Japanese government's "Eat and Support" campaign has a meltdown

   It is difficult to feel sorry for Tatsuya Yamaguchi, even though this poor fellow has just discovered that he has a load of cesium 137 in his body that measures 20 Bq/kg. Tatsuya is a member of the pop group TOKIO, and like most Japanese bands, they illustrate how entertainment and advertising have congealed into an indistinguishable blob that will sell itself to anyone with fistfuls of yen to offer.
The Japanese government decided that they would rather promote Fukushima’s farm produce than compensate farmers for their irradiated fields and the damage to their farms' reputation, so they turned to Japan’s largest advertising agency Dentsu to manage a campaign called “eat and support.” The members of TOKIO either willingly participated in this project, or were pressed into it as an offer they could not refuse if they wanted to maintain their entertainment careers.
One can sympathize somewhat with the desire to help farmers in the western parts of Fukushima whose produce came up clean and who suffered from baseless rumors about all food from Fukushima. Nonetheless, whether the damage to their food was real or imagined, the blame for this loss is solely on the entities who failed to maintain the safety of nuclear plants. We can also blame the government for numerous failures to monitor the food supply after the accident. If consumers don’t want to buy food from Fukushima that’s their right. Let the market speak.
The members of TOKIO dove into their project with gusto. Since the year 2000 they had been involved with the traditional village called Dash near the town of Minami Souma, Fukushima. They participated in many TV broadcasts about the village, but it had to be evacuated after March 2011. Later, they got involved with a project to grow sunflowers on the land in the hope that they would absorb cesium from the soil. (But if they did, what would you do with the sunflowers?)
Because they wanted to show their support for Fukushima, they went along with the government program to "eat and support." Then, in a recent episode of their show they visited Belarus to see how people there coped with their environment after the Chernobyl accident. It was there that Tatsuya Yamaguchi had himself tested with a whole body counter to see how much cesium 137 his body was carrying.
The producers of the show will, predictably, try to spin this number as well within safety limits, or not likely to have any effect, and so on, but unfortunately there is research that suggests otherwise (listed below).
Thanks to the chosen emphasis of the pro-nuclear lobby, most people have come to think that cancer is the only thing to worry about in radiation exposure. Sometimes a damaged DNA molecule doesn’t lead to cell death but instead is replicated as a mutation, which leads to cancer. However, cancer is perhaps the last thing that happens to the body after long periods of internal exposure to atoms of cesium 137 and other radionuclides. In most cases, the energy from radioactive decay breaks a DNA molecule, and the molecule either repairs itself or dies off. If the damage was vital to cell function, the cell dies. If a lot of cells die, the functioning of the organ concerned diminishes. If the damage continues, the organ fails.
The heart is particularly vulnerable to this sort of damage because it grows slowly and dead cells are not replaced quickly. This being the case, it is very easy to imagine what cesium 137 does to the developing heart of a fetus, infant or child. Children who absorb high loads of cesium 137 develop the heart diseases common to middle aged smokers.
So how much cesium 137 does it take put a child at risk? Bandashevsky et al did research on this question by grouping children from Belarus into three categories:

group 1: <5 Bq/kg body weight [BW]
group 2: 38.4 +/- 2.4 Bq/kg BW
group 3: 122 +/- 18.5 Bq/kg BW

Their conclusions:

“We determined the relationship between the 137Cs load and the children’s main source of food and recorded their cardiovascular symptoms. Cardiovascular symptoms, ECG alterations, and arterial hypertension were significantly more frequent in children with high 137Cs [groups 2 and 3] burden than in children with very low 137Cs burden.”

Some might say that Tatsuya Yamaguchi’s level was within the safe range, but who would voluntarily want to follow his dietary example or inflict it on a child? The only desirable level for one’s child is zero.
In a strange way, the members of TOKIO have, unintentionally, done their nation a great favor. They have inadvertently given us the experimental result we needed to know: Working the radioactive soils of Fukushima or eating its produce is dangerous. We don’t know if they got contaminated by breathing in soil particles during the sunflower experiment, or eating food from various sources in Fukushima, but they prove that the old village lifestyle--the very thing they wanted to celebrate--is no longer possible. The authorities desperately want to keep their promise to restore the lives of Fukushima residents, but it is clear now that the way to honor that promise was to make nuclear power plants safe before a nuclear meltdown happened. It's too late now to revive these lands.
We can hope too that these young men have learned a moral lesson that they obviously never got during their formative years in the Japanese education system. You have to think for yourself and educate yourself sometimes. I’m sure they really wanted to help the farmers in Fukushima, but their managers and their government exploited their ignorance to use them, dupe them and dupe the nation into a false hope that a nuclear meltdown really isn’t that bad after all. They grew up watching models, entertainers and idols whoring themselves out to anyone who put money on the table, and this has been normal for so long in Japan that young people no longer even questioned it. One of the few positive effects of the disaster is that a few people are starting to wake up from this sleep. They are learning that you don’t have to always sell yourself out for a career. The 37-year-old actor Taro Yamamoto set the example by going anti-nuke and then watching an upcoming television drama contract go up in smoke. But he seems happy with his decision. Perhaps he could have a word with the boys from TOKIO.

Sources and Further reading:

Bandazhevskaya GS, Nesterenko VB, Babenko VI, Yerkovich TV, Bandazhevsky YI.
Relationship between Caesium (137Cs) load, cardiovascular symptoms, and source of food in 'Chernobyl' children - preliminary observations after intake of oral apple pectin. Swiss Medical Weekly. 

Philip Brasor. It will take more than a pop group to save Fukushima's reputation. The Japan Times. September 9, 2012. 

excerpt below from:

It has been known for many years that the nuclide Cs-137 is concentrated in muscle. Let us introduce 50Bq/kg of Cs-137 into this heart muscle tissue. This is 50 tracks per second from the Cs-137 beta particle and maybe another 20 tracks per second from the gamma ray decay of the daughter Ba-137m. This is 70 tracks per second. Each track intercepts about 400 cells. For a child chronically contaminated at this level through living on Cs-137 contaminated areas for one year, the number of tracks is simply 70x60x60x24x365 =2.2 x 10E9 tracks per kilogram per year. This means that the number of cells hit by a radiation electron track, per kilogram is 8.8 x 10E11. For this model we immediately see that every heart cell will be hit by a radiation track about 25 times. If only 1 percent of these tracks caused the cell to die, it means that the child’s heart would lose 25% percent of its functional capability: all the cells would be dead.

Fig. 1 Number of children without ECG modifications as a function of Cs-137 concentration in the organism (Bandashevsky and Bandashevsky).

Fig. 2 The dynamics of cardiovascular diseases in the Republic of Belarus

neoplasm = tumor or cancer

Fig. 3 Structure of the causes of death in Belarus, 2008

Source used by Busby in the excerpts above:

Bandashevsky, Y. I. (2011). "Non cancer illnesses and conditions in areas of Belarus contaminated by radioactivity from the Chernobyl Accident." Chapter 3 in Busby C, Busby J and de Messiered M Eds: Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, Lesvos Greece, May 5-9th 2009. Brussels: ECRR (see www.euradcom.org )

UPDATE September 8, 2015

Here is how DENTSU proudly describes how it executed the "support Fukushima" campaign. The description on their website makes it sound like volunteer work done as a public service rather than a contract that boosted their revenue:

Various Support Projects for the Reconstruction of Fukushima Prefecture

Dentsu Group companies led by Dentsu and Dentsu East Japan are advancing projects to support various prefectural government departments in Fukushima Prefecture to dispel damaging rumors about Fukushima associated with the nuclear plant accident.

In fiscal 2013, television commercials and transport ads featuring TOKIO, who support Fukushima, for the PR of local Fukushima produce, under the concept of “we made a delicious Fukushima” were deployed.

Additionally we held regular seminars with local media outlets and experts and on-site tours to dispel damaging rumors. In order to lead to a tangible increase in consumption, we also arranged on-site inspection tours and business meetings for buyers mainly in the metropolitan area and tie-up events and fairs with major distributors.

Dentsu is also involved in a wide range of reconstruction efforts in Fukushima Prefecture from developing the logo for the Fukushima Destination Campaign to be held in fiscal 2014 and running the Smile Caravan for children in Fukushima Prefecture to deepen ties with the local community, to the PR of agricultural and marine products, measures to attract tourists, and measures for children.


  1. J-Pop's frequencies are pretty hazardous to humans if you stand within earshot. That'll kill faster than any carrot!

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. I appreciated the positive comment, but the link included in it pointed to something that didn't seem to have relevant content.