Tonight the BBC is reporting as ‘news’ the fact that tiny amounts of Iodine 131 from the Japanese nuclear incident has been detected in England and Scotland. Why?
The ‘fact’ of the story is of no consequence to anyone or anything in the UK. But there have been no ‘developments’ for their reporters in Fukushima to parlay, and so the BBC has resorted to this to ‘keep the story going’. Now the BBC would – I imagine – say they simply reported ‘the fact’ and they included a sidebar on how insignificant the dose from the iodine would be. They might argue that if they had not reported the fact then they might have been accused of ‘covering up’ the measurements.
However, simply by reporting it they are implying that it is significant. Which it is not. There is a small amount of space on the front page of the BBC web site and editors make choices about what gets shown. There is plenty of real news which the BBC could have chosen to report: they could have reported on the 8 people who lost their lives today on our roads – real tragedies in our midst which are routinely ignored. But instead they chose this story with the aim – I guess – of frightening people.
The level of radioactive iodine-131 found in air samples in Oxfordshire poses no risk to human health. The measured level – 300 micro-becquerels per cubic metre – is much less than the natural background radiation dose to which a person in the UK is likely to be exposed in normal circumstances. At that level, a child’s exposure in one day would be less than one 10,000th of what they would receive from naturally-occurring background radiation in a day.