The impending arrival of radioactive contaminants from Fukushima has raised concerns among coastal residents in the United States and Canada. But oceanographers and radiation experts say the radiation levels will be too low to threaten human health.
"These levels are clearly not a human or biological threat in Canada," Smith said.
Fukushima’s radiation reached coastal Canada first because of the powerful Kuroshio Current, which flows from Japan across the Pacific. The plume will then flow down the coast of North America and circle back toward Hawaii, models predict.
But Buesseler thinks even low levels of contamination merit monitoring, both for human health information and for the wealth of data about Pacific Ocean currents such monitoring could provide. On Jan. 14, he launched a website called "How Radioactive is Our Ocean?", where the public can make tax-deductible donations to support the analysis of existing water samples, or propose and fund new sampling locations along the West Coast.
And at Fukushima, radioactive water continues to escape from the damaged power plant into the ocean. A new leak was reported last week, although that one did not empty into the ocean.
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