I want to bring you up-to-date on the nuclear situation in Japan, but first a quick reminder - none of this matters BECAUSE there is no lead in plutonium or the other radioactive elements being discharged in tremendous mass into the air, water and soil by the disabled Fukushima reactors. So really, what's the worry?!
Let's start by noting that according to the Wall Street Journal, there are three trenches at reactor no. 2 that hold water emitting radiation at a rate of 1,000 millisieverts per hour. According to the paper, this level of radiation PER HOUR is "four times the allowable annual dose for a nuclear worker, even in an emergency situation" [Emphasis added]. Ouch, that's hot! But we shouldn't worry.
And the ocean near the reactors is zapping Geiger counters pretty intensively, too. Apparently, the ironically-named "Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency" announced today that water measured at the monitoring location near reactors nos. 1 to 4 had a mere 3,355 times the permitted levels of iodine-131. These measurements were taken 330 meters from the reactors' discharge. Hmmm. That's one-fifth of a mile out to sea.
I heard on the radio today that we should not worry about these radioactive elements because their half-life is only eight days, so soon they will be "all gone". [The reassurance was hardly necessary - it's not in my nature to worry about little details like nuclear radiation raining down on my head.] The spokesman for the ironic Japanese "safety" agency also threw cold water on my worries (bad choice of idiom?), noting that "the contamination of the seawater was not a risk because of the government's 20-kilometer evacuation zone and because iodine-131 degrades quickly and does not pose a long-term health threat." But I dimly recall from my school days that half-life is an EXPONENTIAL term. In other words, half-life describes the time in which half of the mass degrades. Two half-lives does not imply that it's all gone. No, half is gone in one half-life, and then half again in another half-life, leaving 25%. Three half-lives, and you have 1/8 of the original mass left. Get it?
Actually, iodine 131 sounds kinda icky. Check out its Wikipedia page. The so-called Japanese nuclear "safety" agency also notes that the radioactivity will be greatly diluted in the ocean (umm, wasn't their measurement of radioactivity FROM THE OCEAN?) and that people don't fish near the reactors. Okay, that's good news, but of course, with radiation levels as high as they are, the fishermen couldn't fish there for long anyway - they'd die within days. The "safety" agency apparently does not believe that fish swim very far or would ingest radioactive materials and somehow get caught elsewhere.
Nah, that could never happen. NOTHING to worry about here. Everyone get back to work!
Luckily, back here in the leading world center for science, we are focused on the REAL threat to humanity, LEAD-IN-SUBSTRATE. Having carefully assessed the situation, noting the perils of bicycle licking and trombone tooting, Congress outlawed everything that might have a molecule of lead in it. People are so freaked about lead that we have to hold hearings, hire consultants, lawyers and lobbyists to pitch the case for selling products with sterling safety records and then pray for a case-by-case, component-by-component exemption (even under draft legislation). Of course, no one has gotten one of those exemptions yet, but it's only been three years . . . . .
Luckily, we know what really causes physical harm here. Lead is the boogeyman - Congress told us so. And who told them? Consumer group lawyers. I can't see the American Academy of Pediatrics, Consumer Federation of America or Consumers Union ever making a mistake or going too far - can you? We must be on the RIGHT TRACK . . . .
So, the bottom line, the situation in Japan is interesting but irrelevant to human health and the real threat to Americans is lead in rhinestones, tubas, ATV engine blocks and of course, that teeny-tiny ball of brass at the ink end of your ballpoint pen. You're in good hands, America!