F-ing Bananas! Esther Inglis-Arkell clarifies on io9.com:
The chart of relative doses of radioactivity that appeared on io9 yesterday set many minds at ease, but also raised questions. Questions like, “Why do you get dosed with radioation when eating a banana?”
The chart, created by XKCD’s Randall Munroe, was intended to show people the realistic danger of the recent leaks at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. Contact with radioactive substances is just a part of everyday activities like taking a flight, sleeping next to someone, or eating a banana. But wait. Sure, airplanes and x-rays expose people to radiation, but eating a banana? Why a banana? And how? Sure, the dose is low – one banana will only expose someone to one ten millionth of a sievert – but there must be something about them to get them on that chart.
It turns out that using bananas to measure doses of radiation has precedent. There’s even a name for it, a Banana Equivalent Dose or BED. The BED was invented pretty much exactly for charts like that. It helps put danger in perspective, especially when it comes to food and radiation, but the BED is not random. There are quite a few foods that are naturally radioactive, and the banana is an extreme example.
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