Friday 5 August 2011

Medical & News: What Causes Cancer? -- Part 2

A joke or the reality? A poster created by an anti-nuclear website
Okay, so our story continues.

Last entry, I left you with a few questions,

  1. Can you prolonged radiation exposure causes cell mutation causes cancer?
  2. Are the construction materials always safe?
  3. Are the construction materials never radioactive enough to harm us?

To answer these questions, first we have to learn something about radioactivity of construction materials.

©Shutterstock, 2010
Radon is released naturally and is not a type of radioactivity
that is released by power plants or industry.
Haquin (?) explains in his article Natural Radioactivity and Radon in Building Materials,

"Most building materials of natural origin contain small amounts of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM), mainly radionuclides from the 226Ra and 232Th decay chains and 40K. Building materials of natural origin reflect the geology of their site of origin. The average 226Ra, 232Th and 40K activity concentration in the Earth's crust is 35, 30 and 400 Bq/kg...

Bricks made from coal ashes
...Recycled industrial by-products containing Technologically Enhanced Natural Occurring Radioactive Materials (TENORM) are extensively used in the construction industry. Coal ash, produced as waste in the combustion of coal, is used as an additive to cement, in concrete and in some countries bricks are made from fly ash. Coal slag is used in floor structures as insulating filling material. Phosphogypsum, a by-product in the production of phosphorous fertilizers is used as building material, and red mud, a waste from primary aluminum production, is used in bricks, ceramics and tiles [3, 4]." (p.1)

A certificate in Chinese stating that their ceramics
is within the accepted radioactivity level
Surprised at how commonly we are exposed to possible high dose of radiation? This does not surprise me at all because I knew this long ago, but definitely surprises some of you. Even in Japan, a country of citizens so detailed, have been using sewage slag as construction material (see Highly Radioactive (170,000 Bq/Kg) Sewage Slag Found In TOKYO, Has Already Been Sold As Construction Material!!!)(13th May, 2011).

Radioactive Slag. Russia.
Photo by Blacksmith Institute.
In addition to these construction materials, there are also others... for example, natural stones.

Laboratory of environmental radioactivity of Russia published on its website,

"Natural stone (or based on it) so called prestige decoration materials usage shows fast and constant increaseThe materials mentioned can have a significant radiation background and can cause negative consequences for men's health with long-duration internal irradiation"

Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times
DETECTION Using devices like the Geiger counter and the radiation detection instrument Stanley Liebert measures the radiation and radon emanating from granite like that in Lynn Sugarman’s kitchen counters.

Pay special attention to the last sentence, and you'll know, it is possible that one will be exposed to high radiation which will damage a person's health in the long run. Such concern has also been voiced by Dr. Ed Zimney, MD  (2008) in his article Granite and radiation: Are you at risk? and reported by Murphy (2008) on The New York Times article What's Lurking in Your Countertop?

Another source of possible radioactive construction materials is the leaks from nuclear plants.

Smoke volume emits from the Huizhou Refinery operated by the China National Offshore Oil Corp inHuizhouGuangdong provinceon July 11, 2011. [Photo/CFP] 
Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority of Finland -- S√§teilyturvakeskus (STUK)  published Guide ST 12.2 on the 17th December 2010 named The Radioactivity of Building Materials and Ash states that,

"some industrial by-products also contain radionuclides, caesium (137Cs) in particular, which are spread into the environment due to fallout from nuclear weapons tests and industrial nuclear accidents. If such a by-product is incorporated into building material, the final product will also contain these artificial radionuclides..."(p.3)

Well, you might be thinking, we don't have any nuclear weapons tests or industrial nuclear accidents near Hong Kong, what's there to worry about???? Idiot Locky!!! 

Well, you haven't been keeping track with the news: Refinery blaze 'never threatened nuke plant' -- China Daily (11th Jul, 2011)

This happened just outside Dayawan Nuclear Power Station.
Firefighters battle a blaze at the Huizhou Refinery operated by the China National Offshore Oil Corp
in Huizhou, Guangdong province, on Monday. Chen Yubin / for China Daily
These things might just be happening more often than you think.

Also, think about it, where are most cement used in Hong Kong made? In Hong Kong? In Guangdong? What about the steel bars? Which part of China? I hope you have some answers in your mind.

In terms of radioactive construction materials, what did our government say?

LCQ5: Construction materials with radioactive substances
Following is a question by the Hon Ho Chung-tai and a reply by the Secretary for Planning and Lands, Mr John C Tsang, in the Legislative Council today (December 5):


Will the Government inform this Council whether:

(a) the authorities have carried out inspections on buildings completed in the past three years to check if materials with radioactive substances have been used in constructing the buildings; if so, of the results of such inspections;

(b) it has examined the short-term and long-term effects on health of people living or working in the buildings constructed with materials with radioactive substances; and

(c) legislation is in place to regulate the permitted radiation levels of construction materials; if not, whether it will consider introducing legislative control?


Madam President,

(a) We have not found the need to carry out specific inspections on buildings completed in the past three years in Hong Kong to check if radioactive substances have been used in building construction. We have been conducting instead periodic surveys on the concentration of radon which, if allowed to accumulate, may pose health risks. Our findings indicate that radon levels found in our buildings are substantially below the level recommended by the World Health Organization for remedial action to be taken.

(b) We have not conducted specific researches on the health effects of people living or working in buildings constructed with materials containing radioactive substances. As I have indicated in Part (a), our survey findings indicate that radon levels found in buildings in Hong Kong are substantially below the level recommended by the World Health Organization for remedial action to be taken.

(c) There is at present no legislation to regulate radiation levels of construction materialsWe have no intention of introducing legislative control at this time because we consider that the health risks arising from radioactive substances in construction materials commonly used in Hong Kong are negligible.

End/Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Cement and cement brick. What are they actually made from?
Are they radioactive?
From the above, it is interesting to see that instead of doing real inspections, they did surveys!!!! Surveyed what? The cement answered them? The metals answered them? Or the producers told them?

There is no law to regulate the radiation levels of construction materials and there is no need for one because the radioactivity of such materials are negligible!!! And they know the radioactivity is negligible because they did surverys!!!

What a joke!

"The professional producer of such materials, their refiner and their user are all obligated to inform the next user in the chain of the radioactivity contained by the material...

...the activity concentrations of all stone aggregates used in building element production shall be measured everywhere in Finland."(p.5)

You see the difference between the two governments?

Let's not forget, radioactive substances do not only appear in nuclear plants. They are also used in industries such as industrial radiography (inspecting metal parts and welds defects), irradiators (sterilizing food, milk containers and hospital supplies), well-logging (finding wells), gauging devices (measuring the thickness of metal, textiles, paper, plastic) and many many more. For more information, see NRC: Industrial Uses of Nuclear Materials.

House discovers the source of highly radioactive substance which is killing his patient

So now, am I an idiot? Knowledge is power! 

Trust your doctor friend? Or trust yourself and the Geiger Counter? You choose.

Mary DiBiase Blaich for The New York Times
Geiger counters, which detect radiation, come in a wide variety of shapes and prices.

negligible -- (adj) too slight or small in amount to be of importance
oblige (to) -- (vb) [T + object + to infinitive] (mainly US or formal obligateto force someone to do something, or to make it necessary for someone to do something
weld -- (n) a joint made by welding -- weld (vb) [T] to join two pieces of metal together permanently by melting the parts that touch
defect -- (n) [C] a fault, problem or lack (= something that is missing) in something or someone that spoils them or causes them not to work correctly


(UK usually sterilise) 
to perform a medical operation on someone in order to make them unable to have children
gauge -- (vb)[T] to calculate an amount, especially by using a measuring device


Medical & News: What Causes Cancer? -- Part 1 @ Locky's English Playground

Natural Radioactivity and Radon in Building Materials -- Gustavo Haquin

Highly Radioactive (170,000 Bq/Kg) Sewage Slag Found In TOKYO, Has Already Been Sold As Construction Material!!! @ Infinite Unknown


Granite and radiation: Are you at risk? -- Dr Z's Medical Report @ everyday HEALTH

What’s Lurking in Your Countertop? @ The New York Times

Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority of Finland --  S√§teilyturvakeskus (STUK) Official Website

The Radioactivity of Building Materials and Ash Guide ST 12.2, publised on the 17th December 2010

Refinery blaze 'never threatened nuke plant' @ China Daily (11th Jul, 2011)

LCQ5: Construction materials with radioactive substances @ Development Bureau Press Releases

NRC: Industrial Uses of Nuclear Materials @ United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (U.S.NRC)

Geiger Counter @ Wikipedia

Japan’s Nuclear Crisis Causes Run on Radiation Detectors @ The New York Times

Radiation Sickness @ House Wiki

Acute Radiation Syndrome @ Wikipedia

Gamma spectroscopy @ Wikipedia