Archive for the ‘earthquake’ Tag

How Does Radiation Get Into Food and Water?

Image source: Mike Morpeth

God bless the people of the country of Japan, as they continue to cope with the aftermath of the deadly earthquake and tsunami that struck them earlier this month.

Immediately, Japan’s residents began to face a food shortage and near-empty grocery store shelves, as depicted here in the above photo from Digital Journal, and the below one from CNN.com. With nearly no gasoline available, food simply could not be transported to stores. Thirst and hunger have been common problems since March 11.

Image credit: ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images

Now, when Japan is already facing food shortages, they are facing yet another problem with their food supply. Eleven different types of produce, along with milk, and city tap water, have all tested positive for radiation. Some samples of spinach tested contained as much as 27 times the legal amount of radiation.
 
So the next logical question here is, how did this radiation get into the food, water, and milk? Because of the very nature of the word “radiation,” and the fact that it is invisible, it is easy to imagine it traveling through the air in waves, as from a microwave, through walls and buildings. But this is not the case. What actually happens is that radioactive particles(of which there are 4 main types) bind to particles of dust in the air, and can travel for a distance through the air before settling to the ground. This means that radioactive particles, such as such as cesium-137 and iodine-131, that escaped from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant traveled through the air, then settled on surrounding crop fields. Crops with a large surface area above the earth, such as spinach leaves, make them more likely to accumulate dangerous levels of radiation. And it does not get into milk by way of the actual milk carton or even the milk processing plant. It gets into milk because radiation settles on the grass, then the cows eat the grass.
 
Experts say that little is known about the long-term effects of consuming radiation on food and in water. Many sources say that the amount of radiation that people could intake from eating produce from the Fukushima prefecture, and others that surround the nuclear power plant, is not likely to cause health problems. However, understandably, many people are frightened, and avoiding purchasing the items in question, such as spinach and milk.
 
This is, in my opinion, yet another example of when and why a survival food source is an absolute necessity. Under normal circumstances, rice is a cheap and reliable commodity. However, today rice may become scarce in Japan, as radiation continues to be a threat, and the Fukushima prefecture accounts for 4.5% of Japan’s total rice crop.
 
Store rice, beans, honey, water and other staples when you can. Keep them in a safe place, and store them for longevity, according to the basics outlined here in my How to Correctly Store Your Food blog. This simple and inexpensive act can save your life when the seemingly reliable grocery store shelves are empty, and food that is on the shelves may be poisoned. If you haven’t already started your store of survival food, start it today.
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Blog Action Day 2010 = Water

Last Friday, October 15th was official Blog Action Day, as recognized by Change.org. All over the world, thousands of bloggers typed away about this year’s designated topic: water.

Why water, you may ask? Well, here’s what I think is the interesting thing about this topic. When it comes to writing an action-oriented blog about the topic of water, there are so many angles one could take. Greenpeace wrote about the threat that nuclear power poses to clean water sources. John Sauer of the Huffington Post wrote about the severe lack of clean water, sanitation, and hygiene for students attending school in developing countries. Melanie Nayer wrote on the Gadling blog about how crucial clean water has been to rebuilding an earthquake-ravaged Haiti. If you Google “blog action day,” you can find thousands of blogs that  were written last Friday, all about water. The fascinating thing to me is that, from what I can tell, these blogs really lack redundancy. There are so many avenues one can choose when writing about water, because it is of course, quite simply, our life force.

The sad thing about the topic of water is that it is one that is largely related to crisis. In some areas of the world, clean water is in terrifyingly short supply. As Nayer discusses in her article, about one-third of all children in Haiti die before they reach the age of five, and 60% of these deaths are directly related to diarrheal disease and malnutrition. There’s currently an area in the Pacific Ocean called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that is filled with 100 million tons of plastic litter. There is so much plastic in the water that it outnumbers zooplankton six to one. Millions of sea mammals, birds, and fish die every year because of ingestion of or entanglement in plastic.

Unfortunately, the problems that we as a planet face with our water supply are numerous. It may be easy for people like me, in my cozy home in Virginia, to not realize the enormity of the global water problem. It really is quite closely related to the global food crisis. Because we can shop at a fully stocked grocery store, we assume there is no food crisis. Because we can turn on the tap, we assume there is no water crisis. But indeed both of these problems are factual and not tall tales. The misconceptions surrounding the planet’s water crisis are many.

Here are my top five misconceptions about water:

(1) Bottled water is healthier and cleaner than tap water. In reality, tap water is about as nutritious as water gets. You may think that bottled water smells or tastes better, but unless you have a well with contaminated water, there is nothing wrong with your tap water. For a detailed list of myths about bottled water, check out this list on WebMD. Bottled water is a HUGE industry here in America, but my opinion is that those precious bottles should only be sent to where they are really needed. It’s not really water scarcity that is a problem in many areas of the world, but access to clean water. In fact, the ancient Romans had better access to clean water than half the people alive in the world today. Here we are sipping water from plastic bottles, then tossing the bottle to let it sit for eternity in a landfill, when thousands of people are dying every day after falling ill from water-borne contaminants. Shame on us.

(2) Everyone should drink eight, eight-ounce glasses of water a day. This is a general rule of thumb for the TOTAL amount of fluids you should consume in a day, and this includes the water you get from food. This quiz calculates the amount of water you should drink per day based on your weight, whether you exercise and for how long, whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding, whether you live at a high altitude or in a dry climate, whether the climate has extreme temperatures, whether you consume alcoholic beverages, or have a fever or diarrhea. So obviously, there are really many factors to take into account.

(3) Drinking extra water every day will help you lose weight and give you healthier skin. Unfortunately, neither one of these is true. Water is not magical. Just because you drink it does not mean you will lose weight. Now if you keep your mouth busy by drinking water rather than consuming caloric food or beverages, perhaps this will help. But water in does not equal weight off. As far as your skin is concerned, there is very little evidence that extra water every day is good for your skin. If you drink water instead of sugar-laden soda, then yes, this is better for your skin, as well as your overall health. But drinking extra water every day to clear or moisturize your skin is likely to be ineffective.

(4) Because water is a renewable resource, it is in no short supply. About one out of every six people in the world today lack access to safe drinking water. As the global population grows, it is reasonable for us to expect this problem to worsen. It is quite similar to the impending food crisis; as the population continues to boom, there will just not be enough clean water on earth for all those people. The amount of waste water we generate and disperse will exceed the amount of clean water we can produce.

(5) The water crisis is a problem to worry about tomorrow. If you read my blog, then you know my mantra by now: Don’t panic, be prepared. I am forever writing about the reality of the food crisis, and the fact of the matter is that food would not exist without water. These two are so closely intertwined that they are practically inseparable. Today, as much as 70% of the world’s clean water supply goes to agriculture. So what do you think will happen when that clean water supply starts to run dry?

How the Earthquake in Chile Affects our Food Supply

AP Photo/ Fernando Vergara

If you shop in grocery stores or eat out in restaurants, then you will be directly affected by the recent 8.8 scale earthquake in Chile.

How so? Well, there is a pretty decent amount of goods that America imports from Chile. In fact, in the year 2006, Chile exported about $9.6 billion dollars worth of goods to the United States. Yes, that is $9.6 BILLION. The United States is Chile’s biggest export market.

The major export from Chile is actually copper. This accounted for a good $4.1 billion of the exports in 2006. The second biggest export from Chile to the United States in 2006 was fruit and prepared fruit products, such as frozen juice concentrate. Our grocery stores also get a large amount of their wine, seafood, blueberries, grapes, apples, pears, plums and other stone fruits from Chile.

So then what does all of this mean to you, the consumer? Well, you may not be able to find these exports in American grocery stores and restaurants. Or, you may be able to find them, but it will be at a very high cost to you.

You’ll notice that in many news articles, such as this recent one from Daily Finance, that the Chilean Exporters Association is urging American consumers “not to panic.” This is where I choose to disagree. I say, maybe this IS the time to panic.

Let this be an eye opener. If the food supply in America has been changed by a natural disaster that occured about 300,000 miles away, maybe it is time for us to take a hint and realize that our society is entirely too reliant on imported foods. These suppliers are not infallible. We all need to take measures to be more self reliant. Our grocery store shelves are obviously not going to remain indefinitely stocked. The only way you can truly have a reliable food source is to not rely on grocery stores.