It Has Poo On It

Trying to under the events at the Japanese nuclear reactor at Fukushima is complicated. Radiation is measured different ways, there are many kinds of radiation, this situation keeps changing, and for various reasons what is reported is often false or wrong.

Here at RAoP, I strive for clarity. In an effort to make things clear, I am going to offer you an analogy I have been using to explain events.

It really goes back to when I was a young parent. Back in the dark ages when dinosaurs ruled the earth and I still had dark hair, we used cloth diapers on our children. When their stools were firm, it worked out okay. You removed the plastic pants, opened the diaper, dumped the contents in the toilet, rinsed the diaper and put it in the diaper pail to be washed. That was the best case scenario.

Occasionally one of them would have what I called a containment breach. Looking back at it, that was the reverse analogy to one I am explaining to you now, but that is what I called it. The first warning you would get was the odor. By then it was too late. There was poo everywhere. In their socks. On your shirt. Runny poo. It would spread. On your hands, on whatever you put them on. Anything you touched had poo on it. You could only contain it as much as possible, and then clean up everything. If this happened on a car trip, it was a major task.

I can remember, when the weather was good, taking them out in the yard, stripping them, and using a garden hose to rinse them off, then putting their clothes, and sometimes mine, on the back porch to wash separately. It would seem like there was poo everywhere. Diluting the poo, removing the poo, washing the poo covered clothes and letting the water from washing be carried away to poo filtration systems maintained by the city. All the while, they were making more of it. Babies are mostly poo production systems.

A recent study by the University of Arizona found that 72% of shopping carts have poo on them. Other studies show that poo is on keyboards, elevator buttons, parking meters, ATM machines, phones, and just about everything we touch. Why? Because even a little bit of poo spreads out.

Think about a teaspoon of poo. If you stirred that into glass of wine, what do you have? It isn’t wine anymore, is it? It’s poo. Pour that back into the wine bottle. Is that wine? Pour that bottle into a wine cask, do you want to drink it now? You might not be able to detect it anymore, but it’s still got poo in it. How much wine would you have dilute that teaspoon of poo into before you would be willing to drink it?

One more example. From the FDA, in this document listing the guidelines for defects in food products, I offer you the government standard for cornmeal:

(AOAC 981.19) Average of 1 or more whole insects (or equivalent) per 50 grams
Insect filth
(AOAC 981.19) Average of 25 or more insect fragments per 25 grams
Rodent filth
(AOAC 981.19) Average of 1 or more rodent hairs per 25 grams
OR Average of 1 or more rodent excreta fragment per 50 grams

Mouse or rat poo, 1 per 50 grams, is acceptable. In fact, it’s impossible to prevent. Everything has poo on it. The question is how much and what is the risk.

Which leads us back to the discussion at hand. Fukushima. They used a kind of poo to make electricity. Now they have had a containment breach. There is poo getting out. Right there at the site, there is a lot of it. Anything it gets on becomes poo, too. Water used to cool the special poo becomes poo. Some of the poo is worse than the other. All of it is bad, and it spreads. it gets in the water and then in the fish. It gets on birds and bugs, on the grass the cows eat and into the milk. Because poo spreads. That’s what poo does best. Even if you dilute it in all the oceans, it’s still there. In the end, the Japanese are going to build a giant concrete diaper pail and put the poo in it as best they can, minus what poo escapes before they can get that diaper pail built. All of us will deal with the escaped poo, even if we don’t know it.

This is not the first escaped poo of this type. My next post will make you wonder what sort of monkeys we really are, trying to use nuclear power without a coherent plan to deal with the waste poo.

Where there is poo, there is life.
–Mahatma Gandhi


10 thoughts on “It Has Poo On It

    I'm dyin' over here…
    I do remember the poo-capades of my son's yute, & that describes them perfectly.

    The “other” poo isn't quite so funny.

  2. Frackin' genius, man. Loved it.

    The question of how much poo do you allow in the wine (or vice versa) before it's wine again is exactly the same as the FDA spec for rodent poo. In essence, everything has poo in it. Just as they can detect this food-borne poo at tiny concentrations, they can detect the Fukushima poo at concentrations that would meet the FDA guide for edible if it was food-poo. (What?) They can detect Fukushima poo at concentrations that are so low they are meaningless. There's just more poo than there would be if there was no poo.

  3. I've changed a few diapers in my day too. Cloth diapers on daughter number one, and then disposables from then on. My brother brought home one of those “toxic waste” stickers they use at the hospital and we put on on the nappy bin.

    But it's a good idea now and then to pull out the old calculator and remind yourself what “poo per billion” (PPB) really means. If a kid pees in one end of an Olympic-size pool, is it still safe to swim in the other end? Or would you rather not?

    What about the ocean? Parts per trillion, quadrillion, quintillion, centillion.? At some point you just have to stop worrying about it.

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