Fukushima Radiation and Its Impact On the U.S. West Coast

It’s hard to imagine there is a person out there who hasn’t heard about the Fukushima disaster back in 2011. It resulted in one of the most harmful radiation accidents ever since the case with Chernobyl.

And since most of this radiation entered the nearby water, it is a fair question to ask: if any Pacific Ocean fish safe to consume?

In December 2016, a team of researchers had reported radiation levels coming from Fukushima for the first time on the U.S. coast. The team of researchers from WHOI (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) had discovered this.

They also stated they had been tracking the radiation for years now.

Meanwhile, Victoria University’s Canadian researchers also reported detectable radiation levels in samples of Canadian Pacific salmon.

Now there is a project which is all about finding out what the risks are. Many organizations and institutions, including WHOI, have offered their support.

The Disaster

Back in 2011, on March 11th, to be precise, there was an earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0! One of the largest ever recorded, in fact. It also triggered a tsunami, which in turn resulted in the displacement of more than 150.000 individuals!

It also resulted in 19.000 deaths and did some serious damage to Fukushima’s Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. This caused four of the six reactors at this power plant to release a huge amount of radiation into the ocean and the atmosphere.

And even though experts had been sent out in order to try and minimize the damage as much as they can, the leaked radiation still continues to pose a problem even to this day.

And one of the outcomes many experts are concerned about is the possible radiation of the Pacific Ocean fish.

Why is Nuclear Radiation So Harmful?

This is because it contains particles which are very damaging to humans since they can alter our DNA. They are also extremely carcinogenic due to they mutagenic abilities which may lead to cell death.

Such harmful particles are cesium-137, cesium-134 and iodine-131, all of which were released in high amounts by the damaged reactors.

The bad news here is that any form of contact with such radiation, whether skin contact, breathing it in or consuming it, can put one at risk of deadly poisoning.

For instance, since the thyroid gland is usually the one which absorbs the  iodine-131, in many cases this results in thyroid cancer. Back during the accident itself, there were immense levels of Cesium-137, which presented a major threat to marine life as well as all other lifeforms.

Nowadays, its presence is still there (since Cesium-137 has a rather long half-life). And only after 30 years will it be half as strong as it used to be, which is still dangerous.

But the Fukushima disaster is not the only source of harmful radiation. The testing of nuclear weapons back in the 50s and 60s has also left a trace of this dangerous isotope.

That’s why it’s so crucial for researchers to determine just how high the level of contamination is in ocean life.

So, Should We Worry?

Well, according to the research which was published in 2016, even though this type of radiation can be harmful to marine life, the risk for us humans turns out to be minimal.

The freshwater fish which had the highest risk of cesium contamination were those nearest to Fukushima. Having said that, the risk lowers the farther away the fish are from the site of the disaster.

However, since any amount of radiation is dangerous, those fish which are the closest experts also deem unsafe to consume.

After almost five years following the disaster, researchers have claimed that the risk of contamination when it comes to aquatic food, the risk is rather low. And it has kept decreasing since 2011.

Moreover, since most of the fish products are farmed, the chances of coming into contact are also very low. Unless those fish happen to be caught by, say, amateur fishermen.

What Can We Do To Reduce Our Risk?

Since we are aware of the migration patterns of fish, we should also be aware that there is a somewhat potential danger of Pacific fish consumption.

It’s best to avoid any larger forms of these fish. Such as tilapia, salmon, and tuna. One should instead opt for, say, sardines, anchovies, mackerel and herring.

The reason for this is that, thanks to their small size, they accumulate smaller amounts of toxins in comparison to the larger fish.

The best option may be to choose Atlantic, wild-caught fish. And even these should be consumed in moderation.

Source: The Hearty Soul | EPA Gov