Thursday, July 21, 2011

Radiation Levels in Northwest Rain Were Up to 130 Times Drinking Water Standards Following Fukushima, Japan nuclear reactor explosions

Radiation Levels in Rain in WA and OR were high enough to be of concern despite news reports and officials stating that levels were “below any level of public health concern.” Olympia rainwater had Iodine 131 at levels 41 times the federal Drinking Water Standard, Portland over 28 times the standard.

Boise, ID levels reached 130 times the Drinking Water Standard for Iodine 131 and 14 times higher for Cesium 134 – indicating higher levels fell in Oregon and Washington.

Analysis by Heart of America Northwest:

Radiation levels in rainwater collected in Portland, OR on March 25, 2011 were 86.8 pCi/L for Iodine 131 (I131), amongst the highest recorded in the US after Fukushima. Rain in Olympia and Seattle had even higher levels of radioactive Iodine. The Portland result was not posted by EPA until April 4.

The maximum level of Iodine 131in rain in Olympia, WA was 125 pCi/L on March 24, which was not posted by EPA until April 4. In Seattle, an Iodine 131 level of 161 pCi/L was in rain collected on March 25.

Highest levels in rainwater in California were collected March 22, 2011 in Richmond, CA with levels of 138 pCi/L.

The Drinking Water Standard is just 3 pCi/L (picoCuries per Liter, which is a very small measurement). Thus, people drinking undiluted rainwater in Portland would have consumed and been exposed to Iodine 131 at levels nearly 30 times the DWS, and 41 times the standard in Olympia. There are no results for Seattle or Bellingham areas posted by EPA, although an even higher reading of 161 pCi/L of Iodine 131 in “Seatle area” rain on March 25 was posted by Washington Dept. of Health on its website. The Seattle result was more than 53 times the Drinking Water Standard (DWS).

The Drinking Water Standard (DWS) is set at a level based on drinking 2L/day resulting in a 4 mrem per year dose, which is a 1 in 10,000 lifetime risk of fatal cancer in adults, if consumed daily over 30 years. Children are 3 to 10 times more susceptible to develop cancer from the same dose, especially because Iodine concentrates in young thyroids. Of course, Iodine 131 may cause non-cancerous health conditions. Total cancer risk is cumulative. Thus, exposure to multiple contaminants, such as Iodine 131 as well as Cesium, increases risk.

If the rain in Richmond, CA had high levels on March 22, one might expect that EPA would have been testing the same day or as close as possible at Pacific Northwest locations that day. However, locations only test once a week or once a month without apparent coordination related to the event, e.g., without apparent increased testing based on weather patterns from Japan and daily events, such as explosions at Fukushima.

The highest levels of Iodine 131 in rain were collected in Boise, Idaho on March 27 and March 22, 2011 with levels of 390 and 242 pCi/L, respectively. Two different types of radioactive Cesium, which remain dangerous for many years, were also found in the Boise rain water on March 22 and March 27. The March 27 results were 14 and 12 times the Drinking Water Standards for Cesium 134 and 137 respectively.

Rain falling in Boise with elevated levels of radioactive Cesium and Iodine should have triggered increased monitoring in Oregon, and Western Washington, where the clouds likely dropped rain and contamination before reaching Boise. However, EPA reports only two monitoring results a month apart for all of Oregon during the Fukushima reactor crisis.

A high level reported by EPA was 150 pCi/L collected in Jacksonville, FL on March 31. This shows how far and wide the contamination can, and did, spread. It also reveals that claims and news reports were false in presenting that the 8 day half-life of Iodine 131 (half of the radiation remains) meant that contamination would not reach across the US. If levels of 150 were in rain in Jacksonville, the levels were much higher days earlier on the West Coast.

If Iodine 131 levels of 390 pCi/L reached Boise, 130 times the Drinking Water Standard, the same clouds likely dropped precipitation at levels of Iodine and Cesium 50% higher in Oregon and Washington before reaching Boise.

There were no samples collected and reported in Oregon and WA in the days immediately prior to the Boise collection of a sample with 242 pCi/L on March 22nd. Portland had only two precipitation samples reported during this entire period, the second on April 20, with all results “non-detects”. These results were not posted by EPA until May 24.

While there are numerous results collected at Oak Ridge, home of USDOE’s Oak Ridge National Lab, it appears that USDOE’s Hanford site and Pacific NW National Lab were not part of EPA’s collection program – despite claims of extensive radiological monitoring at Hanford.

EPA refuses to make public who is collecting data samples for its RadNet program, preventing independent review of accuracy and raising concern that the choices as to sampling may be biased, and leaving numerous questions such as why some collection stations were only collecting monthly even at the height of the crisis (e.g., Portland). Heart of America Northwest, working with activist/singer Dana Lyons, is submitting a Freedom of Information act request to EPA to find out the reliability and location of whoever EPA is getting its samples from.

EPA’s announcement that it was returning to “routine” sampling implied that there was across the board increased sampling from mid-March to May3, 2011. However, a review of the posted sampling results show many locations, such as Portland, OR, did not increase precipitation sampling from once a month during the crisis.

EPA’s May 3 Statement:
“After a thorough data review showing declining radiation levels related to the Japanese nuclear incident, EPA has returned to the routine RadNet sampling and analysis process for precipitation, drinking water and milk.
“As always, EPA's RadNet system of more than 100 stationary monitors will continue to provide EPA scientists near-real-time data on the slightest fluctuations in background radiation levels….
“It is important to note that all of the radiation levels detected by RadNet monitors and sampling have been very low, are well below any level of public health concern, and continue to decrease over time. EPA continues to work with federal partners to monitor the situation in Japan and stands prepared to accelerate radiation sampling and analysis if the need arises. Data will continue to be available on EPA's public website.”

Heart of America Northwest’s review shows that EPA’s claim of “near real-time data” is belied by EPA taking a week to post data. In the event of another explosion releasing radioactive particles and gases, the serious week long gap in time between collection of results and posting could prevent a proper public health advisory and response. By taking a week to post results, the public is deprived of the ability to make its own choices in time to make a difference.

EPA should continue weekly testing of food, and include cheese and other dairy products and spinach, given the presence of elevated levels of Cesium 134 and 137, with half lives of 30 years, in Boise samples.

All data from EPA:

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