Fukushima Fallout? Radiation on San Francisco Beaches
January 9, 2014
RT News & David Perlman / San Francsico Chronicle & Christa Bigue / Half Moon Bay Patch & Mikael Thalen / StoryLeak
California health officials are telling residents not to worry after a video uploaded to the Internet seemed to show high levels of radiation at a Pacific Coast beach. In the seven-minute-long clip, a man carries a radiation detector while walking along a beach near San Francisco. At times, the monitor shows a radiation reading of 150 counts-per-minute -- the equivalent of around five times what is typically found in that type of environment.
Officials Reject Concerns
Over 500 Percent Radiation Increase on California Beach
(January 7, 2014) -- Health officials in California are now telling residents not to worry after a video uploaded to the internet last month seemed to show high levels of radiation at a Pacific Coast beach.
The video, "Fukushima radiation hits San Francisco," has been viewed nearly half-a-million times since being uploaded to YouTube on Christmas Eve, and its contents have caused concern among residents who fear that nuclear waste from the March 2011 disaster in Japan may be arriving on their side of the Pacific Ocean.
Throughout the course of the seven-minute-long clip, a man tests out his Geiger counter radiation detector while walking through Pacifica State Beach outside of San Francisco. At times, the monitor on the machine seems to show radiation of 150 counts-per-minute, or the equivalent of around five times what is typically found in that type of environment.
After the video began to go viral last month, local, state and federal officials began to investigate claims that waste from the Fukushima nuclear plant has washed ashore in California. Only now, though, are authorities saying that they have no reason to believe that conditions along the West Coast are unsafe.
The Half Moon Bay Review reported on Friday that government officials conducted tests along California's Pacific Coast after word of the video began to spread online, but found no indication that radiation levels had reached a hazardous point.
"It's not something that we feel is an immediate public health concern," Dean Peterson, the county environmental health director, told the Review. "We're not even close to the point of saying that any of this is from Fukushima."
According to the Review's Mark Noack, counts-per-minute does indeed measure radiation, but "does not directly equate to the strength or its hazard level to humans." And while the paper has reported that testing conducted by Peterson's department on their own Geiger counters has since revealed radiation level of about 100 micro-REM per hour, or about five times the normal amount, officials are confident that there is nothing to be concerned about.
"Although the radiation levels were clearly higher than is typical, Peterson emphasized that it was still not unsafe for humans," Noack wrote. "A person would need to be exposed to 100 microREMs of radiation for 50,000 hours before it surpassed safety guidelines by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, he explained."
Even so, officials are still uncertain as to why those levels -- even if they are relatively safe -- seem to be five-times higher than what is expected. Peterson told the Review he was "befuddled" over the ordeal, but suggested the culprit could be something not too sinister -- such as red-painted eating utensils buried on the beach.
"I honestly think the end result of this is that it's just higher levels of background radiation," he said.
Researchers at the Geiger Counter Bulletin website have since tried to make sense of the reading on their own, and agree that the levels being detected are several times over what should be expected.
According to a post on their website from this weekend, however, an independent testing of soil taken from near Pacifica State Beach tested positive for some radioactive material -- but nothing that would have come from Fukushima.
The results of testing conducted by California's Department of Public Health are expected to be announced later this week.
Chairmann Meow 09.01.2014 05:57
According to MIT, the average natural background radiation at sea level is 300 mrem. This increases at higher elevation where Denver has an average 400 mrem. Federal safety standards for fetuses and minors in workplace environment label 500 mrem, or 5000 mrem for adults, as the upper limit of safe.
Acute radiation poisoning is defined as over 1 sievert or 100 rem (100,000 mrem) in a short time period, which at the rate of peak measurement level would amount to 25 years of accumulation absorbed all at once. At 0.0428 mrem/h or 0.0007 mrem/m, that is over 142,857 times the peak measurement registered on that beach.
Chairmann Meow 09.01.2014 05:55
Let's take this guy's measurements, which he says average 150CPM and which peaks out at 156CPM at one point in the video. If you take the highest measurement of 156CPM and divided it by the specified 3500CPM/mR/h sensitivity level of his model Geiger meter, you get a measurement of 0.04458 mR/h (milliroentgens per hour).
Multiply this value by 8766 hours per year to get 391 mR per year, then multiply that by 0.96 to convert to the roentgen equivalent in man (rem) value of 375 mrem--this is the level of radiation deposited in soft biological tissue.
Coast Getting Little Radiation
From Fukushima Disaster
David Perlman / San Francsico Chronicle
(January 8, 2014) -- Scientists reported Wednesday that low levels of radiation from Japan's Fukushima disaster first detected off the California coast two years ago have been declining ever since and remain well below any levels considered unsafe for humans.
The scientists, from UC Santa Cruz and Stony Brook University in New York, were responding to public concerns raised this week by an Internet video claiming that dangerously high radiation levels had been detected in the sands of Pacifica State Beach.
The video has gone viral and shows an unidentified man carrying a commercial Geiger counter that displays radiation counts purportedly rising to "alert" levels as he walks along the beach often frequented by surfers.
An Internet "news" site is claiming that news of the radioactivity is being suppressed by unnamed government sources.
Geiger counters are unsophisticated and do measure radiation levels, but they are unable detect the source of radioactivity. More sophisticated tests of beach sand in the Pacifica area by public health officials show that the radiation has come from natural sources - most probably from ancient rocks eroded in the bluffs above.
"There is no public health risk at California beaches due to radioactivity related to events at Fukushima," the California Department of Public Health said Tuesday.
"Recent tests by the San Mateo County Public Health Department show that elevated levels of radiation at Half Moon Bay are due to naturally occurring materials and not radioactivity associated with the Fukushima incident," it said.
The first detection of low-level radiation crossing the Pacific from the damaged Fukushima nuclear reactors following the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami was reported in The Chronicle on May 29, 2012. The report was based on an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and interviews with its authors, Daniel J. Madigan, then a marine ecologist at Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove, and Nicholas Fisher, a marine scientist at Stony Brook University.
In a telephone interview this week, Fisher, an internationally known specialist in radiation hazards, said that continued sampling of low radiation levels from Fukushima on the California coast shows "they have gone down ever since." The most recent report from Fisher's group is published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
At UC Santa Cruz, Daniel Hirsch, a lecturer on nuclear policy, called the low levels of radiation being reported now in California as "trivial."
"No one here in the Bay Area should be concerned about eating fish," he said in a phone interview.
David Perlman is The San Francisco Chronicle science editor. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Half Moon Bay Beach Radiation
Not From Fukushima, Officials Say
Christa Bigue / Half Moon Bay Patch
(January 9, 2014) -- The radiation reading on a recent YouTube video showing high levels of radiation on Surfer's Beach in El Granada using a Geiger Counter are Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) not attributable to Fukushima, according to a report from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).
"Recent tests show that elevated levels of radiation at Half Moon Bay are due to naturally occurring materials and not radioactivity associated with the Fukushima incident," said spokeswoman Wendy Hopkins of the California Department of Public Health. "There is no public health risk at California beaches due to radioactivity related to events at Fukushima."
San Mateo County health officials also say that after testing the sand on Dec. 27 that higher levels of radiation on Half Moon Bay and Pacifica beaches appear to be from naturally occurring minerals, typically found in coastal geology, said Dean Peterson, Director for Environmental Health Services for San Mateo County.
"The radionuclides are in the NORM class of radioactive substances, not from Fukushima," concurs Dan Sythe, CEO for International Medcom, which designs and manufactures Geiger Counters, a device used to detect radiation hazards in the home, workplace and environment.
Sythe's Inspector device is featured in the video, which led some to believe that radioactive material from the Fukushima Daiichi reactor meltdown in Japan was now hitting the West Coast. Sythe also specializes in radiation detection and public safety. He was so concerned about the video that he asked his friend Steve Weiss, an electrical engineer from the Coastside, to mail some Half Moon Bay sand to his Sebastopol home to "personally test a sample of sand from the beach, and I am convinced there is no link to Fukushima," he said.
He found that the radioactive areas of the beach seem to be associated with dark sand below the high tide level.
"The levels detected are about five to 10 times what you would normally expect to find on a beach," he said. "But if the sand were contaminated by radiation from Fukushima it would show Cesium-137 a product of nuclear fission which is reported to be the major health concern in Fukushima."
In March 2011 when a tsunami damaged the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan, radioactive isotopes were also released into the air and were absorbed by the ocean when they rained down upon it, according to a report on Deep Sea News, a publication highly regarded for directly communicating science to the public. These two pathways introduced mostly Iodine-131, Cesium-137, and Cesium-134, but also some Tellurium, Uranium and Strontium to the area surrounding the power plant.
What Sythe found on Surfer's Beach was not this. He got radium and thorium, which are naturally occurring radioactive elements, he said. The radiation level is elevated, but roughly equivalent to some granite counter top material from Brazil. He documented his findings in a blog post on the Geiger Counter Bulletin here.
Whether this material is naturally occurring at this beach or not remains a question, said Sythe. "There are reports that a pipeline was once at this location and oil pipelines can collect heavy radioactive minerals."
He believes the beach is safe but would err on the side of caution with young children and babies "to make sure they don't inhale or eat the sand," said Sythe, who describes himself as conservative when it comes to dealing with controversial issues regarding radiation health and safety and prefers a more "precautionary approach," he said.
The volume of water in the Pacific Ocean has a significant diluting effect on radionuclides that are present and it is not anticipated that the concentration will increase in the waters off of the west coast, according to California Department of Public Health Officials.
Still, Sythe hopes the state will do further testing to determine the origin and full nature of the hot spots on the beach. "But we are confident that it is not related to Fukushima, based on the spectral signature," he said.
Since the video was published on YouTube on Dec. 24, 2013, the state and county have sent teams to the beach for a survey. According to the Cal Office of Emergency Services, the California Department of Public Health Radiologic Health Branch did testing last week as did the San Mateo County Health/Environmental office.
On Dec. 27 a county inspector with a Geiger counter using GPS coordinates in El Granada as provided by the CA Office of Emergency Services reported that at the high tide mark at Surfer's Beach, their meter indicated a level of 100 micro REM's, which is three to four times higher than background for the area, said Peterson.
"This level is not a public health concern," he said. "With respect to levels of radiation, it is safe to visit any of our coastal beaches."
Still, Peterson forwarded the issue to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Public Health to further analyze the radioactivity.
"Because the level was higher, it is protocol for us to contact state and federal agencies for further investigation," he said.
CDPH has collected and will be analyzing sand samples from Half Moon Bay. Results of the analysis will be released as soon as the analysis is completed possibly sometime this week, according to Hopkin.
The agency has been in contact with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and they are monitoring the situation with the nuclear reactors in Japan, said Hopkin. The FDA as well as the private entity Woods-Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have monitored fish from the Pacific and while minute levels of Cesium were found in blue fin tuna most recent tests show even those small levels are declining.
"There's an incredible amount of disinformation going on these days about Fukushima," said Sythe. "Without downplaying the danger and difficulties, it is important to note that some people are exaggerating the situation at Fukushima, for unknown reasons, in very dramatic ways."
‘No Concern' Over 500% Increase In
Radiation Levels On Calif. Beach
Mikael Thalen / StoryLeak.com
(January 6, 2014) -- Health officials in California are attempting to brush off public concern after a viral Youtube video showed a large increase in radiation levels on a Coastside beach last week.
The video, which has garnered nearly half a million views, shows radiation levels over five times above the normal background level, prompting fears over the ongoing Fukushima disaster.
Following public outcry, a state investigation by health officials found similar levels while collecting ground samples several days later. According to County Environmental Health Director Dean Peterson, the public should not be concerned.
"It's not something that we feel is an immediate public health concern," Peterson told the Review. "We're not even close to the point of saying that any of this is from Fukushima."
According to "Dave," the video's author, radiation detected two inches off the beach surface several days prior produced levels even higher, nearly 13 times above normal.
Unconvinced of any link to Fukushima, Peterson pointed to items such as "red-painted disposable eating utensils" as a more likely cause of the heightened radiation levels.
"I honestly think the end result of this is that it's just higher levels of background radiation," Peterson said.
A group from GeigerCounter.com claims to have analyzed and found elevated levels of Radium 226 and Thorium 232 in the sand, two naturally occurring radioactive substances reportedly not associated with Fukushima.
According to Dave, after two years of measuring levels on the beach, the increase appeared almost overnight. Given estimates by physics experts that point to a massive radiation plume reaching the west coast by early 2014, some see the timing as more than coincidence.
Countless other issues plaguing the West Coast in recent months, such as the ongoing "melting sea star" epidemic, have raised increasing questions over the government's handling of the disaster, or lack thereof.
Recent comments made by former MSNBC host Chenk Uygur have only fueled the public's speculation over Fukushima's severity. Attempting to speak out early on, Uygur was advised by the network not to warn viewers "because the official government position is that it's safe."
Unfortunately, initial concerns regarding Japan were validated after 71 U.S. sailors came forward last month, stricken with Leukemia, tumors and thyroid cancer after helping with initial Fukushima relief operations.
Just last week, the Department of Health and Human Services quietly ordered 14 million doses of potassium iodide, used to protect the thyroid gland during radiological disasters. Attempting to investigate the matter, DHHS officials hung up on Storyleak's Anthony Gucciardi after questions regarding the incident produced conflicting answers.
As new mysterious plumes of steam continue to rise from reactor 3, Fukushima's future remains increasingly uncertain.
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