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Fukushima Radioactive Fallout Confirmed in U.S. Food Chain

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Kimberly Roberson

The U.S. rainy season of 2011 extended to June, making it unusually long and troubling for many experts and citizens due to Fukushima Daiichi’s triple nuclear meltdowns which began in March. These catastrophic events widely dispersed airborne dust contaminated with radioactive particles over much of the country. When inhaled or ingested these particles can have negative effects on human health that are different from those caused by external or uniform radiation fields, such as from cosmic radiation from air flights (although the Food and Drug administration continues to pretend otherwise). Hawaii and the West coast were the first states to receive radioactive fallout from Japan.

While media and elected officials have remained mostly silent on the issue, concerned experts and citizens have continued to probe. Radiation from Fukushima has been found in U.S. topsoil, rainwater, groundwater, milk, fish, and several varieties of produce as reported by the University of California Berkeley School of Nuclear Engineers (UCBSNE) radiation testing team. Cesium-137, Iodine-131, Strontium-90, Xenon have been detected at several sampling stations throughout the Bay Area beginning late March of 2011. In addition, California Bluefin tuna, almonds, pistachios and oranges have been found to contain measurable amounts of radiation from Fukushima. Cal State Long Beach researchers studied kelp beds spanning the state’s coastline and sampled elevated levels of Iodine- 131 at several sites tested (they are currently looking to expand funding to test for longer-lived Cesium-137). Though the levels of radioactive particles detected by the UCBSNE team in California food and water may appear to be low, chronic exposure to low levels of radiation can be as damaging, or more so, per unit dose, than a single exposure to a high level of radiation.

It has been reported that from March 21 to mid-July of 2011 that 27.1 peta becquerels of cesium 137 was dumped by Tokyo Electric and Power Company (TEPCO) from Fukushima Daiichi into the Pacific ocean. One peta becquerel is a million billion bequerels, or 10 to the power of 15. This is twenty times the amount originally estimated by TEPCO. Yet the FDA has not placed a ban on any north Pacific seafood, and continues to allow an open trade policy on Japanese food imports.

Exposure to these radionuclides is known to cause cancers, heart disease, and other serious illness. Transgenerational DNA damage is a long-term consequence of exposure to radiation from nuclear power production and accidents, with women and children being particularly at risk. When radioactive substances are absorbed in the body they tend to accumulate in specific organs by a process known as selective reuptake. Female children are up to seven times more likely to develop cancer from radioactive cesium than men due to radioactive Cesium-134 and 137 reuptake by the ovaries. Strontium-90 is mistaken for calcium and absorbed by bones and iodine 131 and 129 are attracted to the thyroid, to name but a few. 

A second wave of humanitarian and environmental crisis is currently underway in Japan. The government there has undertaken a massive incineration plan involving tens of millions of tons of earthquake and tsunami wreckage. Their plan involves mulching debris, some of which is contaminated with radiation and much with industrial toxins, and burning it in municipal incinerators already established around the country. It is not known if special equipment and scrubbers are being used in the process. The burn is being carried by the jet stream across the northern hemisphere to the U.S. for the rainy season of 2012, posing a continued threat to the food supply. The California Central Valley grows more than 450 varieties of produce, dairy, wine and an estimated 80% of U.S. lettuce, spinach, and produce. Radionuclides are absorbed by topsoil as are potassium and magnesium and the food chain does not differentiate the healthy from the hazardous. The cycle continues for hundreds of years in some cases, which is what has happened in Europe due to Chernobyl (sheep grazing land in parts of the United Kingdom are still off limits 26 years after that catastrophe began). 

Concerned citizens are working in Southern California to ensure that another Fukushima does not happen. The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) is currently closed as safe energy activists continue to monitor safety concerns. SONGS has one of the worst operating records in the U.S. and sits on a beach atop an active earthquake fault, within miles of the California Central Valley. California’s other nuclear reactor nearby is Diablo Canyon. It returned to full operation on June 26, 2012 after a three-month emergency shutdown caused by a large jellyfish blocking an outfall pipe.

A petition asking for food monitoring of U.S. food and imports from Japan has been circulating since April 1, 2011. A second, more detailed petition is about to be launched which will address the amount of radioactive Cesium currently allowed in the U.S. food, milk and water supply: 1,200 becquerels per kilogram in the U.S., vs. Japan’s limit set at 100. Under the existing regulation food and beverage unfit for human consumption in Japan can now be legally exported and consumed in the U.S.

The food monitoring and anti-incineration petitions, interviews and articles can be found at

UC Berkeley School of Nuclear Engineering website, The French Nuclear Safety Institute, Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), NIRS Mary Olson, Diet for the Atomic Age.
~ By Kimberly Roberson,;