinced? You want some science? Well as stated above, the only side effect of excess fluoride is stained teeth.  Fear-mongerers attempt to convince us that fluoride consumption is correlated with bone cancer. But that study was not peer reviewed, and only looked at a small subset of the data. When compared with the entire population, that correlation disappeared. The authors of that study themselves noted that it had serious limitations.

But there are several reviews of actual peer-reviewed research stating that fluoride is perfectly safe at the levels maintained in public water supplies:

  • Water fluoridation. Parnell C, Whelton H, O’Mullane D. Eur Arch Paediatr Dent. 2009 Sep;10(3):141-8. (Conclusion: Water fluoridation, where technically feasible and culturally acceptable, remains a relevant and valid choice as a population measure for the prevention of dental caries.)
  • Systematic review of water fluoridation. McDonagh MS, Whiting PF, Wilson PM, Sutton AJ, Chestnutt I, Cooper J, Misso K, Bradley M, Treasure E, Kleijnen J.BMJ. 2000 Oct 7;321(7265):855-9. (Conclusion: The evidence of a beneficial reduction in caries should be considered together with the increased prevalence of dental fluorosis. There was no clear evidence of other potential adverse effects.)
  • Water fluoridation in Australia. Spencer AJ, Slade GD, Davies M.Community Dent Health. 1996 Sep;13 Suppl 2:27-37. (Conclusion: Community water fluoridation continues to be the most effective and socially equitable measure for caries prevention among all ages by achieving community-wide exposure to the caries preventive effects of fluoride.)
  • Risk-benefit balance in the use of fluoride among young children. Do LG, Spencer AJ. J Dent Res. 2007 Aug;86(8):723-8. (Conclusion: Exposure to fluoridated water was positively associated with fluorosis, but was negatively associated with caries. Using 1000-ppm-F toothpaste (compared with 400- to 550-ppm-F toothpaste) and eating/licking toothpaste were associated with higher risk of fluorosis without additional benefit in caries protection.)
  • An update on fluorides and fluorosis. Levy SM.J Can Dent Assoc. 2003 May;69(5):286-91. (Conclusion: Water fluoridation and use of fluoride dentifrice are the most efficient and cost-effective ways to prevent dental caries; other modalities should be targeted toward high-risk individuals.)

Thankfully, residents of London Ontario seem to be approaching the issue with the right amount of skepticism.

“They refer to fluoride as being the equivalent of a poison or a toxin,” said Pollett, London’s top public health official. “These fears are not substantiated but nonetheless they raise concerns in people’s minds.”

Fluoride levels in London water “pose no risk to health,” he added.

London has had fluoride in its water since 1967. It costs about 40 cents per year per Londoner to put it in the system.

In another article written today by Ian Gillespie, his similar feeling about the absurdity of fluoride fears is quite apparent:

When asked about the benefits of adding fluoride to our drinking water, London Coun. Denise Brown said, “If you do any research on the Internet, you’ll find scientists believe there are health risks.”

Yes, that’s right.

And if you do more Internet “research,” you’ll also discover “experts” who argue that aliens hijacked the Voyager 2 spacecraft, Paul McCartney died in a 1966 car crash, Elvis Presley is alive and the Apollo moon landing was a hoax.

C’mon folks. Give your head a shake.

Yes, City Councilors are listening to whatever fringe group is loudest to make their decisions now it seems. They also believe that by doing “research on the internet” (what skeptics like to call ‘attending the University of Google’) they can get accurate and unbiased information.

So if you are a resident of London, please check out the real information about fluoride. Decades of credible research show that it is perfectly safe, over 90 Health organizations all over the world, who routinely review the scientific evidence, all endorse the use of fluoride in water.

The United States Center for Disease Control sees fluoride in public water supply as one of the 10 greatest public health achievements of all time.

Since water fluoridation has been around for so long, people forget what happens when you remove it.

“(Officials in) Dorval, Que., took the fluoride out in 2003,” [Dr. Lynn Tomkins, president of the Ontario Dental Association] says. “And the rates of dental decay in pre-schoolers there have doubled. That’s pretty alarming.”

So if you live in Calgary, you might want to start getting better dental coverage. Because fluoridation of water is of course “the most monstrously conceived Communist plot we have ever had to face.”