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Dangerous Radiation In Colorado/Wyoming Rain (up to 2000% of normal background seen with wipe test)

Thursday, January 9, 2014 6:50
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Here are two specific observations, submitted for your consideration.  It is my intent that this article will attract the necessary (and truthful) expertise to weigh in on these worrisome phenomena.  See the image at end of article proving radiation readings.

1.  INSECT DIE-OFF. Beginning the summer of 2011 (after Fukushima) I noticed that there were zero mosquitoes at Lost Lake (north of Red Feather Lakes in Colorado).  This was unusual because there are marshy areas surrounding the lake and it is in a national forrest far from any city or town that could be spraying for mosquitoes.  There was no fire damage within the drainages of the areas sampled, especially in 2011.  In every previous year that I had visited that area, mosquitoes were problematic, sometimes so dense that they basically imprisoned you in your tent, even with heavy DEET mosquito spray.  Their absence thus effectively shouted at me, and also piqued my attention because with my degree in ecology I can appreciate the ramifications of a small change in the chain of life.  Fish and amphibians and birds eat the mosquitoes, and so miss that food source, and on up the chain it ripples.  

This particular lake is in a rocky bowl and is not fed by a river.  Rather, all of its water comes from run-off.  Note that if contaminants are in the rain and they run off from let’s say a one-square-mile basin into a one-acre lake, then that effectively could concentrate the contamination into a smaller surface area by a factor of up to 640x in this example.  

Also note that Cesium 137 and Cobalt 60 are used industrially to sterilize mosquitoes.  (It is a biological control technique whereby sterile mosquitoes are released and compete with fertile males for mating.  When a sterile mosquito mates, the female does not produce viable offspring.  See:http://mragheb.com/NPRE%20402%20ME%20405%20Nuclear%20Power%20Engineering/Nuclear%20Sterile%20Insect%20Technique.pdf.)  Cesium 137 is one of the main isotopes released into the air and ocean at Fukushima.  Cobalt 60 was also released.  

I made repeated visits to the lake that year, plus in 2012, and again in 2013.  In all years I did not see one single mosquito at this lake surrounded by marshy areas, at any time during their active portion of the year.

In 2012, I extended the study during the peak of the summer and made an approximately 100-mile loop through that region of Larimer County north of the Poudre River, stopping at 6 different sites.  I did not encounter one mosquito in that entire loop.

Out of concern, I talked with a number of experts, such as through Colorado State University’s Extension Service, the federal EPA, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.  The state contact for Colorado Parks and Wildlife acknowledged that mosquito populations were known to be down all through the state, and this was attributed to the extreme/exceptional drought of 2012.  

When I challenged this assertion, saying that it had also been true in 2011, and that the drought does not explain their absence around marshy mountain lakes and rivers, he backpedaled and said that he really did not have the authority to speak for the state on the matter.  

Note that in 2012 and 2013 I also explored northern Colorado all the way to the Steamboat area on the West Slope.  Again, in the Rabbit Ears Pass area and around the lakes, it is common to encounter dense, vexing, populations of mosquitoes.  Here, I encountered…a few.  Maybe a half dozen on a three-mile hike.  Not enough to wear mosquito repellant.  

Many people consider the absence of mosquitoes to be a non-problem and closer to a solution.  That is not the issue.  I do not miss my little blood sucker friends, but rather certainly can appreciate the ramifications of that lost food source to other animals, and how that affects their reproduction and vitality, which affects other animals, and so on.  

Will there be mosquitoes this year at Lost Lake?  I would wager, “NO.”  

In 2013, Colorado received a dramatic turn-around from the previous year’s drought, and actually had flooding. Out on the plains and in towns, some mosquitoes were seen.  Still none at Lost Lake, not one.  A neighbor made the observation, and I concur, that even though water was available in 2013, insect populations in general were lower based on a simple farmer metric…how many splattered on the windshield!  He did not have to clean his windshield all summer.  Neither did I.  Again, the absence was too loud to ignore.  

As mentioned at the very beginning, the intent is to attract the necessary expertise and resources to evaluate what is happening here and what the greater ramifications are to the various ecosystems.  Tests need to be performed to find the cause, whether it is run-off of Fukushima contaminants or other contaminants or some other cause.  All that is suggested here is a reasonable hypothesis worthy of investigation.  

 

2. RADIOACTIVE RAIN.  When Fukushima occurred, I purchased a small and inexpensive radiation meter that is able to detect gamma, alpha, and beta and crudely indicate the levels of each.  However, it does not provide any sort of logging functionality.  The initial idea was to check food for contamination.  

One day, after a rain, I turned on the meter and was surprised that the ambient radiation level I was being exposed to was HIGH.  (See the YELLOW image below indicating 0.47 microSieverts/hour.  That particular image was taken during a wipe test, but is representative of the common background radiation readings I saw after a rain.)  Normal around here varies from about 0.10-0.25 (GREEN).  

Then, I wiped off my solar panels and out of curiousity placed the wipes by the meter.  It lit up!  By wiping down the surface area of ten panels, I had concentrated particulates into the wipe.  Though the meter did not show DANGEROUS in the vacinity of the panels, it did show DANGEROUS in the vacinity of the wipes (anything over about 1.1 microsieverts/hour or 110 microrem/hour is considered DANGEROUS by the meter).  I did a number of repeated tests with other rains and saw consistent results of wipes with radiation in the DANGEROUS levels, up to 387 microrem per hour (or about 2000% of the normal background radiation).  

I did the “wipe test” in roughly a dozen locations from Larimer County on the Front Range all the way over to Steamboat Springs, Colorado again.  Additionally, I went into south-eastern Wyoming.  In all cases, I did see HIGH to DANGEROUS levels with the wipe, after a fresh rain.  For scientific consistency, I used my vehicle as the wipe surface for remote locations.  In that way, the same surface area was being wiped each time.  

This was amazing!  And so, I contacted the EPA and CSU Extension Service, CSU College of Natural Resources (no response to repeated efforts) plus did my own research.  What I found out has left me astounded.  

For one thing, note that gamma radiation is what primarily made the meter go into the DANGEROUS category, and the source on the wipes seems to have a very short half-life, a few hours.  As best I can determine (being a lay person and NOT an expert), this is primarily or perhaps entirely caused by naturally occurring radon gas.  It seeps out of the soil and decays in the atmosphere into what are known as the“radon progeny decay chain”.  Some evidently are initially formed by interactions with lightning and ozone.   These various products have different half-lifes.  Some are very short (hours) and some are up to about twenty-two years.  

What the EPA and CSU told me is that this phenomenon is common knowledge!  …Amongst experts.  I could not believe that they knew about this and considered it a non-issue or not worthy of public education.  The disingenuous theory seems to be that since there is nothing we can do about it, that there is no reason to worry anyone.  It was also disingenuous to not even bother to inspect what I am observing to make sure it is what they are talking about.  

That approach does not pass the smell test for a few reasons, plus…plus…I cannot determine if the radon progeny entirely explains what I am observing.  It takes a lot more equipment (such as a spectrum analyzer) to analyze the contamination on a wipe and determine ALL of the isotopes present and their quantities per square meter of surface area.  Again, this surely needs done!  Enough evidence is there, as with the mosquitoes, to warrent an investigation.

The alpha and beta that sticks around…could be from radon progeny, or it could be from Fukushima and Chernobyl and the other thousands of nuclear tests over the decades.  It is hard to believe that simply wiping rain water would normally make the meter light up with DANGEROUS levels.  Fails smell test.  This cannot be right.  

Their response does not pass the smell test also because there are things we can do, just as we put on sunscreen to avoid sunburns.  Small things can make a big difference in survivability with biological systems.  For example, if people know about this phenomenon, they may choose not to wipe down a vehicle until several hours after a rain.  They may close their windows to avoid that fresh rain air for a few hours.  They may choose not to let their dogs run through fresh rain-wet grass for a few hours.  They may choose not to drink fresh rainwater.  Lots of little things might make a noticeable difference?  

Of course, there are studies that exist that do show a slight increase in background radiation, due to contamination, but “not enough to show concern.”  What is troublesome is that reasonable expectations during an on-going disaster such as Fukushima are for regular (weekly or monthly) testing not just of background radiation levels but for radionuclides that can be deposited in rain plus concentrated, such as on a wipe cloth or in a lake.  You know, we need a national “weather map” for radiation contamination in precipitation and an ability to see trends such as an overall increase in radiation and the rate of the trend.  

Is this happening for each state, with multiple test sites in a given state?  You tell me.  Part of my expectation from a functional government would be that they would do the obvious and let us know that they are doing it.  I would also expect for their reports to be independently verifiable through private labs.  

All that would make governments look bad, and we cannot have that.  It would galvanize people into action.  The frogs would realize they are in a pot of water coming to a boil, and there would be outrage.  People would demand immediate action and punishment of the responsible parties.  Better to lie and just let the frogs boil in the pot.  

Lastly, I will mention that I have held off on reporting this due to concern for attracting the wrong attention.  In 2012, I did talk to a reporter that seemed initially interested.  I took him out after a rain and demonstrated right in front of him how to make a highly radioactive wipe by merely wiping down your car.  After that, he would not respond to my emails or voice messages.  Evidently, the story was too hot.  

Also, there is this guy that periodically appears on the hill by my house.  I know he does not work for any company (no logo on the vehicles).  He does not live around here.  He claims to be a ham radio nut but his story when I have talked with him (several times over the years) makes no sense to me.  He claims to drive twenty miles north of town where he lives, to talk using microwaves to his friend that lives forty miles south of town.  That “friend” happens to be one of eight people (according to him) in the state that have the same equipment…and the ONLY one in line of sight in which he can use it.  

That line of sight by the way, points directly at my house.  

He has shown up in three or four different vehicles over the years, with what I would guess is $20K of professionally-installed equipment in each.  Also, most baffling of all?  Most of the time when I drive up on him, he is busy talking to…wait for it…his friend to the south!  

I asked him point-blank if his equipment could be used to intercept cell phone transmissions.  He conceded it could, but that he had no idea how to do it.  

To summarize: He has expensive equipment that is only useful for talking to one friend.  He must drive twenty miles north to get the line of sight to talk to the friend that lives forty miles south.  …And then he uses his cell phone to talk to that friend while talking to the friend over the radio?!?  In my mind, these two could save their money and get married, buy a nice house to live together, and be a lot happier.

Anyway, I say all this not to alarm anyone.  I do not have the resources nor expertise to give any conclusive answers.  At least a lot of this radiation seems like it can be attributed to radon progeny.  All I am suggesting is some transparency, some reasonable due diligence to do the obvious type of ongoing testing necessary, and that both of these phenomenon are worthy of investigation and public discussion.  Let us get the resources directed at this concern and see what is what.  

 

Rainborne Radiation

 

Samuel Rose, Author of SCOUT REPORT book series

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Total 7 comments
  • Anonymous

    alot of the die offs preceded Fukushima, esp the honey bees.

  • AshleyM

    I was in Colorado in the past two years and on both trips I spent a considerable amount of time hiking in Steamboat to as far south as Manitou. I never once saw one mosquito. I thought this was the normal thing, and heard someone say mosquitoes can’t survive at higher altitudes. I never knew if that was true and never looked into it. I didn’t know until reading this that there used to be swarms.
    Living in Ohio, I am used to swarms of mosquitoes and this past summer they were just as savage as ever. So there is no indication of a mass mosquito die off here.
    Because mosquitoes lay eggs in the ground during the fall/winter and they hatch in the spring, perhaps the major droughts did cause them to die off. If this is true, I would think that with all of the flooding they might be back this year to ravage you. Or maybe it will take them a while to re-populate.
    I think it’s great you are willing to monitor this situation because it appears no one else is stepping up to it. Your article shows several good points beyond the mosquito mystery. Our government’s lackadaisical approach to responding to disasters is alarming, in such a way that it is probably causing me to have mild dementia. I feel that there may never be answers to your questions. I often find myself asking many questions to which there is no answer.
    Btw, your neighbor seems like such a weirdo, although I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, perhaps just a hermit nerd. But your pictures of his setup are quite hilarious and have me cracking up with laughter. Maybe you could rig something up and setup next to him and see what his reaction is… if he asks, just say you’re listening for mosquitoes :)

    • CrowPie

      Since the mosquitoe does lay its eggs in the ground, one must take into account the massive fires that swept through many of the forests of Colorado and surroundings states.

  • SamuelRose

    In response to the comments, there were no fires in most of the areas sampled. There were no fires in the drainage basin of lost lake.

    Mosquitos do not lay their eggs in the fall/winter. They do not lay them in dirt, except dirt that will flood, such in the moist banks along a stream or lake: http://www.scdhec.gov/environment/envhealth/pests/mosquitoes-life-cycle.htm. The guy with the gear is a stranger, he is not a neighbor, and I believe him to be governmental (my comments in the article were made with sarcasm ON). Frankly, these posts seem like deliberate misinformation.

    • SamuelRose

      Actually, I should say I *suspect* him to be governmental (I have no proof of that, merely his story makes no sense and he has access to a lot of resources for equipment that seemingly has no practical value except surveillance).

      Also if is interesting that none of tbese comments refer to the main poinf of the story. If you wipe down your car after a fresh rain, will the wipe be highly radioactive? It will in several sampled areas here. This is an easy test to perform. In light of the possibility of deliberate misinformation, I would council people who have a meter to try the simple test themselves (wear rubber gloves and place the contaminated wiped in a sealable plastic bag for disposal).

      • SamuelRose

        My apologies for the typos from cellphone keypad. Although only several areas were sampled, it is important to note that elevated wipe tests occurred in ALL samples of ALL sampled areas. There was a range in readings and not all samples showed DANGEROUS levels but perhaps (guessing) 30% – 50% were DANGEROUS and the rest were HIGH.

  • jm

    You wrote, “One day, after a rain, I turned on the meter and was surprised that the ambient radiation level I was being exposed to was HIGH. (See the YELLOW image below indicating 0.47 microSieverts/hour. That particular image was taken during a wipe test, but is representative of the common background radiation readings I saw after a rain.) Normal around here varies from about 0.10-0.25 (GREEN).”

    So the radiation level of 0.47 microSieverts/hour your meter alarmed as “high” in its “yellow range” is representative of background readings you see in the area after a rain. As there are approximately 8766 hours in a year (365.25 * 24), that would amount to an annual exposure of a mere 4.12 milliSieverts/year even if that were the average background level. But as you wrote later, it’s not, it’s a level that persists for only a few hours after a rain.

    It should be needless to say that this radiation intensity is far, far below any level that would sterilize mosquitoes or kill their larvae.

    Radiation health hazard is proportional to the accumulated dose in Sieverts*, not the transient rate of dose, and since even the accumulated dose of a full year at the 0.47 microSieverts/hour rate would not be dangerous, the health hazard of the additional dose above background accumulated in the few hours after a rain will be quite insignificant.

    Conveniently, a new and apparently well-done study of the health hazards of long-term low-level radiation exposure has just been published and can be read on the web (http://www.bmj.com/content/351/bmj.h5359). It found that the increase in risk of a fatal cancer among nuclear industry workers seems to approximate to 50% per Sievert* of exposure, meaning (ballpark) that if someone were to spend 50 years continuously exposed to the 0.47 microSieverts/hour dose rate, accumulating a dose of 0.206 Sieverts, then, all other things being equal, their risk of a fatal cancer would increase from the nominal baseline risk of about 20% to about 24%. The study followed more than 300,000 nuclear industry workers, and estimated that “about 209 of the 19 064 observed deaths due to cancer other than leukaemia were excess deaths associated with external radiation exposure”.

    But again, as you write, that 0.47 microSieverts/hour dose rate is seen only just after a rain, and a few hours later the rate has returned to a normal level of at least 0.1 microSieverts/hour. So if we ballpark the average elevation of dose rate at 0.2 microSieverts/hour and the duration at, say five hours, the additional dose over background per rainstorm will be 1.0 microSieverts. Times how many such rainstorms per year? Two a week would be about a hundred per year, for an additional dose of 100 microSieverts. Times 50 years, 0.005 Sieverts. Times 50% increase per Sievert, a 0.25% increase (note, not a 0.25 percentage point increase) above 20%, for an increase from 20% risk of a fatal cancer to a 20.05% risk.

    You followed by writing “Then, I wiped off my solar panels and out of curiousity placed the wipes by the meter. It lit up! By wiping down the surface area of ten panels, I had concentrated particulates into the wipe. Though the meter did not show DANGEROUS in the vacinity of the panels, it did show DANGEROUS in the vacinity of the wipes (anything over about 1.1 microsieverts/hour or 110 microrem/hour is considered DANGEROUS by the meter).”

    As you yourself wrote, the meter did not show “DANGEROUS” in the vicinity of the panels; it showed that only when you held near it a wipe containing the concentrated radiation gathered from ten solar panels. And again, this is radiation that you say decays away in a few hours. So even if for some reason you were to make a habit of putting the used wipes in your pocket, your lifetime absorbed dose would still be small. (Note that by holding the wipe in the “vicinity” of the radiation detector, you are doing something like holding a photographic light meter near a flashlight looking directly at the bulb, rather than pointing it at what the flashlight is illuminating, so you are not measuring the exposure your body is receiving.)

    Note also that this phenomenon is presumably observable all over Colorado, not just in the backwoods, and that, IIRC, the cancer death rate in Colorado is lower than the nation’s average. So lower exposure to other cancer-causing agents must be offsetting any additional cancer risk due to this post-rain phenomenon.

    *More precisely, Grays, but for the radiation types of interest here, the dose in Grays is for all practical purposes numerically equal to the dose in Sieverts.

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