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Assemblymember Urges State To Post Information On Fukushima Disaster’s Risk To California Beaches

Saying that Californians are concerned and seeking information about potential health risks caused by contaminated water coming to the state from the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) is urging the state’s Department of Public Health to post updated information on the issue to its homepage.

“With newspaper reports, on-line videos and a number of stories about the possible radiation dangers to our beaches, residents are concerned and seeking information from a source they can trust,” Wieckowski said.  “I think a lot of people’s questions can be answered if the department would conduct a study or post the results of other studies and monitoring that are already completed to its homepage.  The difficulty of finding accurate, current information about the science and the level of risk involved has exacerbated confusion and worry among some in the public.”

Wieckowski said the federal government has suggested Fukushima’s problems pose no risks to California’s coastal and estuarine lands.  However, online speculation about contaminated water traveling to California, and higher than normal radioactivity levels on a California beach have increased the public’s concerns.

“Tourism, fishing, agriculture and outdoor recreation are among our most important assets,” Wieckowski said.  “Millions of Californians live in communities that are directly impacted by contamination in the ocean.  That’s why I think it’s important for the state Department of Public Health to put what information it has in layman’s terms onto its homepage so the public can see it and understand what, if any, risks or concerns are out there.”

The following statement was issued Friday, Jan. 10, 2014, by the California Department of Public Health Radiologic Health Branch and their Office of Public Affairs:

“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 (RHB) website as soon as the analysis is completed.” 

Other information from the CDPH:

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’s website (see link above). CDPH continues to monitor air, milk, kelp, and fish samples. CDPH’s monitoring is part of its on-going environmental monitoring program and will be publishing data on the CDPH RHB website by the end of this week.

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 FDA as well as 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 United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA)  is the coordinating Agency for response to international emergencies involving radioactive materials and the FDA is responsible for food safety.  FDA’s  hotline number is 888-723-3366.  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/ and this site has a link regarding public questions. 

Some additional useful links from the CDPH:

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) addresses threats to coastal areas. You can see information about their tracking of debris from Japan here.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) provides publically available reports on leakage and sea water radioactivity near the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The last report can be found here.

The state of Oregon continues to test drinking water, rain water and sea water for radionuclides that could be associated with Fukushima. Read more here.



Phillip Bailey February 01, 2014 at 01:58 PM
Scientists to test Malibu Kelp for Fukushima radiation - See more at: http://smdp.com/scientists-to-test-malibu-kelp-for-fukushima-radiation/131611#sthash.VvGiQpFz.dpuf MALIBU — In California, kelp is at once admired for its underwater beauty, grumbled over as a beach obstacle and served up on dinner plates. Now it is being used in the name of science. Researchers will visit Malibu next month to test local kelp as part of a West Coast-wide effort to determine the levels of residual radiation released in 2011 when tsunamis damaged the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. “Whatever is in the sea water will be magnified in the kelp,” says Steven Manley, a biology professor at Cal State Long Beach. A research team led by UCLA ecologist Peggy Fong will take 15-pound samples at locations off Escondido Beach and a second site near County Line Beach sometime between Feb. 24 and March 5. More than 20 labs and universities will take place in the effort, called Kelp Watch 2014, testing 35 sites from Alaska to Baja. Found up and down the coast, this canopy-forming kelp acts like a sponge and absorbs most of what is in the water. The kelp serves essentially as a natural dosimeter, which means it measures an absorbed dose of radiation. Earlier this month, government officials said trace elements of radiation from the Fukushima disaster did not endanger California beachgoers. “There is no public health risk at California beaches due to radioactivity related to events at Fukushima,” the California Department of Public Health said in a statement. One of the main reasons for the study is to “let the public know what’s there,” Manley said. He’s “pretty sure” researchers will find radiation in the kelp samples, however, he anticipates a very low amount because the radiation most likely has been diluted. The kelp will be dried out, ground down and inspected for radiation by scientists from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The series of tests is the first of three efforts planned this year by scientists to monitor radiation levels on the West Coast. Results from the research are expected to be available on a website by March. On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off the coast of Japan, resulting in casualties of around 20,000 and decimating cities. It also triggered a series of tsunamis that damaged the Fukushima Daiichi power plant and sent radiation leaks into the ocean. Studies show that radionuclides from the plant continue to leak into the sea, according to the Los Angeles Times, but experts say the radiation quickly dilutes in the water. Professor Manley has been getting calls from surfers and others asking if it’s safe to swim and surf. Last week, visitors to Malibu beaches indicated they were also keen to find out what the research yields. One surfer said he was aware of the radiation reports, but would not let it affect his time in the ocean. “This is not a good development but we will still go strong as surfers,” he said

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