Holy Radioactive Bananas!

I was reminded today by my social media brethren (thanks Jesse) that bananas are radioactive. They contain roughly 450mg of potassium and the isotope K-40 has a natural abundance of 0.01% which translates to 0.01 millrems per day. The radiation is split between 80% beta decay, 10% electron capture and 10% gamma rays.

Perhaps this explains my wife’s strong aversion to bananas?

Of course our kids love bananas and just as I was about to race out to stock up on stable iodine, I ran across another post that saved me the trip. The inestimable Anne Coulter assures us in a recent blog post that, according to three scientists and a New York Times article (thrown in to appeal to the liberals), radiation is actually good for you and in fact a necessary stimulant to the immune system. Whew! What a relief! Now I can have that banana I’d planned on whilst waiting for my flight back to San Francisco… 


Flying? Wait a minute! Higher altitudes mean more exposure to cosmic rays and more radiation. On this little trip I will accumulate 41 bananas worth of gamma rays. I guess I won’t notice a little more healthy radioactivity if I make it 42.

The radiation claims of Coulter are a little absurd, not because there isn’t some actual substance to it (i.e. we evolved in the midst of natural background radiation and in the total absence of it, we’d undoubtably have no end of trouble, just as the loss of intestinal worms may be a contributing factor in the massive rise in auto-immune disease). However, she apparently doesn’t believe in moderation and failed to admit massive doses of radiation may not be all that good. I’m sure that the famous Japan 50 will soon evidence strong cause to disagree.

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