The Invisible Monster in Japan

For the last couple of nights I haven’t been sleeping very well. I keep waking up from nightmares about my son, Ripley getting really sick. You might think that is just a normal parental worry and I’ll get over it. Imagine for a second then it’s not just a bad dream, that it’s a reality.

A few days ago my husband, Sean Bonner, showed me a video that was filmed at a kindergarten school in Koriyama, Japan. A geiger counter was placed on the ground and it measured 52.45 µSv/hr. To put that into perspective, the readings at my home in Los Angeles, CA a few days ago measured 0.227µSv/hr.

Koriyama Measurement – April 23, 2011 from Sean Bonner.

The parents and teachers of that kindergarten were told that their school is in a safe zone. Imagine for a second finding out that the school where you dropped your son or daughter off at every day to learn and be nurtured, could ultimately make them very very sick. And then imagine, not ever being told.

The people that are taking these readings are not the government and they aren’t getting paid, they are a non profit organization called Safecast that has taken on a remarkable endeavor to get as many geiger counters into the hands of citizens and the readings uploaded to an accessible and public website. These volunteers are driving to various zones in Japan and taking readings so that Japanese citizens are informed about the radiation levels in their neighborhoods and can make choices about their situation.

The Safecast founders are people that I respect immensely – Ray Ozzie was my Chief Architect at Microsoft, Joi Ito is a friend and tirelessly reported during the recent tragedy in Japan, Bunnie is one of the smartest hardware engineers that I know, my husband Sean Bonner is passionate and knows how to rally around a cause, and the other guys are awesome in their own right.

Right now they are trying to raise money on Kickstarter so they can purchase and distribute 600 Geiger Counter devices in Japan. If you are a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, caregiver, or just really like kids, think about how there are children right now that could be exposed to radiation levels that could make them extremely ill, and permanently damaged.

My Dad died on December 19th, 2010. He had cancer and beat it, but what ultimately killed him was the radiation treatments. His body couldn’t handle them. He was so sick. I don’t want healthy kids to go through a fraction of what he did. Now, you might say that radiation treatments and the radiation exposure in Japan aren’t the same thing. Well, I can tell you that there is no way I would take that chance with Ripley. And those parents have a right to information so they can decide for their family what they are willing to risk.

I have cried thinking about these kids and their parents, and I haven’t been able to sleep. What can I do? I can write this post. I can tell people about the project. I can donate.

Please PLEASE support this project. Let’s make the invisible monster in Japan visible to the people of Japan, and the world.

For more information on Safecast please visit their website.

To read about different types of radiation and how it might cause cancer, go to


Tara Tiger Brown is a technologist, educator, and author developing programs at the intersection of environment, education, and well-being. Tara is a certified Earth Charter Educator, certified GLOBE Teacher, certified Trainee in Forest Medicine. She has co-founded numerous educational-focused nonprofits and startups including LA Makerspace and KitHub and actively participates in community science projects.