Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The (Ridiculously Small) Risk from Japan's Nuclear Reactors

Larry Mantle interviewed some radiation risk experts on his show, today. 

One of the two guests was David Ropeik, the author of several books that look at what's actually likely to happen to you vs what you'll see on the local TV news that makes you want to hide under your bed.

Here's the problem:  when I take my kids to the park, and one of them says, "Dada, I need to go potty." I obsessively search the bathroom as if I was a SWAT team member looking for a bank robber.  I search the entire mens room for that lurking child molester with one hand on his video camera, and the other down in his underwear.  I have yet to catch a pervert in a public bathroom, but if you watch Eye Witness News you'll be convinced that they're hiding in the bushes outside your house.

So what's the problem?  The problem isn't the 20 second effort that I need to make, to ensure my kids are safe in that public bathroom.  The problem is that the split second that my kid tells me that he needs to pee, I freak out.  The fear and anxiety is completely disproportionate to the actual risk.  All I need to do is check the bathroom.  I'm 5'9", and I don't care how many hours the theoretical, imaginary child molester in the bathroom has spent lifting weights and working out in the gym.  I'm a dad, and God help you of you look at my kid funny.  I'll tear you apart with my bare hands.  You ever watch those videos of the angry mama bear, or lioness defending her cub?  Yeah, if anybody messes with my kid, I'll make that mama bear look like a wimp.  That's what happened at College of the Canyons, last week.  The 12 year old was unharmed, and they caught the guy.

But, again, the reality is that within my lifetime, the odds of my kid getting molested in a public bathroom are lower than winning the lotto.  So, I need to chill out.

THE REAL DANGER IN PUBLIC RESTROOMS: We went to John's Incredible Pizza in Montclair, yesterday.  The boy needed to go potty.  While I was in the mens room, waiting for him, this tall, good-looking guy who clearly works out (he wore a tight t-shirt to show off his upper body musculature) took a shit, opened his stall door, and waltzed right on out of the mens room while zipping up his jeans.  He did not wash his hands.  How many other guys used the toilet in that restaurant yesterday, and then went back out there, where they proceeded to touch the salad tongs, the stacks of plates, etc?

And you wonder why I got so sick to my stomach last week (before we went to John's so I didn't get it there) that my wife had to drive me to the urgent care, where they had to give me i.v. fluids and an anti-nausea shot?  I probably picked up something at USC from a student who didn't wash his hands...

Here's the real problem with the nuclear contamination in Japan: last week on the TV news they showed a guy who knows that his wife and son died in the tsunami, but the police won't let him go search for their bodies, because of the radioactive contamination.  I keep thinking about him every day.  I feel horrible for him.

CLICK HERE to go directly to Larry Mantle's show, AirTalk, and listen to the interview.

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