I called about the high beta readings we’ve had in Phoenix.
A manager at the regional office called me back.
Since I’ve expressed my fears and concerns on this blog, I will recount what he stated. I'm summarizing and paraphrasing here:
He repeatedly stated that beta readings are unreliable because they are subject to considerable environmental interference.
I said that the beta increases I had seen in the EPA data were not random events, but reflected patterns that could be empirically detected in the charts across cities so that an increase in one city would often be mirrored a day later in a monitoring city further east, particularly if both cities were under the jet stream. These patterns were also evident in gamma levels.
He stated that he saw no significant increase in the readings and that a significant increase would be measured in the thousands.
I asked why, if that was the case, the EPA emergency responders’ guide tells emergency responders to take protective action at 300 CPM beta.
He responded by saying that the detectors used by emergency workers are less sensitive than the EPA’s radnet monitors so a reading of 300 on an emergency response Geiger counter is not equivalent to a radnet reading of 300.
I wasn’t sure how to respond to that because it sounds sensible, although I've read nothing along these lines.
I asked at what level the EPA’s protective action guidelines were implemented?
He stated that evacuations are recommended at 50 millisieverts!!!
We then had a very non-productive conversation about the ubiquity of radiation and the effects of low-level ionizing radiation.
My reaction to the conversation was to acknowledge his point about the sensitivity of the radnet monitors in comparison to hand held detectors. If he is correct on this point some of our concern about the high radnet readings may be misplaced if we are concluding that anything over 300 is particularly hazardous.
However, his discussion regarding the ubiquity of radiation was right out of the “banana doctrine” literature and I wonder whether he has actually looked at any of the medical research on radiation. I got the feeling he knew next to nothing about this literature. He sounded like someone who knew a lot about radiation's physical properties, but relatively little about its biological impacts.
Additionally, he was unable to explain why beta counts would remain low for months and then spike and he was unable to explain the empirical patterns evident when one cross-references beta charts with jet stream data.
In sum, I feel a little less concerned about severity of the spikes because of the sensitivity of the equipment, but I remain convinced that the spikes are not “normal” and that some source(s) of radiation are causing the spikes.
Today Phoenix’s levels are very low and I am asthma free. I don’t think that is in my head…