When the discussions turn in the direction of radiation and the effects on the health of people, several obstacles are seen:
First, of course, lack of reliable information on the effect of low-level radiation.
But another major problem is the many unfamiliar units used and the confusion caused by ignorance and sometimes wishes to deny facts. Even the aspirations from some organizations, to turn everything related to radioactivity into a major hazard.

Near the end of this block you will find an evaluation of the ridiculous claims and unrealistic ‘safe limits’ in relation to the Fukushima disaster.

Units

Bq Becquerel
1 Bq is one radioactive decay per second and is a very small unit. One adult human contains about 4,500 Bq from natural sources. More can be found form World Nuclear
Sv Sievert
The Sievert is a measure of the health effect of ionizing radiation on the human body.
Also here World Nuclear gives a good overview of the situation.
A very illustrative, and apparently reliable, Radiation Dose Chart is provided by Wikimedia.
Other Units
Several other units are still used in different literature:
1 Sv = 1 J/kg = 1Gy = 100 rad = 100 rem = 100 Roentgen
Becquerel to Sievert
There is no clear-cut relation between Becquerel and Sievert.
The only guide found is in a paper from Luckey fig. 10. Here you will deduct: 1mSv = 1.7 kBq/litter.
Without having checked and fearing being wrong I quote:
1000 Bq/m^3 = 4.45 mJ*hour/m^3 = 6.3 mSv

Radon

Now and then radon comes up in the media and people living in “radon houses” may be scared and will often have difficulties selling their house.
At Wikipedia you can find a very comprehensive paper on radon.
From this paper and other sources the following is a short summary.

Origin

Radon originates from decay of uranium, mainly found in the granite in the earth’s crust. The only isotope of interest is 222Rn having a half live about four days.
It is a heavy noble gas and will only harm if it decays within the lungs.
The concentration is measured in Bq/m^3

Concentrations can vary greatly from place to place. In the open air, it ranges from 1 to 100 Bq/m^3, even less (0.1 Bq/m^3) above the ocean. In caves, aerated mines, or in poorly ventilated dwellings, its concentration can climb to 2,000 Bq/m^3. Typical domestic exposures are about 100 Bq/m^3 indoors and 10-20 Bq/m^3 outdoors.

Exposure to radon

The magic cure
Just as much as radon and radiation is feared, it has been seen as a magic cure for all types of illnesses.
For a period around 1915 radioactive water was the fashion, until some rich and enthusiastic people overdosed and died a horrible death.
Radon baths Radon Treatmeng It should be noted that now, as well as long before radon and radioactivity was known, health seekers are frequenting locations, where they receive “radon-treatment” for all types of illnesses.
On the internet you may find several advertisements for spas and clinics, as for instance: here, here and here.
Radon in ”Health Water”
Even radon mineral water is regulated: The minimum strength should be 74 Bq/L, but the following is found:
Merano: 2000 Bq/L and
Lurisia (Italy): 4000 Bq/L
Extremes
High levels of radon are found at several locations.
Best known is what originally was named “The Rasmar Paradox”:
A relatively small population at Rasmar in Pakistan are exposed to very high levels of radiation from radon. This unique case is over 80 times higher than the world average background radiation. However there has not been reports of ill health.
Several other locations have similar, but smaller exposure:
• Guarapari (Brazil)
• Cumuruxatiba (Brazil)
• Kerala (India)
• Karunagappall (India)
• Arkaroola (South Australia)
• Yangjiang (China)
• Black Beach (Brazil – Record but uninhabited)
Record high
Probably the highest recorded level of exposure is the Watras Incident, as described a little below.
Miners
The health effects of high exposure to radon in mines, where exposures reaching 1,000,000 Bq/m^3 can be found. It was first recognized in 1530 by Paracelsus in his description of a wasting disease of miners.
It must be hoped, that this is “a thing of the past.”

Radiation Hormesis

Radon and Cancer A controversial epidemiological study, unexpectedly showing decreased cancer risk vs. radon domestic exposure at least up to 200 Bq/m^3.
These findings, first published by T. D. Luckey is referred to in Wikipedia.
It is difficult to understand why it has been outright rejected by WHO and others. And it is even more difficult to understand why these observations have not been followed up.
I have tried to summarize existing knowledge here.
Even more surprising are the findings that even very high doses of ionizing radiation have not caused harm to future generations.

The many different units and the often conflicting “evidences” will lead to the following.

Cigarette Unit

Cigaret Unit From the internet, I quote the following:
I still remember: Long time ago an expert in radiation got the question:
“Why don’t you compare your results to something people can understand, as for instance Cigarette Unit?”
His answer was clear:
“I have tried. It is hopeless. People just accuse me of lying.”

From private correspondence with a Danish expert, I remember the similar.
(Unfortunately I have no records or references.)

Watras Incident

The only – hopefully reliable, but also rather confusing – information found from The Guardian and Wikipedia.
The following is an extract:

  • That radon levels in particular dwellings can occasionally be orders of magnitude higher than typical was dramatized by the so-called Watras Incident, in which an employee at a U.S. nuclear plant triggered radiation monitors while leaving work over several days.
    Despite the fact that the plant had yet to be fuelled, and despite the employee being decontaminated and sent home “clean” each evening. This implied a source of contamination outside the plant, which turned out to be radon levels of 100,000 Bq/m^3 in the worker’s basement. The lung cancer risk associated with living in that house was compared to the extrapolated risk from smoking 135 packs of cigarettes daily.

It is difficult to accept these findings and even more difficult, when it is noted that the alarm was raised, not because he or any of his family had suffered from bad health.
A similar, but not so dramatic event occurred at a Swedish nuclear plant, which was closed for several days until it was realized, that one of the employees had taken the radiation monitor home.

What can not be avoided?

Where ever you are and whatever you do, all us – as well as our forefathers – have been exposed to some radiation.
This, together with ‘manmade exposure’, has been summarized here.

What is Allowed?

If the units and dozes are conflicting, it is probably nothing compared to existing regulations.
It has, of course, been necessary to neglect “information” from the many so-called green organizations specializing in scaremongering.
Further, different political statements and regulations may be highly influenced by the fear of being accused of not protecting the public.
It is easy to find a lot of obviously conflicting “facts” and regulations – much too much to go into details here.
A very comprehensive guide to definitions and regulations related to disposal of radioactive waste is given by The International Atomic Energy Agency.
These guidelines are apparently applied very differently in different countries and different situations, resulting in the following, which is an extract from World Nuclear.

  • Recycling materials from decommissioned nuclear facilities is constrained by the level of radioactivity in them. This is also true for materials from elsewhere, such as gas plants, but the levels specified can be very different. For example, scrap steel from gas plants may be recycled if it has less than 500,000 Bq/kg (the exemption level). This level however is one thousand times higher than the clearance level for recycled material (both steel and concrete) from the nuclear industry, where anything above 500 Bq/kg may not be cleared from regulatory control for recycling. – – – – Norway and Holland are the only countries with consistent standards.

Even considering the public hysteria and the almost poisonous level of political lobbying, it is difficult to understand this.

Public interest

Often you will find statements from green organizations indicating that all levels of radiation is dangerous and with the availability of cheap and very accurate Geiger Counters it has been the faction to find dangerous spots:
Of course help from the public should be appreciated, as for instance when a long time forgotten radioactive source was found in Tokyo.
However, at the same time it is necessary to relate real or conceived dangers to what we all of us are exposed to through all our lives.

Fukushima

The release of radioactive material has been estimated to be between 500 PBq and 1000 PBq
The Pacific Ocean covers 165 million km^2 and contains 66 million km^3 of water.
Assuming all of these 1000 PBq (10^18 Bq) to be equally distributed over 1 % of the ocean to a depth of 50 m, and without considering the ‘sinking down’ of heavy material, you will get 12 Bq/kg. If you thereafter consider that some 90 % of the radioactive release is Iodine131 (see page 116 in UNSCEAR 2013 Report,) only 1.2 Bq/kg will be active at the time of the horror-stories.
Further, it may be worth mentioning that the US National Academy of Science has referred to measurements showing 7 Bq/m^3 Fukushima-derived fallout of 137Cs near the Canadian continental shelf.
This may have been rather difficult to measure, considering that the natural level of radiation in the ocean is 11.000 Bq/m^3

In order to relate to something familiar, it can be mentioned that all of us carry with us about 65 Bq/kg (65,000 Bq/m^3) as part of our human body, or that a radon level of 100,000 Bq/m^3 was found in the basement of an occupied house. (Watras Incident, as discussed above.)
Correct me if I am wrong.
Fukushima Greenpeace
Considering this, it is difficult to understand how well established “green organizations” show maps and indicate the “extreme danger” related to the radioactive pollution the whole way to the American west coast.
1 RAD = 10 mSv However, this unit is (deliberately?) confusing and will not have any meaning without stating the time. E.g. RAD/hour.

Without being able to check, I think this link from The Register is more reliable.

If you have trust in World Nuclear, the following may be interesting:

  • A silt fence has long been in place to prevent contamination reaching the open sea and the diluting effects of ocean currents mean that radioactivity cannot be detected in seawater beyond the plant harbour.

If you are a fan of YouTube and have seen “The Ocean of Death”, you may wonder how the many fish can be so sensitive that the increase in radiation from 11,000 to 11,007 Bq/m^3 has caused the disaster shown on the film.
Contrary to radiation; fish are rather sensitive to change in the concentration of salt in the water. So, if not directly falsified, the dead fish may be found outside a plant for desalinating seawater.
Besides this it is worth looking at the last table in a paper from UNSCEAR. Here it is seen that the radiologic tolerance  for fish is some ten times that for mammals and birds.
On the other hand you may be relieved to see how the animals are thriving in the highly radioactive and forbidden zone at Chernobyl.

As far as I am aware of, Tepco’s limits for groundwater contamination is that groundwater should contain less than 5 Bq/L of beta ray-emitting radioactive material and 1 Bq/L of caesium-134 and caesium-137.
Again, this should be seen in relation to the natural load of the human body: 65 Bq/L and of the ocean: 11 Bq/L
Natural Radiation EU
To be on the safe side, the standard for public radiation exposure was (arbitrary) set to one millisievert/year.
This is only one tenth of what some Europeans have been exposed to throughout their lives.

My conclusion is clear.
Something is rotten – somewhere –
But where ?

When the discussions turn in the direction of radiation and the effects on the health of people, several obstacles are seen:
First, of course, lack of reliable information on the effect of low-level radiation.
But another major problem is the many unfamiliar units used and the confusion caused by ignorance and sometimes even wishes to deny facts.
Sometimes even the wish, from some organizations, to turn everything related to radioactivity into a major hazard.

Units

Bq Becquerel
Becquerel http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Becquerel
1 Bq is one radioactive decay per second and is a very small unit. One adult human contains about 4,500 Bq from natural sources.

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