Following the devastating 9.0 magnitude Tohoku earthquake and tsunami to hit Japan last March 11, 2011, the people of Japan faced an even bigger disaster when the Fukushima Nuclear Plant experienced equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns and widespread release of radioactive materials into the environment triggered by the natural disasters. The catastrophe crippled Japan and left a serious impact on the lives of millions of Japanese. Contrary to what was previously thought, scientists are discovering that radiation released from the nuclear plant have contaminated Japan’s sea waters and this deadly Fukushima radiation is spreading across the Pacific Ocean and will reach American waters in the next five to six years.
According to research scientist Claus Böning of environmental research web, it would take about a year for radiation wastes to spread across the entire half of the Northwestern Pacific and in roughly five years they have predicted that it will eventually reach the United States West Coast.
Russia Today (RT) quoted that possibly after 10 years the concentration levels of radiation will evenly cover the entire Pacific Ocean and will extend towards the North American Coast. The precise estimate of radiation amounts is unknown because the amount of radiation Fukushima released wasn’t fully assessed.
Various health issues arose and have been linked to the Fukushima accident. According to a study published by The Royal Society of Chemistry earlier this year, there have been almost 600 deaths in the 13 municipalities affected by the Fukushima crisis that are certified as disaster-related. Based on past experiences, The Japan Times has noted that increased risks of cancer can be strongly linked with radiation exposure just as the events at Chernobyl where there were reported significant increases in thyroid cancer as well as increased cases of leukemia following the Nagasaki and Hiroshima atomic bombings.
In May 2012, Reuters reported cases of Bluefin tuna caught off the California coast in August of 2011, just five months after the accident. The fish were revealed to have low levels of nuclear radiation suspected to be from the Fukushima nuclear plant accident. Fish and other sea creatures are capable of carrying those radioactive compounds across the Pacific because they are migratory animals and travel faster and wider than the waters and the wind. Scientists found signals from Fukushima contained within the tuna, radioactive substances or isotopes called Cesium-134 and Cesium-137. These are compounds clearly generated only by nuclear power plants.
One concern that arose is that these radioactive Cesium do not sink to the bottom of the ocean. Instead, it spreads from the water surface down to the ocean floor, thereby making it easier for fish to digest these compounds. Even though the small amounts of radioactive Cesium in the tuna fish appear to be harmless, many have expressed that more independent studies should be done. Do you think it’s a good idea to eat this fish even with what appears to be only harmless amounts of Cesium? Or should we wait for further studies to be done with our fish products until we’re assured they’re safe again?
We have heard of the measures done by the central and local governments of Japan to establish a system that prevents long term complications from the Fukushima accident through regular monitoring of their populations’ health and the radiation levels of food and water. Yet, we find ourselves becoming too complacent and unnerved about the probabilities. If North America and Japan’s neighboring countries who most likely to be affected by radiation, will not act on preventative measures to ensure the safety of their constituents then let’s make it our individual responsibilities to watch over our health, learn to limit and reduce exposure to radiation and consult a health professional, if necessary. North Americans should be made aware that the increasing risk of radiation in the next five to ten years still looms ahead of us, that the long term harsh effects of this accident are still not well understood and that it may give rise to a significant increased risk of various physiological and physical problems.