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Washington avoids Fukushima fallout

March 11 marked the one year anniversary of the 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that rocked Japan, and led to the damaging of the Fukushima nuclear reactor in that country.

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) announced on March 12 that radiation levels in Washington are still at safe levels and pose no harm to residents. Along with monitoring radiation levels, the DOH is currently in talks with other state and federal agencies on how to deal with debris from the Fukushima event, which is now anticipated to start hitting Washington shores in 2013.

According to the DOH, which has been monitoring radiation levels for the past year: "Specific state health testing for radioactive materials from the damaged nuclear plants at Fukushima have consistently shown all levels have been well below any health concern for people living in Washington."

During the summer, The Federal Way Mirror reported on a helicopter that performed a radiological survey of the Puget Sound. That survey, funded by a Department of Homeland Security grant, allowed authorities to establish a "baseline" radiation level for the state, in case a Fukushima-like event happened here in Washington. The DOH indicates that the federal government's Radnet data verifies their findings.

"The numbers we are reporting from our Radnet samplers represent normal background radiation," said Mike Priddy, environmental science manager of the DOH Radiation Protection Program. "Radioactivity in the environment is a normal and natural phenomenon, and that radioactivity can be detected in these air samples."

Priddy explained how these measurements are taken.

"Radnet samplers draw air through a filter and the dust (a very fine particulate) in that air is collected on the filter. A radiation detection instrument monitors the filter for changes in the radioactivity in the dust. There is no indication that we are detecting radiation from Fukushima in the Radnet samples," he said.

For more information on the radiation levels and the methodology, visit www.epa.gov/Japan2011.

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