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Japan Earthquake: Radiation Concerns In The U.S. Remembered After Fukushima (PHOTOS)

First Posted: 03/11/2012 8:52 am Updated: 03/11/2012 8:52 am

After the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated parts of Japan and caused the largest nuclear accident since Chernobyl, concerns about radiation exposure emerged in North America.

From airborne radiation to contaminated seafood, fears persisted that the Japanese nuclear accident would have lasting consequences for Americans.

Many of these fears were unfounded though. Radiation from Japan was reportedly only detected at "trace" levels in the U.S. An EPA official reminded Americans that "it's important to understand how these low levels compare to the radiation we experience from natural sources every day," reported the Denver Post.

Within Japan, however, radiation is a much greater concern. A year after the disaster, a 12 mile exclusion zone still remains around the Fukushima plant, according to Discovery News. One of the radioactive isotopes emitted by the nuclear plant, cesium-137, has a half-life of 30 years, meaning it "is likely still in the environment."

To learn more about radiation exposure, click here for a visualization of radiation levels absorbed from common products and activities.

Look back in history and read about some of the most common, and ultimately probably overstated, radiation fears that hit North America in the year after the Fukushima disaster below:

Radiation Reaching The U.S.
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In the weeks after the Fukushima disaster, some feared that radiation emitted from the stricken nuclear plant could reach the United States.

At the end of March 2011, Nevada "joined several western states" that detected "extremely small amounts" of radioactive isotopes from Japan, according to the Associated Press.

In April, "trace amounts" of radiation from Fukushima were detected in Denver drinking water, reported the Denver Post. Officials concluded that radiation levels were "harmless," however.

An EPA spokesman said in a statement, "To put this drinking water sample into context, an infant would have to drink nearly 7,000 liters of this water to receive a radiation dose equal to just one day's worth of natural background exposure."

Officials in Colorado also tested snowpack for traces of radiation.


Filed by James Gerken  |