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Chinese authorities seized over 881 pounds of baby milk formula imported from Japan because it had been produced in areas heavily contaminated with radioactive material spewed by three devastated nuclear reactors at the Fukushima-Daiichi complex,
China’s Xinhua news agency reported July 24 that while quarantine officials reportedly said “no excessive radioactive material was found in the formula,” the baby food was sent back to Japan because of China’s 4.5-year ban on imports from heavily contaminated areas around Fukushima. On March 11, 2011, three out-of-control Fukushima reactors lost all their coolant, causing uranium fuel melting, explosions, fires and spills that have vented and poured enormous amounts of radiation into the atmosphere and the Pacific Ocean. (Hundreds of tons of contaminated water still pour daily into the Pacific.)
China’s July seizure of the Japanese baby formula came a month after Japan asked the Chines to ease restrictions on Japanese food imports. Last June 19, Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries used a Beijing meeting to ask that the import bans -- which still apply to ten Japanese prefectures -- be lifted. According to the South China Morning Post, the Ag ministry had stressed “the safety of Japanese food.”
The Chinese may have scoffed at the lobbying effort, since it’s at least the second time infant milk formula has been declared dangerous. In December 2011, traces of cesium-137 thought to be from the crippled, radiation-spewing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors were detected in Japanese baby formula from the same company.
Tokyo-based Meiji announced the 2011 recall of 400,000 cans of it as a precaution, but said the levels of cesium detected were well below the government’s allowable limits. In a beautifully preposterous statement Meiji officials said then, “Babies could still “drink the formula every day without any effect on their health.”
Many doctors and scientists warn that any internal radioactive contamination whatsoever, no matter how slight, can cause cancer. Dr. John Goffman, Dr. Rosalie Bertell, Dr. Alice Stewart, Dr. Ernest Sternglass, Dr. Jay Gould, Dr. Helen Caldicott, and others, have all promoted the precautionary principle regarding any inhalation or ingestion of radioactive materials. This is especially true for expectant mothers, infants and children.
Dr. Bertell once put it this way: “There is no such thing as a radiation exposure that will not do damage. There is a 100 percent possibility that there will be damage to cells. The next question is: Which damage to you care about?”
Infants, children and women more vulnerable to radiation
The damage done to fetuses, infants and children from radiation is far more serious that the same dose given to adults. And the damage done to girls and women by a given dose of radiation -- compared to boys and men -- is known to be more severe as well. The World Health Organization’s 2011 assessment of Fukushima notes that “for little girls exposed below the age of five, there is a 70 percent higher risk of cancer” than for boys.
According to Mary Olson’s analysis of the National Academy of Sciences’ latest report on low-dose radiation (2006), “Over a lifetime, women who were exposed to radiation suffered 40 to 60 percent more harm (measured as cancer and fatal cancer) than men who were exposed to the same dose.”
Olson, a senior staff researcher with Nuclear Information and Resource Service, explains:
If the alpha-emitting particles are hitting tissue from inside the body, estimates indicate that internal alpha particle damage is anywhere from seven to one thousand times more damaging to cell structures than is X-ray (external) exposure. Another way of saying this is that when there is no distance from the source of the alpha or beta particle to its target, the doses to the target are very much higher. (“Crisis Without End: The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Catastrophe,” edited by Helen Caldicott, p.191)
The principle radioactive poison being measured now in Japanese food (and for 300 years to come) is cesium-137, which emits beta particles and gamma radiation. Other deadly isotopes spewed in far lesser amounts by the catastrophe’s five explosions and fires were americium-241, plutonium-236, uranium-238, thorium-232 -- all of which (among others) are alpha particle emitters. The extremely dangerous isotope strontium-90 has also contaminated soils and water and, like cesium, emits beta particles.
Japanese and others of all ages have been consuming food and water contaminated with radioactive materials ever since the broad-based spread of Fukushima’s poisons began in 2011.
In July 2011, Tokyo officials discovered cesium-137 at levels 6.4 times the national limit in beef sold to restaurants and stores in at least five prefectures; in April 2011, radioactive iodine-131 was found in breast milk of mothers east of Tokyo; radioactive tea from Japan was seized in France in July 2011 when it was found with twice the permitted amount of cesium -- not that even a trace can be called harmless. The tea had come from Shizuoka Prefecture, 300 miles south of Fukushima.
Long-Range Missiles Haven’t Deterred Anything – and Haven’t Vanished
Barb Katt and I are the only two people to have ever visited all 1,000 Minuteman II and III missile sites in the United States, as well as their 100 launch control centers. Working for Nukewatch in 1988, we spent four months and drove over 30,000 miles pinpointing the exact locations of the land-based nuclear weapons for the book Nuclear Heartland -- the only complete atlas of the government’s ground-launched intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) arsenal. Nuclear Heartland remains the only publicly available guide to the 450 nuclear missiles that still militarize the Great Plains. Main stream reporters have claimed that the chain-link fences around the missiles’ concrete launch pads are “designed to foil Soviet saboteurs,” which makes me laugh. The two of us walked through or climbed over silo enclosures many times to photograph the sites. The 450 Minuteman IIIs that remain on alert and ready-to-launch in Montana, North Dakota, and the corner of Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, are still as unguarded and isolated as ever. Anyone may sabotage them anytime with some concrete or glue.
During our research we found many silos undergoing repair and completely vulnerable. We found one -- silo S-4 in Wyoming, dubbed “Misogynist missile” by Nukewatch volunteers -- wide open, with its massive underground launch tube empty, and not a soul in sight. The gaping multi-million-dollar hole seemed to ask: “What Soviet threat?” This was 1988, when the notion that the missiles deterred the former USSR was never questioned. Still, the US Air Force itself proved otherwise during our investigation.
We learned at the time that the 1,500-mile-long network of buried cables linking the ICBMs to their launch control centers was being repaired. The subject of compensation for the damage to be done to farmers’ fields was openly discussed at a public hearing we attended. The Air Force gave total strangers precise details of the locations and timetables of its planned rehab work. The missile system could easily have been sabotaged then, using the Air Force’s own publicized information.
If the missile system was built to deter the now vanished Soviet Union, another question is begged: What purpose is served by the 450 Minuteman III missiles deployed today? They obviously don’t deter al Qaeda, ISIS, Putin, insurgents under US occupation, or the Afghans and Iraqis trained by US commandos who turn their guns on their trainers.
The Minuteman II destruction program that eliminated 550 weapons in Missouri, South Dakota and Grand Forks, North Dakota, was halted for a time because of concerns over water contamination from PCBs -- present in large amounts in the underground ICBM chambers. This pollution threat was successfully dismissed by Air Force lawyers, and the “imploding” of those silos was renewed.
Recent reports about the missiles often describe their launch mechanisms as having been “designed to prevent accidental triggering.” This boastfulness obscures the history of missile launch accidents and near disasters -- detailed at length by Eric Schlosser in his 2014 book Command and Control -- including a May 23, 2008 fire in a Wyoming silo that caused over $1 million in damages; the crash of a loaded Minuteman III missile trailer that skidded off an icy road northwest of Grand Forks March 22, 1990; or the Jan. 10, 1984 incident when the Air Force resorted to parking an armored truck atop a Wyoming silo because officials thought an out-of-control launch sequence was “in progress.”
Such horrifying close calls must be put out-of-mind by the top brass when it’s time for celebration. After 149 of South Dakota’s silos were demolished (one was turned into a museum), a “missile farewell party” was arranged. The authorities had a “set of gold-plated missile launch keys” made for each of the 1,000 guests. This has to be called grotesque trivialization, and morbid denial of the fact that the real keys used in today’s 45 launch control centers can each ignite a holocaust. But psychic numbing is common in missile duty. One launch center door sports a hand painted depiction of a missile fired from a pizza box, with the inscription, “World-wide delivery in 30 minutes or the next one’s free.”
Cold War memorials and Minuteman missile “museums” are popping up all over -- as if ICBMs were a thing of the past. In North Dakota there’s one named after Ronald Reagan, but a better use of hard-earned tax money comes to mind.
There are over 20,000 separate sites in the US poisoned with radioactivity left from building the nuclear arsenal. Each one is a museum in itself, more permanent, more educational, and more in need of grave vigilance than a retired delivery system for mass destruction.