Fukushima Radiation and Infant Mortality in the NW? No way.

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Irresponsible environmental scarsters are back.

During the past few days a number of you have emailed me about several media stories and web reports about radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant causing a 35% increase in infant mortality here in the Pacific Northwest.

The majority of the mainstream media did not go with this story, but a few did, like our local KCPQ (see story here) and other outlets like examiner.com and the well-known Aljazeera.

This was all based on a report by Physician Janette Sherman, and epidemiologist Joseph Mangano that was published online by the "Progressive Radio Network" and by the web site "Counterpunch." In this report they noted that for the 4 weeks ending March 19, 2011 there were 37 deaths (avg. 9.25 per week) but for the 
10 weeks ending May 28, 2011 there were 125 deaths (avg.12.50 per week). They note that "this amounts to an increase of 35 per cent (the total for the entire U.S. rose about 2.3 per cent ) and is statistically significant."

Folks, this is complete and utter nonsense and shows the downside of the web---crazy stuff gets sent around and news-hungry and sloppy media pick it up and give it credibility.

First, the whole premise is silly. That the extraordinarily small amounts of radiation reaching our shores from Fukushima are killing infants through some mysterious mechanism. But it is worst than that...just plain bad statistics!

Here is the their data for the four weeks before and the ten weeks after, shown in black and orange, respectively (credit to this site for the graphs)

The average of the four weeks before (black line) is below that of the 10 weeks after (orange line). This is what Sherman and Mangano were basing their radioactive scare on. But what if we go back further in time to the beginning of the year (see below). The story changes completely!

There is a lot of variability in infant mortality and the period well BEFORE the radioactivity reached us had as high or higher mortality rates as the last few months.

Turns out the four "black" weeks before the release had particularly low mortality. (Perhaps someone should write a paper suggesting that low infant mortality rates cause nuclear meltdowns...makes as much sense as the Sherman and Mangano conclusions.)

Bottom line: those authors "cherry picked" the data to allow them to conclude what they wanted. There are stronger words for such "research" but since this is a family-oriented blog I won't be any more explicit.
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