Fukushima Daiichi at 13: An Update

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5,000 Miles Away, Yet Fukushima Impacts the U.S.

By Kimberly Roberson, Project Director, Fukushima Fallout Awareness Network (FFAN)

It was 13 years ago on March 11, that the Fukushima Natural Disaster happened, yet the fallout from Japan’s nuclear power plants going offline with no way to contain the radioactive contaminants can still be felt here in the U.S., some 5,000 miles away. Immediately after the initial meltdowns, the jet stream carried atmospheric radiation to the U.S.

There is convincing evidence of unhealthy impacts to the U.S. By mid-March of 2011, cesium 134 and 137 were detected in Vermont cow’s milk. It was a long rainy season that year in California, and UC Berkeley Nuclear Engineering took rooftop samples of a variety of vegetables and rainwater starting in April and found cesium in many samples. Radio cesium bioaccumulates and biomagnifies in the food chain over time. Following the 2011 disaster, every California bluefin tuna migrating from waters near Fukushima back to California that was tested showed elevated levels of cesium 134 and 137, which carry a half-life of 30 years.

Learn More: Nuclear Fallout Contaminating our Food – Increase Testing Now

In response to these and other findings parents, policymakers and radiation health
experts including the late Jim Turner with Citizens for Health, EON, Beyond Nuclear and FFAN filed a Citizen Petition with the FDA in 2013 calling for safer guidelines for radionuclides in food.

The U.S. has weak guidelines for allowable cesium; for example, it permits 12 times the amount that Japan itself allows its citizens (1,200 Bq.kg and 100 Bq/kg cesium, respectively). The European Union is still dealing with Chernobyl’s radioactive fallout from 1986 and permits 1250 bq/kg cesium.

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There is no safe dose of cesium when it’s ingested. The Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation Report VII (BEIR VII) states: “It is unlikely that a threshold exists for the induction of cancers.” Regardless of this no-safe dose finding, the International Commission on Radiological Protection issued an update in April 2011, ICPR 111, “There may be situations where a sustainable agricultural economy is not possible without placing contaminated food on the market. As such foods will be subject to market forces, this will necessitate an effective communication strategy to overcome the negative reactions from consumers outside the contaminated areas.”

Video: Learn more about the Fukushima Fallout Awareness Network

Japanese officials have publicly stated that part of the relief compensation for their fishing industry will be to redirect food banned in China and Russia to countries that have lifted food restrictions. U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, announced on October 30, 2023, the U.S. military would begin to buy bulk food from Japan banned by other countries for service members on U.S. military bases. The Japanese Embassy hosted Congress at White House sushi tastings last summer, while Japan’s culinary elite are extensively campaigning to promote Fukushima food worldwide.

Education and Action Now

According to a 2021 Greenpeace report, “The contaminated water of Fukushima is distinguished from other nuclear power plants not only by its greater variety of radioactive materials but also the overall much higher radioactivity. If it is discharged … it will potentially pose a significant threat to the well-being of human health and marine life.”

Scientists know that radioactive materials bioconcentrate in the aquatic food chain and bioaccumulate in land-based foods. A significant body of research around the ongoing Chernobyl crisis found that cellular damage from eating radioactive materials has had serious health consequences over decades.

There is no safe level of radiation, every exposure carries risk and should not be taken lightly. Our petition to the FDA 11 years ago has yet to be answered, and the current standard remains woefully inadequate to protect the public. We still don’t know:
• How is the FDA prepared to deal with Japan’s 30-year-plus discharge of Fukushima meltdown radiation?
• Will Americans need to stop eating sushi and tuna altogether? What about vegetables, grains, meat and dairy?

Educating the public and government is the ongoing mission of FFAN, because there are many more years of Fukushima ahead.

Visit FFAN’s project page to stay connected to this issue.

Learn More:

Kimberly Roberson is the founder and Executive Director of the Fukushima Fallout Awareness Network (FFAN), a coalition of mothers and others working to share information regarding the ongoing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. FFAN works toward safer protections for food in a nuclear world. Kimberly has worked in the nutrition field as a certified Diet Counselor and Nutrition Educator and is a founding officer of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals (NANP). Formerly with Sane/Freeze, CALPIRG and Greenpeace USA, Kimberly has lobbied for environmental and natural health issues on the state and federal level, and at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

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