Forestry Agency to test Fukushima cedar pollen for radioactivity

TOKYO —

The Forestry Agency plans to measure the amount of radioactive cesium contained in cedar pollen originating from Fukushima Prefecture.

The proposed study, the first of its kind, would take place between November of this year and January 2012, the agency said on its website.

The agency said that cedar pollen tends to begin to fill the air in February, so it is important to establish whether or not the pollen is radioactive before that date. If significant amounts of radioactive cesium are detected, the agency said it may start to provide radioactive pollen count forecasts.

According to the agency, 20% of Fukushima Prefecture is forested and contains approximately 185,000 hectares of cedar trees. The agency said that a study on this scale has never been carried out before, and scientists are not yet sure how the cesium will concentrate in the leaves and pollen of cedar trees.

The study team is expected to produce an interim report on their findings in mid-December.

Japan Today

  • 4

    some14some

    like any other radioactive affected things in Japan, it will also have no "immediate" health problems :(

  • 2

    Ivan Coughanoffalot

    I think the full headline reads "Forestry Agency to test Fukushima cedar pollen for radiation and find everything clear, just like the rice, so don't worry yourselves, just carry on as though everything's OK, er, which of course it is."

  • 5

    thepro

    And if it is radioactive? Stop going outside?

  • 3

    tallgaijin

    remains to be seen how authentic and forthcoming this new report will be. Even if the results show radioactivity, what are options for normal people? Stop going outside? Wear normal mask like every year and pretend they are radioactive proof? Expect another new topic to increase the ever present anxiety without any clear answers/precautionary measures available.

  • 1

    smithinjapan

    Probably sponsored by a mask-making company! Seriously, though, what a double whammy for those strongly affected by pollen allergies. "Ummm... this year not only do you get screwed by the pollen, but there's an extra 'treat' in it for you!"

  • 0

    Tokyopod

    Whether or not it is radioactive might it not be better to cut the trees down or spray them before they let out the pollen with a kind of resin or hairspray to keep it from going airborne?

  • 2

    YongYang

    Don't forget to check Chiba, Tokyo, Kanagawa, Shizuoka, Guma, Ibaraki, Saitama...

  • 3

    oberst

    just don't inhale any pollens if you can help it.......................oops, that would be difficult unless you wear a mask 24/7

  • 1

    Serrano

    What I can't fathom is they STILL haven't cut down all these damn cedar trees, which cause misery for millions.

  • 2

    JapanGal

    This will be quite interesting to follow

  • 0

    Ian Duncan

    Anybody else remember our great leader Ishihara's campaign a few years ago to defeat kafunsho? His photo was all over the place with a defiant fist in the air - then nothing. I wonder how much we paid for that? It would be interesting if he has an update for us in the light of this news story.

  • -1

    Virtuoso

    If the radiation doesn't kill you the cedar pollen will. It wouldn't bother me if they razed every cedar forest in this country. Let them plant all the mountainsides with something non-allergenic. Like tiny bonsai.

  • 3

    Rob Robertson

    This will be something to follow. Tree's have been working to support life on Earth' in one shape or another, since the beginning.

  • -1

    Ed O Jidai

    Radioactive pollen which will spread and settle on rice paddies, orchards, and vegetables fields. I foresee the following headline in CE 2031: PEOPLE'S COMMUNIST PARTY NEWS SERVICE BULLETIN: "There has been a significant rise in the incidence of cancer among the population of our glorious people's servants who have steadfastly supported the people by immigrating from the Eastern Province (formerly known as Japan). Because this health problem is found to such a high degree within this cadre of people's servants it must be that the problem arises from genetics or unhealthy ethnic cultural practices. Therefore we have taken steps to insure the safety of the Chinese people by isolating this valiant cadre in special health re-education camps and culling as we see fit."

  • 2

    zichi

    Not all the land in the prefecture is contaminated by any level of radiation. The whole of the prefecture is about 14,000 sq km.

    According to the last government report there's an estimated area of 1,800 sq km with radiation giving more than 5 millisieverts per year. That's about 12% of the total land mass. This area is inside the exclusion zone.

    6,200 sq km are contaminated with radiation giving between 1 to 5 millisieverts per year. That's about 22% of the total land mass.

    13,000 sq km is about 32% of the total land mass.

    There are another 7 prefectures with contaminated land with levels less than 5 millisieverts per year. The next two, after Fukushima are Gunma and Tochigi.

    There 1,800 sq km is the area of concern. There are 185,000 hectares of cedar trees in the entire prefecture so the area with the 1,800 sq km will be much less.

    The government will test male pollen for radiation.

    I remember in the mid '90's when I first went to live in the Japan Alps. In the early spring, I was sitting on the side of a mountain making a painting. Suddenly, the whole valley filled with whirling dancing deep green clouds of pollen. I had never seen that before.

    I think pollen could travel some distance.

    All the people living near the exclusion zone need to be advised to wear masks during the spring to prevent air borne radiation entering their bodies.

  • 0

    Farmboy

    This will be an interesting study, and i'm glad they're doing it. What would be the mechanism for the radiation to get into the pollen, I wonder? Would the tree draw it up from the surrounding soil?

  • 2

    zichi

    Farmboy,

    Like the idea to remove the top soil from 13,000 sq km of low level contaminated land, I think this is basically again, an exercise to reassure the public that the government is doing something about radiation. It's very unlikely, pollen would contain any measurable levels of radiation but there would be more radiation found in the autumn leaves.

    The concern for radiation should be the removal of sludge in drains, rivers, gutters. Some of the highest radiation levels are being discovered at the base of down pipes.

  • 1

    Farmboy

    Zichi

    The investigation probably stemmed from public fears about the issue, I imagine. There was an article about these worries a little while ago, I think in the Yomiuri.

    Certainly, the sludge and water issue is much more important, but I'm curious about the pollen idea. I know sunflowers and other plants can absorb cesium, but I would think that if a tree could do this, it would take a long time for the cesium to reach the pollen, if it could do this at all. If it could, I suppose it could be a concern, since the radiation would be internalized. I'm not aware of any studies like this about trees in Chernobyl, but there might be something out there that some reader knows about.

  • 0

    Farmboy

    http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T111023002966.htm

    It seems like I saw a different article about the pollen, but this one is interesting, too.

  • 2

    Darren Brannan

    Maybe the first study conducted in Japan, but there certainly studies conducted after Chernobyl.. And in relation to honey production. http://www.journal-of-agroalimentary.ro/admin/articole/43089L40_Radioactivity,_Polluting_Agent_Affects_Quality_of_Natural_Bee_Honey.pdf

    Maybe what we should be asking is what effect all those nuclides will have on Japan's already weakened honeybee population?

  • 2

    zichi

    Farmboy,

    while the planting of thousands of Sunflowers must have been beautiful to look at, they failed to reduce the radiation levels in the soil.

    Looking from Google Earth there are far less trees around Chernobyl so probably it wasn't considered a problem. Also, the exclusion zone is 60 miles.

    From the Yomiuri article,

    "The agency plans to pick male cedar flowers in the no-entry zone and check them for radioactive cesium, it said."

    and,

    "According to the Social Welfare and Public Health Bureau of the Tokyo metropolitan government, the wind sometimes carries cedar pollen more than 200 kilometers."

    so it worthwhile testing the pollen just inside the exclusion zone and then taking it from there.

  • -1

    Elbuda Mexicano

    Dear Serrano, now if you cut down all them nasty cedar trees, that release TONS and TONS of pollen into the wind every year, causing KAFUNSHO, 花粉症, just think of all the $$$$ that will not be spent on buying masks, hey fever medicine, etc..by all the millions, including myself that suffer every year and now on top of that, maybe it is all mixed up with a bit of radiation for good measure?? I know it sounds far fetched but hay fever, I guess they call it pollen allergy back in the old country is a huge $$$$$$ business here and in many parts of the world.

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