We Need Better Radiation Testing & Monitoring in British Columbia
Radioactive elements from the Fukushima nuclear crisis are making their way across the Pacific Ocean. The prevailing winds and ocean currents are bringing these hazardous materials to British Columbia and indeed to all of Canada. This event is prompting deep concern for many citizens and citizens’ groups worried about the adequacy of our current health and safety testing.
These concerns have a solid basis in scientific fact. While daily monitoring of (dry) airborne background levels of radioactivity is currently being done this is inadequate since the radionuclides of concern are ionic (highly water soluble). This means that these isotopes are concentrated by atmospheric moisture and are likely to arrive in BC as “hot” rainwater. (Note: precipitation of this sort has already been recorded, 181 times normal levels of radioactivity, at the University of Southern California). Furthermore, this “hot” rain will cover crop and dairy lands where it can bio-concentrate up the food chain. Specifically, our dairy products should be tested.
It is also imperative to have regular checks done on regional water supplies that feed surface water into our municipal systems. To our knowledge there is no testing of this sort being done anywhere in British Columbia. The financial cost for this testing would be negligible and should simply be viewed as due diligence.
There are other direct vectors of transmission of concern. Vast quantities of contaminated water have leaked out of Fukushima. Fish imports from the Orient will require regular and intense testing. The current protocols, completely based on documentation form the point of origin are porous and insufficient. Furthermore, we should be preparing to test locally caught BC seafood. Salmon destined for BC are feeding in currents that have passed the Japanese coast and, it is only a matter of time before ocean currents from Japan reach our shores possibly contaminating other seafood. Once again the issue of bio-concentration comes into play. Just as with Mercury contamination, Cesium and Strontium bio-accumulate up the ocean’s food chain.
We have learned solid lessons from the terrible accident at Chernobyl. One is that a likely vector for radioactive contamination is in our commercial transportation system. Currently, the port authorities in Canada do check for radioactive cargo containers. Recently the Chinese government turned back a Japanese container ship that was measured as “too hot” – presumably contaminated by the Fukushima incident. Therefore, we in Canada should be checking that our current safeguards are adequately sensitive (radiologically) and fully comprehensive (covering all port facilities).
Failing to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation downplays the need for comprehensive radiation sampling. The monitoring that we are calling for will provide a baseline of data for future events while informing the public to take reasonable precautions, if necessary, to protect themselves for the duration of the Fukushima crisis.
Therefore, we demand diligent and regular monitoring of radiation levels in British Columbia, including:
Enhancement of the current air sampling regimeRegular sampling of all community drinking water sources (surface water) Systematic spot checks on all dairy products All varieties of locally caught seafood spot checkedRegular testing on all leafy vegetablesEnhanced testing of all container traffic from the Orient Regular, timely, and accessible public disclosure of all findings by all district, provincial and federal agencies.
The events unfolding in Japan have proved beyond a doubt that atomic power is a risky and dangerous technology. Given the enormous political and economic pressures faced by the regulatory authorities in Japan it is understandable that the dangers presented by the crisis at Fukushima will be under-reported. It is in our own interest in Canada to rigorously screen for all possible sources of incoming radioactive contamination from the meltdown of the reactors in Japan.
The enhancement of testing called for does not involve an onerous financial burden to government or the Canadian taxpayer. It will provide necessary assurances of public safety and help guide our future actions should there be a serious and present health risk to Canadians. People have a right to know and the right to protect themselves and their families.
We want better testing in BC!