Trace radiation from the Fukushima nuclear meltdown disaster has been found by Oregon State University researchers in samples of albacore tuna taken off of Oregon’s coast. So far, it’s only been found in trace levels, but that is more than enough to be a cause of concern for the fishing industry there and also to consumers of seafood products.
Ever since an earthquake in Japan in 2011 triggered the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown, scientists as well as the rest of the world’s population has been worried about just how big of a disaster it really was, and how long it would take for the radiation from it to reach other countries and possibly contaminate food supplies. It appears as if these concerns were well-founded, as trace levels of Cesium-134 and 137 have been detected in albacore tuna by the OSU researchers Jason Phillips and Delvan Neville. Their research has been published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
Phillips and Neville chose to study the albacore tuna, as it’s a popular fish to eat and any signs that they contain radiation is an indication that perhaps other species of fish off of Oregon’s coast also contain trace amounts of radiation.
Age Matters: Older albacore tuna contained higher amounts of radiation from Fukushima
The age of the fish mattered quite a bit, at least in this particular study. While just trace amounts of radiation was found by the researchers in some of the three-year-old albacore tuna they analyzed, higher trace levels were detected in the four-year-old fish they examined. People are exposed to radiation levels every day, according to Neville, and the Cesium-134 radiation levels they found in the three-year-old albacore tuna was very small in comparison.
Neville compared the amount of radiation that a person who eats 16 pounds of albacore tuna a year at current levels to the amount a person would get from spending just “23 seconds in a stuffy basement.” For most people, 16 pounds of tuna is quite a lot of tuna, and it shows that the radiation levels that have been discovered so far are relatively safe for consumers if they don’t get too carried away with chowing down on their favorite fish of choice.
Another way to put the low risk that the radiation levels found pose is that you’d need to eat 700,000 pounds of albacore tuna, that has the highest levels yet discovered, to equal the amount that most people get exposed to merely going about their everyday existence each year.
Some sources of everyday radiation other than from Fukushima
People are exposed to more radiation than they generally realize every day from a variety of different sources. These sources include the very air we breath and the ground we walk on, as well as radon gas in buildings, cosmic rays, and x-rays.
Just from sleeping next to your spouse for 40 nights, according to Neville,is yet another source of radiation that we get exposed to “from the natural potassium-40 in their body.” The effects we experience from these sources is usually small, but the accumulative radiation a person gets who has been, for instance, exposed to dental and other x-rays for decades has been suspected of causing various types of cancer.
Though the radiation levels tripled in the samples of older albacore tuna taken before the Fukushima nuclear meltdown and after it, the trace levels of radiation discovered so far have only hit 0.1 perent of the radiation amount allowed by the FDA. Neville plans for his team to do a follow-up study involving a greater number of albacore tuna. If the amounts of trace radiation is higher in this larger sample, there might then be more of a reason to be concerned, but for now, the trace levels of radiation are relatively minor. Neville and the other researchers who took part in the study felt that the public had a right to know about even these trace levels they found in the 26 Pacific albacore tuna they analyzed.
How much radiation has the Fukushima nuclear meltdown released into the Pacific Ocean?
The amount of radiation that has been so far released by the Fukushima nuclear meltdown is staggering. It’s been estimated that roughly 70 trillion bacquerals of radioactive material has made its way into the Pacific Ocean because of the meltdown. A bacqueral is a unit that measures radioactivity.
The radiation from the Fukushima nuclear meltdown that scientists predicted in March would hit the West Coast of America by April has arrived, more or less on schedule. According to the same scientists, the radiation levels wouldn’t be high enough to pose much of a health or environmental concern. The latest study by the OSU researchers points to the increase in the levels of radiation found in albacore tuna due to the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, but it is in agreement with the scientists who predicted that the radiation levels would not pose much of a danger to humans or the environment.
Written by: Douglas Cobb