Japan Radiation Detected in California Rainwater 181 Times Higher than Drinking Water Standards

Ramifications of the nuclear crisis in Japan continue to be felt in the U.S. Last week, for example, it was reported that radioactive iodine-131 had been detected in rainwater near San Francisco, California at levels that exceeded drinking water standards by 181 times. Radioactive materials have also been detected in rainwater at other locations throughout the U.S.

The <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/Radiation-Exposure-Environmental-Contamination-Dumping-Spill-Lawsuit">radioactive rainwater in California was detected by a rooftop water monitoring program managed by the University of California at Berkeley’s Department of Nuclear Engineering. The rainwater sample was taken on March 23. The UC Berkeley researchers also discovered trace levels of iodine-131 and other radioactive isotopes, believed to have originated in Fukushima, Japan in commercially available milk and in a local stream within California.

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, iodine is a naturally occurring element that is required for good health. Exposure to high levels of stable or radioactive iodine can cause damage to the thyroid. This chemical has been found in at least 9 of the 1,636 National Priorities List sites identified by the Environmental Protection

Experts say the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is downplaying the risks posed by radiation from Japan’s damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant.

“The official mantra from a lot of folks in government is, ‘Oh, it’s OK in low levels,’” Patty Lovera, a Washington-based assistant director at the nonprofit Food and Water Watch, told baycitizen.org. “But low levels add up. We would like to see a more coherent strategy for monitoring air and water in agricultural areas and then using that data to come up with a plan, if you need one, to go look at the food system.”

According to baycitizen.org, Food and Water Watch sent a letter to President Barack Obama and members of his cabinet and Congress on Thursday urging the federal government to improve its monitoring of radiation in agricultural land and food in the wake of the Japanese nuclear disaster.

On Saturday, the EPA reported finding radiation-laced rain in even more states. These include California, Idaho and Minnesota. According to the EPA, Richmond, California, rainwater samples contained Iodine-131 and Tellurium-132. Samples from Boise, Idaho contained Cesium-134, Cesium-137, and Iodine-131. Finally, Iodine-131 was found in samples from St. Paul, MN.

The agency continues to maintain the radiation poses no risk to human health. Drinking-water levels are set for long-term exposure, the EPA has explained, while rainwater exposure is of short duration.

As we’ve reported previously, radiation from Japan has turned up in either rainwater or air in Alaska, Alabama, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Vermont, South Carolina, and Washington. Traces of radioactive iodine-131 turned up in samples of milk in Spokane, Washington and San Luis Obispo County, California. According to a joint statement issued last week by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and EPA, radiation levels in the milk tested were not high enough to impact human health.

Reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station have been leaking radiation since being severely damaged in an earthquake and tsunami that hit the country last month. According to an MSNBC report filed this morning, workers at the plant are frantically trying to trace the path of highly radioactive water that is leaking into the ocean. While radioactivity is quickly diluted in the ocean, a government spokesman said that the sheer volume of contamination is becoming a concern. It is not clear how much water has leaked so far, MSNBC said.

According to Reuters, crews at the plant tried to plug a crack in a power-cable storage pit at the power plant by filling it with concrete on April 2, and yesterday attempted to clog it with a mix of sawdust, newspaper and absorbent polymer used in baby diapers. Now the plan is to build an undersea silt barrier to stop the leak of radioactive fluids and help contain toxic water.

Despite concerns about radioactivity already leaking into the environment, the Japanese utility also reportedly said that it planned to purposely release tainted water into the ocean. According to Reuters, officials say releasing the water will make space to store more dangerous fluid in the basement of turbine buildings at the Nos. 2 and 3 reactors. Tokyo Electric plans to release 11,500 tons of water containing radioactive iodine levels about 100 times the regulatory limit.

According to MSNBC, Japanese officials also warned that it be several months before the cooling systems needed to prevent nuclear meltdowns at the plant’s reactors are completely restored. Even once that happens, it will take years, if not decades, to clean up areas around the plant that have been contaminated by radiation.

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