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Radiation from Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Reaches US West Coast -- Is it Dangerous?

Dec 09, 2016 11:30 AM EST

The radiation fingerprint from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan has finally reached the US shores, specifically in the West Coast. Is it bad news for Americans?

According to a report from New China, water samples from the US west coast and salmon from Canada have tested positive for cesium-134 or the radiation fingerprint of Fukushima. The Fukushima nuclear disaster happened on March 11, 2011 after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake hit eastern Japan, causing tsunamis that damaged the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

Cesium-134 is one of the three radioactive isotopes that have been released into the ocean during the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The two other elements are iodine-131 and cesium-137.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) first detected cesium-134 in seawater samples from Tillamook Bay and Gold Beach located in Oregon.

READ: Japan Reuses Tainted Radioactive Soil From Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, Extends Nuclear Reactors' Operation

However, should Americans be worried? WHOI notes that the detected radiation traces are very low and would not harm people.

"To put it in context, if you were to swim everyday for six hours a day in those waters for a year, that additional radiation from the addressed cesium from Japan ... is 1000 times smaller than one dental x-ray," said Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at the WHOI, via USA Today. "In Japan, at its peak [cesium-134 levels] it was 10 million times higher than what we are seeing today on the West Coast."

Though the radiation fingerprint does not pose any health threats to the public, Buesseler noted that this could lead to a further understanding on how radioactive isotopes transport and affect the environment.

"We don’t expect to see health concerns from swimming or fish consumption, but we would like to continue monitoring until (the radiation level) goes back down again," he added.

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