12:00am

Thu January 16, 2014
Health, Science, Environment

Today on Your Call: What do the science and data tell us about the impacts of Fukushima radiation?

 

  

On today's Your Call we’ll get an update on the radiation that has leaked into the ocean from Fukushima.  How is it affecting marine life and our health?Reports of radiation contamination are circulating causing a lot of concern.  So how concerned should we be?  Join the conversation with your questions on the next Your Call with Rose Aguilar and You.

Guests:

Jay Cullen, associate professor at the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria

Ken Buesseler, senior scientist in marine chemistry & geochemistry at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Resources: 

CBC: Are Fukushima Fears Unfounded?

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: How Radioactive is our Ocean?

Half Moon Bay Patch: Half Moon Bay Beach Radiation Not From Fukushima, Officials Say

Fairewinds: West Coast Radiation Exposure: What are the risks?

Institute for Energy and Environmental Research: Fukushima 

California Department of Public Health (CDPH) / prepared statement:

"There is no public health risk at California beaches due to radioactivity related to events at Fukushima. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is not aware of any recent activity at Fukushima, or any new data that would cause elevated radioactivity on California shores from the Fukushima incident. Recent tests by the San Mateo County public health department and CDPH show that elevated levels of radiation at Half Moon Bay are due to naturally occurring materials and not radioactivity associated with the Fukushima incident. The volume of water in the Pacific Ocean has a significant diluting effect on radionuclides that are present, and it is not anticipated that the concentration will increase in the waters off of the west coast. CDPH has collected and will be analyzing sand samples from Half Moon Bay. Results of the analysis will be posted on the CDPH Radiologic Health Branch (RHB) website(http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/Pages/RHB-RadReport.aspx) as soon as the analysis is completed.

On January 2, 2014, a CDHP inspector visited the area shown in the YouTube video, and on January 6, 2014, two additional CDPH inspectors re-visited the area. The radiation levels found were generally close to those shown in the video. The background level above the beach area was approximately 55 counts per minute (cpm), the Miramar beach area was 265 cpm and Surfer beach was 85 cpm. Preliminary data indicate that the higher than normal background readings are due to a concentration of naturally occurring radioactive materials, namely, potassium-40 and natural thorium and uranium. The readings above the beach area are consistent with natural background levels in other areas of the state. The Miramar and Surfer beach areas are higher than expected, as we believe there exist higher concentrations of these naturally occurring radionuclides. Higher background levels from naturally occurring radioactive materials, such as those found on these two beaches, exist all over the U.S. Samples have been sent to the CDPH laboratory for additional analysis. The samples will be analyzed using gamma spectroscopy using a high purity germanium detector at CDPH’s radioanalytical laboratory. This will identify and quantify any radioactive materials in the sample. Analysis should be complete within two-three weeks.

CDPH also performs routine air and milk samples as required by California law. Slightly elevated air and milk samples were found during the initial phases of the Fukushima incident (March 2011), and the results were reported on CDPH RHB website. CDPH continues to monitor air, milk, kelp, and fish samples. CDPH has been in contact with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and they are monitoring the situation with the nuclear reactors in Japan. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the private entity Woods-Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have monitored fish from the Pacific, and while minute levels of cesium were found in blue fin tuna, most recent tests show even those small levels are declining. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) is the coordinating agency for response to international emergencies involving radioactive materials, and the US FDA is responsible for food safety.

The USEPA, via their RadNet system, monitors the nation’s air, drinking water, precipitation, and pasteurized milk to determine levels of radiation in the environment. RadNet sample analyses and monitoring results provide baseline data on background levels of radiation in the environment and can detect increased radiation from radiological incidents, such as the Fukushima incident. You may visit the USEPA RadNet website at http://www.epa.gov/radnet/."

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