Japanese radiation detected in Arizona - Tucson News Now

Japanese radiation detected in Arizona

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By Barbara Grijalva - email

Tucson, AZ (KOLD) - Radiation from Japan was discovered in Arizona's air on Tuesday.

The Arizona Division of Emergency Management says trace amounts of radioactive material have been detected around Phoenix, but there is no health threat.

This comes as Japan is getting control of its crippled plant, and operators say they expect to prevent a full meltdown.

The experts say radiation coming into Arizona is many times less than the normal amount of radiation in our atmosphere every day.

And there are many reasons why.

The experts say a lot of things are working in our favor, including the fact that we are very far from Japan so the radiation decays and gets diluted as it travels on the wind.

Plus, we have a big ocean between us and that damaged nuclear reactor.

"So that it did not inject radioactivity high into the air. It was all near the surface. And if there's a good place for radioactivity to be it's near the surface as it crosses the Pacific because it gets cleaned out that way . . . by the ocean," says Eric Betterton, head of the University of Arizona Department of Atmospheric Sciences.

He knows there are concerns.

"Pima County DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) are getting calls and they wanted to know from me what to worry about, if at all, and I told them not to worry," Betterton says.

Betterton can show you all sorts of computer models that forecast winds blowing all over the place.

By the time any radiation gets here, the wind, the water and natural decay seriously thin and dilute it, he said.

"And no matter what happens, it will become very diluted. It could be diluted by 100,000 times a million fold," he says.

The Environmental Protection Agency has radiation detectors up and down the West Coast.

"There's also a radiation detector here in Tucson on the university campus," Betterton says.

"If there were anything coming ashore, we would see it, so we'd have time to respond, but there's just nothing out there," he says.

Meaning they are seeing nothing dangerous.

The Arizona Division of Emergency Management says, so far, what we're seeing in Arizona and elsewhere is many times less than background radiation.

That's the radiation level you and I are exposed to every day from our earth and the sun.

"So we're continually being affected by radiation and our bodies are capable of dealing with it. Our DNA knows how to repair itself," Betterton says.

I asked Dr. Betterton if he would even consider buying potassium iodide to counter radiation effects.

He said "Absolutely not."

He said it would be a waste of money.

Plus, the Arizona Department of Health Services is warning people not to take it because it's not necessary, and there can be serious side effects, including abnormal heart rhythms, severe allergic reactions, and nausea.

The following a news release by Judy Kioski, public information officer with the Arizona Division of Emergency Management, regarding the detection of radioactivity in Arizona:

PHOENIX– Trace amounts of Iodine-131 radioactive material associated with releases from the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant in Japan have been detected by Arizona Radiation Regulatory Agency (ARRA) instrumentation located west of the valley and in Phoenix.

"The average background radiation can range from 100-300 millirems per year," according to Aubrey Godwin, Director of the Arizona Radiation Regulatory Agency.  "The amount of additional radiation we are seeing in Arizona is less than 0.1 millirem. Such low concentrations of Iodine-131 do not pose a public health threat to Arizonans."

ARRA expected to see a slight increase in detectable radiation as a result of the still unfolding emergency in Japan and due to the high sensitivity of monitoring equipment. The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) maintains that the precautionary ingestion of potassium iodide (KI) is unnecessary and there is no benefit to taking it right now. Arizonans who take KI unnecessarily could place themselves in danger of negative side effects, including severe allergic reactions, abnormal heart rhythms and nausea.

ARRA monitors radiation levels in the state as a function of its oversight of the Radiation Measurements Laboratory. It continues to monitor levels of radiation from Japan in addition to its ongoing surveillance near Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station west of Phoenix.

The Arizona Department of Agriculture and ARRA regularly test food produced in the state as part of the ongoing efforts to ensure a safe food supply.  The sampling looks for several potential contaminants including radiation.

Readings from the ARRA Radiation Measurements Laboratory will be shared via the Arizona Emergency Information Network (AzEIN), www.azein.gov, until the detectable affects of the Japan nuclear emergency naturally dissipate.

For more information on the emergency in Japan, including answers to some frequently asked questions, visit the AzEIN website or email questions to azein@azdema.gov.

Copyright 2011 KOLD/AP. All rights reserved. 

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