Are ‘Mutated’ Daisies Really Caused by Fukushima Radiation?

Radiation from damaged power plant may be responsible for odd flowers, but there could be other forces at work.

A picture of malformed daisies uploaded to Twitter from Japan is going viral, causing many people to speculate that radiation from the damagedFukushima nuclear power plant, which was rocked by a 2011 tsunami is to blame for the oddity.

“Frightening. Fukushima daisies go viral as nuclear radiation is blamed for deformities,” one twitter user noted.

But plant scientists aren’t so sure. It’s possible the radiation could be involved, but there are a number of other explanations as well, they say.

Twitter user @san_kaido first shared the picture in late May, fromNasushiobara City. That’s about 108 miles (173 kilometers) southwest of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, which was disabled by the March 2011 tsunami and leaked radiation into the environment.

The radiation at the site where the stretched-looking Shasta daisies were photographed was 0.5 μSv/h, wrote @san_kaido, an account set up in the Tochigi Prefecture Nasu district to disseminate information about radiation and Fukushima. That might sound scary, but that level is considered only slightly above normal and is classified as safe for “medium to long term habitation.”

It’s possible the flower deformity could have been induced by radiation, says Jeffrey J. Doyle, a professor of plant biology at Cornell University. However, “this is a pretty common mutation in daisies that I’ve seen sporadically in various places not associated with radioactivity,” he says.

There are many factors that can cause the oddity, Doyle says, from chemicals to diseases, a hormone imbalance, or random mutations to inherited genes. This particular malformation has been seen in numerous species of the world’s 20,000 members of the daisy family, from Holland to Idaho.

He’s not ruling out a role for Fukushima: “It wouldn’t surprise me to find mutations of all types, including this one, in places that have higher than average levels of mutagenic agents, such as a radioactive site or toxic waste dump.”

But this single plant is not enough to make a connection. If many other plants were found in the immediate area with mutations, that would provide more evidence of a possible link, he says.

Even if radiation levels were 10 times what was reported at the site, “the dose rate would be highly unlikely to induce a significantly higher level of mutations,” says Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists. “But at areas closer to the release site, local dose rate levels were much higher at the time of the accident and possibly could have caused high additional mutation rates in flora in highly contaminated areas.”

“Not That Rare”

Beth Krizek, a plant biologist at the University of South Carolina, agrees that radiation is a possible cause of the flower oddity, but says there are many other possible explanations.

“It’s not that rare,” Krizek says of the odd daisies. “You could occasionally see this just in plants growing in your garden.”

That being said, it’s likely that the nuclear disaster has been impacting wildlife in Japan, scientists reported in the Journal of Heredity in 2014. As in the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, scientists have observed higher mortality rates among birds, insects, and plants in the immediate vicinity of the radioactive leaks.

—Rachel Becker contributed reporting to this story.

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Mothers Exposed to Cleaning Chemicals Could Have Baby Boys With Genital Defects

Pregnant women who use cleaning products that contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals could give birth to baby boys with genital defects, according to a new study conducted by researchers in southern France.

In addition to cleansers, detergents, pesticides and cosmetics could pose a risk if they contain phthalates, BPA (bisphenol-A), polychlorinated compounds, organic solvents, synthetic fragrances and other chemical compounds that mimic the natural reproductive hormones people normally produce.

After examining more than 600 children, the researchers found that babies exposed in utero to endocrine-disrupting chemicals while their genitals were developing were more like to suffer from a deformity called hypospadias. Hypospadias is a condition in which the opening of the urethra develops on the underside of the penis rather than the tip. The urethra is the tube that connects the urinary bladder to the outside of the body. In males, the urethra transports semen during sexual intercourse. It also is the way urine flows out of the body. Depending on its severity, the defect can cause problems with urination and later in life, sexual activity.

Fortunately, about 70 percent of deformities are relatively mild. However, fixing it can require surgery.

This isn’t the first time scientists have found a link between certain chemicals and hypospadias, reports Environmental Health News. Mothers in southeast England who were heavily exposed to endocrine disrupting phthalates on the job were about three times as likely to have a baby boy with hypospadias.  And in 2010, Italian researchers found that among 160 mothers, those who worked with more than one group of endocrine disrupting chemicals were four times as likely to have a baby boy with hypospadias.

What Can You Do?

1) Read product labels to reduce your exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Women most likely to give birth to boys with hypospadias are those who work as cleaners, hairdressers or beauticians. However, you do not need to work in the cleaning or beauty industry to be at risk. Read the labels of the products you buy. Choose those that say they are BPA-free. Avoid synthetic fragrances, phthalates, and parabens, paying particularly close attention to cosmetics, perfume, food packaging and plastic packaging.

2) Make your own. It is simple, effective and inexpensive to make your own cleaning products, as well as body washes and even perfume. Most of the time, all you need is baking soda, white distilled vinegar, fragrance-free liquid dish soap, and water. Care2 offers many recipes for safe make-your-own cleansers, face scrubs, and perfume.

3) Frequent beauty parlors that make an effort to use BPA-free and phthalate-free products. Search out establishments that use natural products to protect the health of their workers as well as their customers.

4) Use green cleaning companies, or provide your own green cleaning products. An increasing number of professional cleaning services use only eco-friendly, non-toxic cleansers. If you have a household cleaning service, insist they use the safest, healthiest products available. Provide them yourself if necessary.

5) Spread the word. Through word-of-mouth and social media, tell your friends, family and co-workers — and especially women who are pregnant or thinking of getting pregnant — what you’ve learned about the dangers of using products that contain phthalates, parabens, BPA, and other hormone disrupting compounds.


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Eight ways to get a great start to the new financial year

Decisions you make now will make a big difference to your savings this year.

First understand where you are

Before you can even think of creating a financial strategy you need to understand your financial position. Know what you earn and what you spend.  By looking at this you can get a good understanding of what you can potentially save and put in place saving mechanisms to capture this.

Also at this time of year it’s a good idea to get your records ready in preparation to lodge your tax return so you are aware of any refund or tax owing.

Check your super received in the last year

It may sound simple but you’d be surprised how many people don’t check that their employer is actually contributing to their super fund.  Compare your payslip to your super fund records and talk to your payroll if there are any discrepancies.

Review your salary sacrifice arrangements

Check if you super contribution caps have changed.  If you are over 49 your concessional or pre-tax contribution annual cap has increased to $35,000.  For everyone else it is $30,000.  If you are paid fortnightly, check to see whether you are getting 26 or 27 fortnightly pays this year and talk to your payroll about whether you need to make an adjustment to your withholding tax and salary sacrifice arrangements.  By doing this you won’t get caught at the end of the financial year.

Split your pay to help save for goals/investments.

Make it easy!  Once you understand what you can save, look to automate how you can capture these savings. If a portion of your wage is going straight from your employer into your investment account you are less likely to either forget to invest or choose a more appealing short-term purchase instead.

Check debts and credit cards

Clear personal debt and start fresh for the financial year and ensure you pay your credit cards off in full each month to avoid costly interest.

Set up bank accounts smartly

If you found yourself scrambling to find receipts or locating which bank account you used to spend money on tax deductible expenses, try setting up a bank account specifically for tax deductible expenses or even a small debit card separate to your everyday spending that saves valuable time at tax time in finding expenses and ensures you claim everything you are entitled to.

Embrace technology

There are so many useful apps that can keep you on track with a budget or help with track and store your tax receipts.  Most of these are free or only cost a few dollars so give them a go.

Keep on track

Having set your goals, ensure that you have them recorded somewhere to make sure you stick to them.  Strategies and goals are useless if you don’t focus on achieving them.

Use the support of friends and family and the services of an expert advisor to maximise your chances of success. Letting others know your savings goals will act to keep you motivated, as well as make those close to you a little more understanding if you are unable to spend as freely in order to achieve your savings goals.

Why not increase the financial savviness of those around you – pay it forward and pass on these tips to your family, friends and kids.

By : Olivia Maragna

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