Radiation From Japan Reached California Coast
in Just Days
Fukushima Power Plant
Electromagnetic Radiation Protection
Electromagnetic Field Meter
MONDAY, Aug. 15
By Randy Dotinga
(HealthDay News) -- New research finds
that radiation from the nuclear plant accident in Japan in
March reached California within days, showing how quickly
air pollution can travel, but scientists say the radiation
will not hurt people.
"It's not harmful at all," said study author Antra
Priyadarshi, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of
California at San Diego. The value of the study, Priyadarshi
said, is understanding how fast the tiny particles of
radiation traveled and how many particles made it to the
From March 13 to March 20, Japanese nuclear plant
operators flooded a stricken and overheating reactor in
Fukushima with seawater. The process created radioactive
sulfur that was vented into the air in steam.
In California, researchers at UC San Diego's Scripps
Institution of Oceanography track levels of sulfur. On March
28, several days after the flooding of the reactor in Japan,
they found "significantly higher" levels of sulfur in the
air. The level was about two to three times normal,
The researchers calculated that a bit less than 1 percent
of the sulfur released in the air in Japan actually made it
to the California coast. The rest of the sulfur in the air
presumably landed on the ocean, she said.
The statistic about the amount of sulfur that actually
made it across the Pacific Ocean is important, she said.
Scientists have previously been able to track pollution from
Asia, but it hasn't been possible to specifically determine
how much actually makes it to the West Coast and how much is
lost along the way, she said.
The stricken nuclear plant allowed a unique type of
calculation because researchers were able to determine
exactly how much sulfur was released.
The findings fit in with previous research that suggested
less than 1 percent of pollution survives the trip across
the ocean from Asia and lands in the air here, she said.
Priyadarshi and other researchers, including some in Japan,
next want to analyze radiation in seawater. The amount along
the West Coast is expected to be small, she said.
So, is the radiation in the air harmful? Not in this
case, since the amount is small and the spike in radiation
didn't last long, said Eleanor Blakely, a scientist at
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
The radioactive sulfur in question is more harmful
through internal exposure, such as when it's eaten, than
when people are exposed to it on their skin, explained Dr.
Kory Gill, an assistant professor at Texas A&M Health
Science Center College of Medicine. "The concern here,
however, would be if these radioactive elements were in the
water and atmosphere at higher than originally thought
levels," Gill said, since that could expose people to
radiation through food and water.
Authorities reported last spring that they'd found
radiation from Japan in milk in California and Washington
state, but there's such a tiny amount that it's thought to
be extremely far from posing a health risk.
The new study appears in this week's online edition of
the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.