The fallacy of radiation readings circulating in the US

By Craig Douglas

(written March 2011)

There has been a lot of spreading of alarming numbers of radiation readings coming from all over the media and internet since the nuclear power plant problems in Japan. With this article I hope to shut them all down.


First off I sell radiological survey meters, geiger counters, and dosimeters at gun shows around the country. So I would have an ulterior motive to panic you further to sell more equipment, but in actuality I am more interested in the truth getting out there instead of all this panic, hype and lies being spread suggesting the problem is much worse than it is. I have made guest appearances on many talk shows in the last week to try to get the truth out about what is going on.


Invariably someone who owns a piece of radiation detection equipment, usually a surplus Civil Defense radiological survey meter, will go on the internet with their "report" of what they are reading in their local area. Civil Defense models such as the CD V-710, CD V-715, CD V-717, and the CD V-720 are for detecting high level gamma radiation (although they will also detect X-rays). Let's examine gamma radiation for a moment. Gamma radiation emits as rays from a source and travels in straight lines and penetrates objects much like X-rays do. Mass is the best protector from Gamma radiation, that's why our Fallout Shelters from the 50's and 60's were underground; you only need mass between you and the gamma source to protect yourself. Because of the curvature of the earth and the nature of gamma radiation, it is not possible to measure gamma radiation from Japan here in the US with the above listed equipment. If you are measuring anything on one of these devices you either; 1. don't know how to use the equipment, 2. your equipment is not calibrated properly or faulty,  3. you are lying, 4. there is something else going on locally that they are blaming on Japan.  Here's a way to confirm this at home; take a reading as you were before outside, then without changing anything on the instrument, take it in an underground location such as a basement and you will see the reading persists on your instrument. If you really had been reading gamma radiation, the needle would have dropped to zero when you took it underground.


Beta radiation acts differently and must attach to a particle such as dirt or dust, then travel via the prevailing winds to be measured away from the site of trouble. This is called fallout, and in the event of a nuclear weapon detonation, the beta particles will be blown high into the atmosphere by the blast as seen with the large mushroom cloud. In this event the beta particles could go into the jet stream and travel for some distance before finally falling back to earth where we could measure them. Now in the case of Japan, there has been no mushroom cloud, only much smaller hydrogen explosions which even if there was any radiation present at the time of those explosions they certainly wouldn't have gone high into the atmosphere. Any beta radiation will travel with surface winds and wouldn't get very far before falling into the Pacific Ocean or whichever way the winds might take it. The only surplus Civil Defense models that could measure beta radiation would be the model CD V-720 (high level only), and the CD V-700 which can measure low level beta and low level gamma. Remember, this is the ONLY type of radiation that could POSSIBLY get here from Japan, and this is extremely unlikely unless there is some sort massive explosion that could get the beta particles airborne high enough to reach the jet stream.


Another device which is more important but much less known because of the movies is the CD V-750 dosimeter charger and dosimeters. Dosimeters are small devices that you wear that measure your accumulated gamma radiation level (expressed in roentgens or "R") over time. The dosimeters from Civil Defense have different scales on them and will be the models CD V-138 (0-.2R), CD V-730 (0-20R), CD V-740 (0-100R), and the most common CD V-742 (0-200R). If you were be exposed up to 50R you would not have any visible effects. If you were exposed from around 50-200R you would get radiation sickness depending on your immune resistance and bio-terrain. Between 200-500R some will die from these exposures. If you were exposed all the way up to 600rRyou would die within two weeks. These higher numbers are what people are falsely claiming to have been exposed to already here in the US, but I haven't heard any reports of people passing from radiation here, or even Japan for that matter.


For up to date information on real radiation numbers as updated every 15 minutes here in the U.S. go to


The bottom line is I need not worry what happens in Japan if I am living in the United States, even if all of the cores completely melt down. I would worry if I was in Japan, but not here. Now that's not to say that I need not worry; that earth quake could as just as easily happen off the coast of California, or even on the New Madrid fault in Missouri. Then there could be a concern for my safety here in the US.


Remember, we already fought World War III many times over. We bombed ourselves, the Soviet Union bombed themselves, the Chinese, French, etc. with all the nuclear weapons testing done over several decades all over the world. Did you panic then? That was a much greater danger than what we are seeing in Japan today.  By the time those beta particles fell to earth they were so diluted they were hardly measurable on most of the planet.

Do you really want a Geiger counter?

A strange thing happens in front of my eyes every weekend at the shows I do. An individual comes to me in a panicked state that has fears of Japan radiation in the air, water or food coming to their doorstep.  Fear not, if you study the physics of how radiation travels, you will find your fears unfounded, unless you live near the site of the accident. 

I have to talk them out of buying a Geiger counter and they are frankly quite confused over that.  Here’s the basics of what is available to purchase dealing with radiation detection with associated advantages and disadvantages.

Radiological Survey Meters  (old Civil Defense models CD V-710, CD-V715 and CD-V717):  Most immediately call these Geiger counters because of the TV/movies, but they are not.  The detectors in these are ion-chamber devices for high level radiation, usually just gamma and X-rays, which are the most deadly in the short term.  Usually these are only good for levels of around 1 R (roentgen) or higher.  These measure levels that could quickly make you sick or kill you if you didn’t have a shelter.  All the emergency services were once equipped with this sort of equipment in the form of the old Civil Defense equipment which is still widely available for under $100.  New modern units will start at over $1000.  With these units you can’t measure contamination in food or water, radiation in items around your home, background radiation, or any low levels whatsoever.   In fact there is no radiological source you can legally own to make the unit respond at all.  Your best bet to test one of these is to expose these to an X-ray machine if you can get access to one, or have it professionally calibrated (many models have an internal circuit self-check function, but not a radiation source).  These units are the right choice if there is a nuclear detonation or power plant accident – near your location that is.  Don’t expect any modern digital equipment to function after there is an Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP), as in say, a nuclear detonation.  This applies to all the units described in this article.  Some may be “EMP hardened”, but there is a lot of controversy about these actually withstanding “the big one”.

Geiger Counters  (Such as the old Civil Defense model CD-V700): This is what everyone seems to be searching for when seeking a radiation detection unit, but are you sure you know what it is and what it does?  These are generally 10,000 times more sensitive than the ion chamber devices described above, usually measuring around .1 mR to 50 mR (milliroentgen) of beta, gamma and X-rays (although with a special probe some can also measure alpha).  These are levels that are not dangerous when exposed to short to moderate durations, such as when traveling in an airplane. 

With a Geiger counter you can measure things around the house, but you will be quite disappointed to find none with your new toy (many have a radioactive source on the side for testing function of the unit).  Unless you scour the antique stores for old thoriated gas lantern mantles, orange colored Fiestaware, radium painted dial clocks and watches, or vaseline glass, you are likely to find nothing.  Usually the purchase of a Geiger counter encourages one to find SOMETHING radioactive to buy as to justify the purchase they made thinking they were going to find some “trouble” from Japan.  As I have said for years, if you are buying a Geiger counter because of fears of Japan, you are wasting your money and you may even find ways to fudge your readings to justify the high price you paid. 

So what about food?  Unless the levels are very high (this is possible if it was grown in Japan), you will not find any radiation in food with a Geiger counter.  As shown on the radiation page of my website, the naturally radioactive food items of bananas and brazil nuts cannot be measured with a Geiger counter since the potassium and radium  are naturally right about at normal background radiation levels.  Contaminated food will be at levels much lower than normal background radiation levels, and you can’t measure anything lower than background radiation with a Geiger counter.  

Also when there is a true emergency, the detector in the unit, called a Geiger-muller tube, will easily saturate (overload) and your unit will be completely dead!  The needle won’t peg right, there will be no Geiger tick noises…  just the appearances of no radiation.  That’s why the emergency services would never rely solely on a Geiger counter because it would show zero on the meter in a high level event. 

Although a Geiger counter can measure background radiation levels, you really can’t measure accurate background levels with one because of the random nature of ion particles.  With more sophisticated computer based digital Geiger counters you can obtain averages, data logging and more, even of normal background radiation.  Expect used units to be in the $100 to $200 range, new units will be generally from around $500 to $2000.

Mass Spectrometers:  This is what you will need if you think you are being poisoned from Japan, and your only hope of finding any contamination in food.  It will detect the tiny trace amounts, isolating each radio isotope individually (such as caesium 134 and caesium 137).  You place a sample into the unit which then converts the sample into gaseous phase ions.  Mass spectrometers are operated in a vacuum to avoid collision of the ions with other molecules.  A computer controls the instrument, acquires and manipulates data, and compares spectra to reference libraries.  These are not portable; they are generally used in lab settings.  I’m sorry I don’t have personal experience with mass spectrometers as it’s quite outside of my league to afford just to satisfy people who don’t believe in basic science of how radiation travels.  Expect used working mass spectrometers to start at around $5000.  I don’t really think you are prepared to hear how much they cost new…  starting at about $100,000!

Conclusion:  If you want to check for some sort of radiological contamination from Japan, you need a mass spectrometer.  Some higher end Geiger counters can read averaged background readings but are otherwise toys.  Radiological survey meters are only for real emergencies with dangerous levels of gamma radiation.

Craig Douglas          10-16-13

Spikes in Radiation Readings

In November 2014 there was an apparent sudden spike in radiation readings from monitors in Latvia and a supposed incident at the Zaporizhye nuclear power plant in Ukraine.   Of course the internet rumor mill flung into high gear and claimed it was a mass conspiracy of a nuclear accident.   I offer no proof of an accident, what I offer here is a plausible explanation of what could bring about large spikes in radiation readings.

In the course of my job as a vendor of trade shows selling radiation detection equipment and other survival/prepping supplies, I engage in many interesting conversations daily as routine.  I meet experts in the radiation related field from all over the US.  In this article I speak specifically of incidents in the US, but I would guess this could easily apply worldwide.

Radiation spikes first came to my attention when I client who had two NukAlert detection devices had them go into alarm mode at 2am in Virginia.  The NukAlert has the tendency to false alarm at sudden changes of temperature, but not both at once in one’s home.  The worried owners quickly searched for some breaking news in the media and found nothing.  The alarms cleared and they went back to bed.  The next day they spoke with local politicians and could tell they knew something, but denied anything happened the previous night.

One interesting finding I have learned from speaking to truck drivers and state police departments all over the country is that highly radioactive materials get transported on occasion late at night and unannounced.   This seems quite logical since if the public knew of such an event there could be great security concerns, not to mention all the fear and protesting that could occur in locals harboring the “not in my backyard” syndrome.  From what I hear from those involved, great care and state police escort are given to these transports, but I still get many a truck driver and policeman who desire to purchase radiation detection equipment for themselves to be sure. 

We also know NASA launches radioactive materials into space.  I thus far have not heard from airplane pilots or train engineers of similar transport methods, but I certainly wouldn’t rule them out. 

Would I be concerned about these transports?  No, not really.  The levels of exposure to the public, although high and dangerous at long exposure times would likely be brief enough to not cause concern, until there is an accident that is…   As personal evidence I say to you with owning thousands of radiation detection devices, I have never seen them go crazy for an extended period of time.  I have about 10,000 dosimeters that can’t be shut off, so if there was an extreme event these would all show elevated exposures, and I have not seen any, even traveling all over the country with hundreds of them with me including the most sensitive 200mR dosimeters. 

I also see people who set off detectors at my tables who have just received a PET or CAT scan, or have radioactive seeds planted in their bodies for medical reasons.  These people live with higher radiation for more extended time periods.

I would think that government controlled radiation monitoring stations would routinely be informed of radioactive transport events and told to ignore/hide/disable/delete  any evidence of the occurrence.  Can you peg this as a conspiracy/cover-up?   Of course, but imagine the public outcry after decades of their hard work in the mainstream media to get us to be deadly fearful of anything relating to radioactivity.

Perhaps the Latvia station didn’t get a memo on transport…?  Besides, the attempt to try to link that reading to the Ukraine is rather absurd since monitoring stations in Belarus and Lithuania would have also recorded something as well.  But I guess that matches the insane notion that radiation from Fukushima will magically travel thousands of miles and drop on the coast of California! 

Craig Douglas  12-7-14

Calibrating old Civil Defense radiation detectors

I have been hearing of some sort of pawn TV program saying that the old meters are no good unless they have been recently calibrated.  This is totally false!

First of all, they can function perfectly without calibration; they just might not be accurate.  Typically when the government owned them they would be calibrated every 4 years (1964 and later).

As far as accuracy goes, I’m not sure why anyone would need accuracy anyway for civilian purposes.  Why is that?  If you own a model CD-V710, CD-V715, CD-V720, or CD-V717 there is nothing you can legally own radiological to make the needles move anyway, so if the needle is moving at all due to radiation, I would just get the hell back into my shelter.  I wouldn’t care how accurate it is.  And if you own a CD-V700, this is essentially just a toy anyway; nothing that the needle indicates will cause you any harm, at least in shorter durations. 

Now if you were in charge of a number of people in a government shelter situation, then yes you need a calibrated unit.  And if you were in a laboratory setting where you needed accurate measurements, then yes you need a calibrated unit, although a modern digital device would be a much better choice here.

You can’t calibrate these yourself.  With the high range units it would be suicide without special equipment even if you had a high level source.   For the low level units you would need several laboratory grade test sources with known values.   

If you still feel the need to have these calibrated you might find the prices to be higher than the unit is worth, typically $90-100.  There aren’t many places that do this for non-government parties.  My customers can obtain a 10% discount on calibration services (but not on repairs) by mentioning Craig from Forbidden Knowledge here:  

But with all that being said, keep in mind these units are all over 50 years old.  Even though it may perform a zero test and circuit check it is possible that it in fact will not detect radiation at all.  Having it professionally calibrated assures you that it functions properly.  So with newly obtained units that you intend to use in emergencies, it could be a wise choice; or have a back-up detection method available.

Craig Douglas  1-14-15