'TakePart Live: TPL Disrupt' Series: Paranoia of the Deep

'TakePart Live' host Jacob Soboroff set out to get to the bottom of the Internet hysteria surrounding Fukushima and radioactive pollution.
Feb 26, 2014·
Yoonj Kim is an independent journalist and producer in Los Angeles.

Stories about the radiation unleashed by nuclear disasters have been proliferating throughout social media lately. It got to a point where "TPL Disrupt" producer and editor Jerry Brunskill had enough and wanted to get to the bottom of the Internet hysteria for his own peace of mind, so we got ourselves a Geiger counter and set off to find out in this week’s episode “Paranoia of the Deep” on TakePart Live.

Host Jacob Soboroff and the team visited with scientists at the University of Southern California and California State University Long Beach to learn more about radiation. Both experts told us that there is naturally-occurring radiation in daily life, even in our bodies. Dr. Colin Hill at USC also taught us how to use the Geiger counter, a box-like device that measures radiation, instructing us that the amount starts to become harmful at 10,000 microSieverts. Ours never went above a 0.15.

We took it out at the Venice Beach Pier, where people fish from the Pacific, supposedly the ocean most impacted by the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. The freshly-caught fish and crab we measured were very well beneath warning levels of radiation.

MORE: Watch More from "TakePart Live: TPL Disrupt"

In the last part of our investigation, we hung out with Tod Mesirow, former producer of the TV show MythBusters, at the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum in Hollywood. At the gallery of world anomalies and mysterious things, Mesirow told us that much of public hysteria and paranoia—or urban myths—stems from fear of the unknown. His words closely echoed those of Gary Small, a psychiatry professor at UCLA, who told us that trust and mistrust fuels much of mass hysteria.

Up until the end of the shoot, I’d been fearful of eating sushi—not to say I didn’t eat it, which I did, because I absolutely love seafood. However, talking to the radiation experts and personally measuring radiation levels gave the TPL Disrupt team peace of mind and heightened awareness of fact versus fiction. This story isn’t a government-approved study, but it is a hundred percent on-the-ground sleuthing and reporting. Take that with a grain of salt.

"TPL Disrupt" is TakePart Live's original documentary series. This is the tenth of the weekly features that will combine investigative and participatory docu-journalism.