Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Is it safe to eat salmon from the US West Coast? -- Japan's nuclear backlash continues across the world

I've been asked whether it is safe to eat salmon from Alaska and other West Coast locals.

I'm copying below my article on this issue from last month. As journalist Harvey Wasserman noted on a radio program today, it is "criminal" that the government is not testing fish. The bottom line - as nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen notes - is that we must demand that our elected representatives require testing.


The FDA says it won't monitor radiation in fish on the West Coast of the U.S. As the Anchorage Daily News notes:

North Pacific fish are so unlikely to be contaminated by radioactive material from the crippled nuclear plant in Japan that there's no reason to test them, state and federal officials said this week.

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DeLancey, the FDA spokeswoman, said "We have not been doing any testing. We've been working with NOAA to keep an eye on U.S. waters, to see if there is any cause for alarm, and we do have the capability to begin testing if that does occur."

Asked to explain what kind of monitoring was taking place in the ocean, DeLancey said, "You would have to talk directly to NOAA ... I don't really want to speak for another agency."

But NOAA fisheries spokeswoman Kate Naughton declined to answer questions and referred a reporter back to DeLancey and the EPA.

DeLancey said that so far, there's no reason for concern about Fukushima. The radioactive materials in the water near Fukushima quickly become diluted in the massive volume of the Pacific, she said. Additionally, radioactive fallout that lands on the surface tends to stay there, giving the most unstable ones isotopes like iodine time to decay before reaching fish, she said.

Of course, radioactive isotopes like cesium 137 are very long-lived, and so won't necessarily decay before they reach fish.

And - in typical Orwellian agency-speak - the FDA is trying to reassure people that eating contaminated fish poses no health risk. As the Wall Street Journal notes:

U.S. public-health officials sought Tuesday to reassure consumers about the safety of food in the U.S., including seafood, amid news that fish contaminated with unusually high levels of radioactive materials had been caught in waters 50 miles from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. (read more)