Monterey County

DearJon: Fukushima Fallout Concerns on the Central Coast

Watchdog says do the science first before rush to judgment

I continue to follow up on the potential for fallout from Fukushima, Japan, two years after the massive earthquake and tsunami that caused a meltdown of three reactors there. This is a two-part Dear Jon, so let's get to question for part one. Scott messaged me on Facebook and asked, "Why is there no information readily available on the real-time radiation levels and/or impacts to the West Coast? The government reports on everything, why not this imperceptible danger?"

The government agency to warn us about radiation in the air, land and water is the Environmental Protection Agency. It has what it calls 'RADNET' monitors around the country and acceptable radiation standards in place.

Dan Hirsch, a University of California Santa Cruz lecturer and radiation watchdog for more than 40 years, tells me that science has now shown the dangers from radiation are actually greater than once thought and now the EPA wants to lower its acceptable standards for what's safe. He finds that troubling.

That being said, last week we showed you a video of a guy on the beach in Half Moon Bay getting high radiation levels at that location. The video went viral and bloggers speculated this could be from Fukushima and really ratcheted up the fear for many on the central coast.

After further study of sand on the beach in Half Moon Bay, researchers have found thorium and radium which could be naturally forming sources of radiation there.

Hirsch says that if the radiation were from Fukushima, researchers would have found Cesium 137, a dangerous and long-lasting substance from radiation fallout. The half life of Cesium 137 is 30 years, so researchers would continue to see readings in 2041 and 30 years beyond that.

Cesium 137 was not found, so researchers say there's no link to Fukushima. That's what science does for you, according to Hirsch: test for substances and reveals the truth.

Hirsch believes bloggers and fear mongers and the media need to 'keep their shirt on!" when it comes to Fukushima fallout. Don't rush to judgment, do the science first. Online blogs and articles and even other outspoken individuals are spewing venom about Fukushima as of late. Hirsch says most of that is way over the top and inflammatory.

I asked about the starfish disease and the dead sea life off our coast. Hirsch says it's possible fallout could be involved but unless you do the science and find Fukushima radioactive elements, don't make conclusions.

Hirsch maintains cancer risks from Fukushima are minimal to West Coast residents, perhaps one case of radiation cancer in one hundred thousand people.

In my next Dear Jon report and part two of this series, I'll share with you what happened to the EPA RADNET air monitors on the central coast during the height of the Fukushima disaster in March/April 2011. This is disturbing to say the least and you will shake your head about the very agency created to protect us from these types of emergencies.

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