Eric McErlain at NEI provides much-need context to the NAS study. As we have learned to expect, the media coverage is hyper-ventilating with absolutely no frame of reference to indicate how harmless the tuna are.
I’m impressed by this tracking study demonstrating how we can exploit our exquisitely sensitive abilities to detect vanishingly small amounts of radioactive material. The value of this study is that the tiny traces of cesium told the researchers where this population of tuna had been on their pelagic travels:
Over the Holiday weekend here in the U.S., the news wires were humming with reports that Blue Fin tuna caught off the coast of California had been found to contain radioactive cesium from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. Before anyone thinks twice about eating tuna, there are a couple of facts that you should keep in mind.
As I wrote previously at our SafetyFirst microsite:
- The report by the National Academy of Sciences did not conclude that there was any food safety or public health concern related to radiation from tuna of any kind. The trace amount of radiation found in the tuna is less than radiation that is found naturally in the Pacific Ocean from Potassium 40.
- The species of tuna mentioned in the report, Blue Fin tuna, is not used in the canned tuna sold in your local supermarket. In fact, Blue Fin is only served as sushi, and most Americans don’t eat much of it at all. According to the National Fisheries Institute, per capita, Americans only eat a few paper clips worth of Blue Fin every year.
- According to Dr. Robert Emery of the University of Texas Health Science Center, a person would have to eat 2.5 to 4 tons of Blue Fin in a year to ingest enough cesium to cause a health problem.
“The finding should be reassuring to the public. As anticipated, the tuna contained only trace levels of radioactivity that originated from Japan,” said Timothy J. Jorgensen, associate professor of radiation medicine at Georgetown University, told ABC News. These levels amounted to only a small fraction of the naturally occurring radioactivity in the tuna, and were much too small to have any impact on public health … Thus, there is no human health threat posed by consuming migratory tuna caught off the west coast of the United States.”