When the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant
faced a series of equipment failures and nuclear meltdowns following the Japanese earthquake and tsunami last year, the resulting disaster culminated into the second largest nuclear disaster behind Chernobyl.
Today, more than a year later, over 300 people have suffered from significant radiation doses
, and we are still seeing the effects of the disaster. In fact, the radiation is reaching a little closer to home. Researchers discovered that Bluefin tuna, which travel thousands of miles from Japan to the shores of California (yes, right here in the United States), have significantly higher levels of radiation than normal.
So . . . should you be worried?
These fish normally travel over 6,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean during migration. But the Bluefin tuna, which can measure over 10 feet long and weigh over 1,000 pounds, normally sheds most radioactivity before it reaches our shores. That’s why scientists were startled when they discovered that even after the long journey across the Pacific, the fish contained 10 times the amount of radioactive cesium, compared to fish of previous years. By measuring other species to rule out any error, they found that only the Bluefin tuna that came from Fukushima were contaminated.
Worse yet, this year’s group of fish only swam in radioactive waters for a short period of time. Next year’s fish will have spent much longer time in contaminated areas, and researchers are bracing themselves for an even higher level of radiation to reach our shores.
At the moment, even these higher levels of radiation are well below the safe-to-eat limits set by United States and Japanese governments. Next year’s swarm of fish might be a different story, however. Researchers plan on measuring the radiation levels in other migratory species such as sharks, turtles and birds to determine just how much radiation will be seeping into our local ecosystem, and plan accordingly.
If you live in the United States, you might not have to worry about these contaminated Bluefin tuna anyway. Over 80 percent of the world’s Pacific and Atlantic Bluefin tuna are consumed by the Japanese, where it can cost up to $24 for a single piece. Even if you had enough money to eat several pieces of these radioactive fish, the cesium levels are so low that you won’t experience any of the symptoms of nuclear radiation, which can include transient headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and increased fluid loss.
But, if you want to be on the safe side, you might think about ordering the salmon
Chang, Alicia. "Fukushima Radiation Found in Bluefin Tuna in Calif." Time.com
. Time Healthland, 29 May 2012. Web. 12 June 2012. <http://healthland.time.com/2012/05/29/bluefin-tuna-carried-fukushima-radiation-across-the-pacific-to-calif/>.
"Nuclear Radiation and Fallout Effects." UnitedStatesAction.com
. United States Action, Web. 12 June 2012. <http://www.unitedstatesaction.com/nuclear_radiation_and_fallout.htm>.