Thursday, April 7, 2011

Fishing for the truth

Updated below...
ABC HEADLINE: "Toxic caesium found in fish off Japan"
ABC REPORTED: The first sentence reads: Traces of radioactive caesium have been found for the first time in fish off Japan's east coast.
THE COMPLAINT: The claim is a blatant falsehood. Radioactive caesium has been known in fish off Japan since at least the early 1960s as confirmed by the following article published in the Journal of Radiation Research in 1973. Here's the abstract:

Cesium-137 Contamination of Marine Fishes from The Coasts of Japan Journal of Radiation Research
Vol.14 , No.4 (1973) pp.382-391 
1) Division of Environmental Contamination, National Institute of Radiological Sciences
[Received: 1973/07/16]
[Published: 1973/12/15]
[Released: 2006/07/14]
Abstract: The uptake and accumulation of cesium-137 by fishes from sea water was studied through the field studies for eight years (1963-1970). The concentrations of cesium-137 in marine fish muscles have decreased with time since 1963, and the concentration factors ranged from 11 to 81. On the other hand, the concentration factors of stable cesium remained in a narrow range between 34 and 52. The mean value of the observed ratio (OR) calculated by cesium-137 and potassium was 5.7 during the period from 1964 to 1970, and the OR value based on stable cesium was 5.9. The ratios between annual mean values of the specific activities of fish muscles and of sea water were found to be from 0.6 to 1.5.
From these data, if the concentration of cesium-137 in the environmental sea water is known, it is possible to estimate the approximate concentrations of cesium-137 in marine fishes by using the concentration factor or observed ratio without any analytical procedures.
OUTCOME: Received from ABC Audience and Consumer affairs via email sent 19/4/2011:

On April 6, in a report about contamination found in fish off the coast of Japan, the ABC incorrectly reported that “Traces of radioactive caesium have been found for the first time in fish off Japan's east coast”. In fact, traces of caesium have been found before, however it is believed that the radioactive caesium is believed to have come from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.
The story has been corrected and an editor’s note attached.
ABC News apologises for the error.
Accordingly, Audience and Consumer Affairs have concluded that the story was not in keeping with the ABC’s editorial standards for accuracy.
Thank you for taking the time to write; your feedback is appreciated.
Note added to story reads...
Editor's note (April 12): This story has been amended to remove a reference saying this was the first time caesium had been found in fish caught off Japan.

COMMENT: ABC News: once again caught fishing for the truth.
Score +1


  1. It's great fun listening to TV/radio newsreaders mispronounce "caesium". So much for science education.

  2. Kicking and screaming this mob are dragged to a correction! Good work!!


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