21 Mar 2012 @ 9:26 AM 

Thorium-232 In Clay Soil Cannot Get Into Body Tissues
Repost comment from Dato’ Dr Looi Hoong Wah

Dear NK Khoo,

Thorium-232 In Clay Soil Cannot Get Into Body Tissues

1. Ingestion

Thorium-232 is strongly bound (adsorbed) by soil especially clay soil. The Thorium in the clay particles is about 500,000 % higher than in the water between the clay particles.
So, it cannot be leached out by water and pollute the rivers.
When ingested there is insignificant absorption of the Thorium because of this strong bond between the clay particles and the Thorium. Practically all the Thorium will be excreted with the clay.

2. Inhalation

Because of its mass, Thorium-232 particles are very heavy and has great difficulty to get airborne.

Normally these particles get airborne only when they are very small and the only ones that can get deep into the lungs are those which are about 1 to 2 micron in diameter.

These fine particles are only found in the mines and experimental nuclear plants where powerful machines are used or where there is combustion. The chance of inhaling 1 to 2 micron sized thorium particles in the Kuantan air is practically non-existent.

All lung disorders are associated with prolonged exposure in the mines or Thoriun refining plants where the above conditions are present.

3. External Threat

Thorium-232 produces only alpha rays (gamma rays from daughter isotopes are insignificant) which cannot pass through even a thin piece of paper or the surface of the skin.
There is therefore no external threat.

4. Unnatural Routes of Entry

The only way Thorium can gain entry into the body is by injection. In the past where huge doses of 25cc to 50 cc of a 25% solution of Thorium dioxide (Thorotrast) was injected into the vein for contrast radiological studies, a small number of patients may develop cancers 20 to 30 years later. Even with these high unnatural doses, there was no acute toxicity.

In the south of the state of Kerala in India the soil contains as much as 4,000 ppm (parts of Thorium per million). Studies have shown that there is little or no accumulation of Thorium-232 in the inhabitants,
The Lynas waste contains only 1,650 ppm.

So if Thorium cannot enter the body in significant amounts by ingestion or inhalation and alpha rays do not pose an external threat, what’s all the big fuss about the Lynas rare earth plant ?

Dato’ Dr Looi Hoong Wah
FAMM, Mb.,ChB(Manchester), MRCS(England), LRCP(London), MRCP(UK)


Dear NK Khoo,

Recently I received a few comments with regards to the various letters that I wrote about Thorium-232.

As expected, most of them are rather childish, infantile and devoid of any intellectual content and as such do not merit any response from me.

However, there are a few genuine statements which need further explanation.

One reader stated that although Thorium-232 may not be dangerous, all their “daughter” isotopes have very short half-lives like Radon-220 and these are highly radioactive, so how could we say that Thorium-232 is not dangerous.

Well, the reason is obvious. But I find great difficulty in explaining to a layman the reason why when an element with an extremely long half-life that decays into isotopes with very short half-life, there is minimal accumulation of the short half-life isotopes and as such do not build up into a large enough quantity to pose any significant hazard.

I will try to explain by this simple analogy.

If there are 2 million people waiting outside a stadium and 1 million people managed to get into the stadium after 14,000,000,000 years (half-life of Thorium-232), it means that you will see only 1 person getting into the stadium every 14,000 years.

But once in the stadium the half-life of the new person (half-life of Radon-220 from the Thorium-232 decay chain is only 55 seconds) is so short when compared with those outside (Thorium-232) that he has left the stadium almost immediately. Getting in is extremely slow but getting out is extremely fast!

Since only 1 person gets into the stadium every 14,000 years, it you look into the stadium you will see it as empty most of the time!

It is just like trying to fill up a bucket by a slow, slow drop by drop drip and the bucket has a big hole at the bottom. If you look into the bucket you will see practically little or no water in it!

Since the Lynas waste product has only 6 Bq/gm of radioactivity, the chance of detecting any significant amount of radon gas is pretty slim indeed.

Another query is the inhalation of Thorium dust.

We must remember that Thorium-232 is heavier than the so called non-radioactive Lead-208 (actually Lead-208 does decay, but since it has an even longer half-life of 19 million billion years, the radioactivity is insignificant).

Because of its mass, Thorium-232 particles are very heavy and has great difficulty to get airborne.

Normally these particles get airborne only when they are very small and the only ones that can get deep into the lungs are those which are about 1 micron in diameter.

These fine particles are only found in the mines and experimental nuclear plants where there powerful machines are used. The chance of inhaling 1 micron sized thorium particles in the Kuantan air is practically non-existent.

What we need to worry about is the inhalation of other types of far more dangerous dust particles like lead in the car exhaust fumes, silica (causing silicosis) in granite quarries, and other pneumoconiosis like abestosis and severe chronic bronchitis from coal mining.

All these lung disorders are associated with prolonged exposure in the mines.

To be very frank, I have not seen or heard or found in the scientific literature of any case of proven lung disease, death or for that matter, any disease in humans caused by Thorium-232.

Thorium-232 has not been definitely proven to have caused a single human death in the world since the beginning of recorded history!

And this should be compared with about 15,000 deaths caused by humans (murders) every year in the USA.

Worldwide, about 2 to 3 million deaths are caused by Malaria every year.

So Mosquitoes in the air is far, far more dangerous than Thorium-232 in the air!


Dear NK Khoo,

I have a special interest in nuclear medicine in the last 40 years or so. And I find that what you have said in your blog is essentially correct and honest.

It is rather painful to see how so many well educated Malaysians are being misled by irresponsible people with obvious ulterior motives.

Even the president of CAP thought that since Thorium-40 (nkkhoo says it should be -232) has a long half-life, it is extremely dangerous when the reverse is true.

Here are some more facts with regards to the Lynas controversy:

The potassium tablets that your doctor gives you for high blood pressure is highly radioactive with a radioactivity of 32 Bq/gm and we need about 2 to 3 grams of potassium per day to stay alive.

The radioactivity comes from potassium-40. This is more than 500% the radioactivity of the Lynas waste which contains only 6 Bq/gm mainly from Thorium-232.

All the potassium that we eat everyday in our food contains potassium-40 and the normal dietary potassium would give a total of about 80 Bq per day.

The so-called sodium free salt recommended by health experts to combat high blood pressure is nothing more than just highly radioactive potassium salt! Even a lot of doctors do not know this!

Thorium-232 decay produces only alpha particles which can be stopped by a piece of thin paper and cannot penetrate even the outer layer of the human skin, whereas potassium-40 in our diet produces the highly dangerous gamma and beta rays from all the 3 types of beta decay, i.e. electron emission, electron capture and positron emission.

THE LONGER THE HALF-LIFE OF A SUBSTANCE THE LESS IS THE RADIOACTIVITY and as such the less dangerous it is.

As a simple analogy, if it takes 14 billion years for half of a house to be burnt, there is no chance of anybody getting hurt. But if it takes only 14 minutes for half of the house to be burnt down, a lot of people will be injured or killed.

Thorium-232 which is found in the Lynas waste has an incredibly long half-life of 14 billion years and as such is much less radioactive than the Potassium-40 whose half-life is only 1.25 billion years.

Radioactivity in Bq (number of atoms decaying in 1 second)

Pure Thorium-232 = 4,080 Bq/gm
Pure Potassium-40 = 254,000 Bq/gm
Naturally Occurring Potassium = 31.825 Bq/gm
Lynas Rare Earth Waste = 6 Bq/gm

It has been estimated that in the worst case scenario, the radiation risk from the Lynas plant is only 0.002 mSv/yr.

In Ramsar, Iran, the naturally occurring radiation is extremely high at 260 mSv/yr. This is 13,000,000% higher than the expected worse case scenario in Kuantan.

And the people in Ramsar, Iran has been found to be healthier and live longer than the rest of the Iranians! There is also no increase in the number of cancer cases.

We are exposed to radiation all our lives. In fact we get 4,400 Bq of radiation from the Potassium-40 with a further 3,000 Bq from Carbon-14 which forms part of our body tissues.

There is no way we can escape completely from radiation. Even outer space is full of radiation. The only way we can escape from all radiation is to leave this universe! or jump into the Kuantan River and be eaten by the crocodiles. Come to think about it, this would not work either as human body has its own radioactivity.

Dato’ Dr Looi Hoong Wah,
Kuantan.

ps. I have absolutely no link whatsoever to the Lynas Corp. or to the present Government and have absolutely nothing to gain whatsoever. I just want the people to know the facts and make up their own minds.

From the blog of NK Khoo
My stand on Lynas, I support it if ….

Lynas rare earth processing plant in Gebeng Kuantan is being sensationalized by opposition political parties and NGOs.

I did not say support or against the Lynas Plant in the past, it’s time to express my stand loud and clear now.

I support Lynas rare earth plant with conditions as stated below,

1. An independent expert panel to monitor and audit the operation and waste managament.

This requirement is to ensure Lynas Management conforms to international safety standards since our people have no confidence against BN government after the Bukit Merah scandal.

2. The plant is not located in my new village. (The same reason I used against furniture factories in my new village)

What is Thorium-232?
The early experimental nuclear reactor also using thorium as its fuel. The technology was abandoned because US military’s main goal was developing nuclear bombs through uranium enrichment in the reactors. Thorium is a safe radioactive material provided you do not inhale or eat it.

Thorium will be the future nuclear fuel. The waste will be a black gold in future if we can ensure proper waste storage.

Is Thorium-232 Hazardous?
http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/rp/factsheets/factsheets-htm/fs30th232.htm

The main pathways of exposure are ingestion and inhalation.

Because of its relative insolubility and low specific activity 232Th is not present in biological materials in significant amounts. Thorium was found to be present in the highest concentrations in the pulmonary lymph nodes and lungs, indicating that the principal source of human exposure is inhalation of suspended soil particles.

Risk is a parcel of life
Furniture factories also using certain toxic chemical in the manufacturing processes like Lynas rare earth processing plant.

The Industrial Estate in my new village is running for more than 10 year without any waste processing plant. Untreated liquid and solid toxic wastes from the factories are discharged and flowed into Muar river. Literally, waste hazard from these ill-managed furniture factories is more risky than Lynas plant.

The funny thing is not a single NGO protested against furniture factories located nearby the drinking water source at Muar river upstream.

About 1% Malaysia GDP can be created from Lynas plant when it’s fully operational is not a small and child’s business.

The ultimate loser is Malaysia for chasing out foreign investors due to ill-informed and mis-informed campaigns by certain quarters for the reasons known to them only.

I am expecting a datukship from Pahang BN government for my support to Lynas. :-)

Who is Dr. Looi Hoong Wah?

Dr.(medicine) Looi Hoong Wah is the brother of Dr. (architecture) Looi Hoong Thoong or Uncle Looi, the V-Buster antivirus programmer. Uncle Looi actually is a genius with IQ 180, and only 1 out 3 million population has such high IQ, so Malaysia has 10 geniuses with IQ 180 and above in theory.

MENSA accepts anyone with IQ > 130 as its member, only two percentile population is above IQ 130.

LYNAS: I could keep thorium safely at home

By Datuk Dr Looi Hoong Wah, Kuantan, Pahang

I JUST cannot understand what the big fuss is all about with regard to radioactivity exposure around the Lynas rare earth plant.

Thorium-232 is the only radioactive element associated with rare earth mining and it is regarded as the future green nuclear fuel.

It is present in rocks everywhere and even in its purest form, it radiates only alpha particles.

Alpha particles, which consist of two protons and two neutrons, are nothing more than helium atoms without their electrons.

These alpha particles cannot travel more than a few centimetres and cannot penetrate the human skin.

As such, you can hold a lump of pure thorium-232 in your rubber-gloved hands without any danger.

Thorium-232 does not produce dangerous gamma rays, which have high ionising energy, high frequency and short electromagnetic wavelength. These can pass though the human body and cause radiation damage.

To be frank, I would not mind keeping a few hundred kilogrammes of pure thorium-232 in my house if someone were kind enough to give me such a valuable substance.

In other words, the fear of radioactivity danger from the rare earth processing plant is unfounded and exaggerated.

What we need to worry about is the chemical toxic waste that such plants produce.

But, unfortunately, all industrial plants produce toxic waste and the only way to avoid producing these waste will be for us to remain a poor agricultural country.

 


Thanks to NK Khoo and Dato’ Dr Looi Hoong Wah for sharing the facts.

Posted By: Aeric
Last Edit: 30 Mar 2012 @ 12:34 AM

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