High Radioactivity Levels In Tokyo Causing Concern
October 16, 2011

High Radioactivity Levels In Tokyo Causing Concern

Multiple radioactive "hot spots" in and around Tokyo -- some 125 miles from a nuclear facility damaged by a March earthquake -- have been detected by citizens using radiation-detection gear, various media outlets reported late last week.

According to Chico Harlan of the Washington Post, residents reported on Thursday that they had discovered two areas with elevated radiation levels, some of which were higher than those within the 12-mile evacuation zone. One of those two readings could have been related to radioactive materials being stored in a nearby home, local officials reportedly said during a briefing.

"Separately, a soil sample in Yokohama, just south of Tokyo, was found this week to contain strontium-90, an isotope that can accumulate in bones and cause cancer," Harlan wrote. "It was the first time that strontium, with a half-life of 29 years, was detected more than 60 miles from the plant."

Hiroko Tabuchi of the New York Times reported that a total of 20 hot spots were found around Tokyo, including a cesium levels "equal to those in some contaminated areas around Chernobyl" that was found in dirt near a baseball field used by youngsters.

"It has been clear since the early days of the nuclear accident, the world´s second worst after Chernobyl, that that the vagaries of wind and rain had scattered worrisome amounts of radioactive materials in unexpected patterns far outside the evacuation zone 12 miles around the stricken plant," Tabuchi wrote. "But reports that substantial amounts of cesium had accumulated as far away as Tokyo have raised new concerns about how far the contamination had spread, possibly settling in areas where the government has not even considered looking."

"The government´s failure to act quickly, a growing chorus of scientists say, may be exposing many more people than originally believed to potentially harmful radiation," the Times reporter added. "It is also part of a pattern: Japan´s leaders have continually insisted that the fallout from Fukushima will not spread far, or pose a health threat to residents, or contaminate the food chain. And officials have repeatedly been proved wrong by independent experts and citizens´ groups that conduct testing on their own."

However, not all of the contamination originated from the Fukushima plant, the Telegraph reported on Friday. An investigation into the source of the radiation discovered a "decaying wooden box" beneath the floorboards of a nearby house. The box contained several glass bottles containing Radium 226.

Likewise, the source of the strontium-90 found in the Yokohama soil sample was found by a private firm, at a citizen's request, according to the Washington Post. It was on top of an apartment building.

Regardless, a team of United Nations (UN) inspectors visiting Japan on Friday said that the nation's officials needed to do a better job of cleaning up areas affected by radiation, regardless of the cause.

A 12-person International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team sent to affected areas took part in a nine-day tour that ended Saturday, according to Shinichi Saoshiro of Reuters, said that completely removing radioactive topsoil was impractical, but that mixing it with clean material to build roads or reinforce banks could be one way to help spur the recovery efforts.

The IAEA will present their full findings to the Japanese government next month.

Regardless of the source, however, experts are expressing frustration with the presence of radiation. As Kiyoshi Today, a doctor and a radiation expert at Nagasaki University, told Tabuchi, "Radioactive substances are entering people´s bodies from the air, from the food. It´s everywhere“¦ But the government doesn´t even try to inform the public how much radiation they´re exposed to.”


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