Fukushima – should we be worried?

Sonia - August 29, 2013

How worried should we be about the Fukushima radiation that is still leaking uncontrollably? There are still a lot of unknowns, but things look good for Pacific Salmon. Unfortunately, things are not looking so hot for tuna, and seafood imported from Japan is not a good idea. However, experts say that the radiation from eating lots of fukushima affected seafood is similar to one dental x-ray or other background sources.

“With wild Pacific salmon caught off the U.S. and Canadian coasts, you have nothing to worry about”, says Dr. David Welch, a world expert on salmon migratory patterns. “Salmon from Japan do not migrate as far as the North American coast”, he says, and likewise, “our North American species do not migrate as far west as Japan’s coastal waters”.

By the time any Fukushima elements arrive here in that current, most experts say, they will be so diluted as to have no effect. Meanwhile, could our fish become contaminated by feeding in that current — or by feeding on fish that have fed there? Again, Welch is not concerned about our salmon. “Nothing we currently know about salmon suggests that any North American salmon go anywhere close to the areas of higher radiation levels,” he said.

The CFIA did radiation tests on fish caught in BC coastal waters in August 2011 and Feb 2012 and found no cesium.

But what about your beloved tuna? We know that tuna do migrate across the Pacific into Japanese waters. Bluefin tuna caught in California exhibited very high levels of cesium contamination, but scientists don’t seem concerned.

A paper published by Standord researcher’s and the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety states that that the likely doses of radioactivity ingested by humans consuming the contaminated fish, even in large quantities, is comparable to, or less than, the radiological dosages associated with other commonly consumed foods, many medical treatments, air travel, and other background sources.

“In estimating human doses of the Fukushima-derived radioactive cesium in Bluefin tuna, we found that heavy seafood consumers—those who ingest 124 kg/year, or 273 lbs., which is five times the US national average—even if they ate nothing but the Cs-contaminated bluefin tuna off California, would receive radiation doses approximately equivalent to that from one dental x-ray and about half that received by the average person over the course of a normal day from a variety of natural and human sources. The resulting increased incidence of cancers would be expected to be essentially undetectable.”

The vast mass of radiocative water is now slowly making its way eastward across the Pacific and is expected to reash the North American coast as early as 2017, extending from Vancouver Island southward to Baja California (according to a July 9 report in Enviornmental Research Letters). Cesium has a half-life of 8 days, so hopefully by the time the radioactive water makes it way to Vancouver it will be very diluted.

What about eating imported seafood from Japan? This is where experts suggest caution. Buesseler thinks the health risk is mostly confined to local fish that dwell mostly at the sea bottom, where radioactive material settles. He says bigger fish that range over long distances in the ocean quickly lose whatever cesium contamination they’ve picked up. However, the higher concentration of strontium-90 that is now in the outflow poses a trickier problem, because it is a bone-seeking isotope. “Cesium is like salt—it goes in and out of your body quickly,” he explains. “Strontium gets into your bones.” While he’s still not too concerned that fish caught off the U.S. coast will be affected, “strontium changes the equation for Japanese fisheries, as to when their fish will be safe to eat.

Japanese landlocked and coho salmon were the salmon species hardest hit by the radiation. Every Kokanee tested exhibited very high levels of cesium poisoning, whereas only 9/257 Chum salmon in Japanese coastal waters tested positive for cesium.

What’s worrying is that Canada has continued to import seafood from Japan at a growing rate, despite scientists warning that landlocked seafood and seafood from the direct vicinity of Japan are testing positive for cesium.

A good reason to stick with BC seafood over imported Japanese seafood! Supporting boat-to-fork transparency is important now more than ever.

This blog is based on these articles and journals:

BBC Aug 22 2013

Huffington Post – May 2012

Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 2012

Science 2012

Sonia - August 29, 2013

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Fukushima – should we be worried?

Sonia - August 29, 2013

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