Radioactive iodine in rainwater: Public was in the dark, Montreal Gazette by Alex Roslin, January 14, 2012:
After the Fukushima nuclear accident, Canadian health officials assured a nervous public that virtually no radioactive fallout had drifted to Canada.
But last March, a Health Canada monitoring station in Calgary detected an average of 8.18 becquerels per litre of radioactive iodine (an isotope released by the nuclear accident) in rainwater, the data shows.
The level easily exceeded the Canadian guideline of six becquerels of iodine per litre for drinking water, acknowledged Eric Pellerin, chief of Health Canada’s radiation-surveillance division.
“It’s above the recommended level (for drinking water),” he said in an interview. “At any time you sample it, it should not exceed the guideline.”
Canadian authorities didn’t disclose the high radiation reading at the time.
Where’s the data?
- The data still isn’t posted on Health Canada’s web page devoted to the impacts of Fukushima.
- Pellerin said he doesn’t know why Health Canada didn’t make the data public. “I can’t answer that. The communication aspect could be improved.”
How’s the Data?
- Some of Health Canada’s numbers are much lower than those reported by other radiation researchers. Simon Fraser University nuclear chemist Krzysztof Starosta found iodine levels in rainwater in Burnaby, B.C., spiked to 13 becquerels per litre in March – many times higher than the levels Health Canada detected in nearby Vancouver [March in Vancouver averaged only 0.69 becquerels per litre of I-131 in rainwater for the gov't, just 1/20th Starosta's levels].
- Rain was tested only at the end of each month, [the 8-day half-life of I-131 may help explain the significantly lower numbers, as much of it had decayed] after a network of monitoring stations sent samples to Ottawa. This meant the radiation spikes last March were only discovered in early April, after rainwater samples were sent to Ottawa for testing – too late to alert the public, including those who collect rain for drinking and gardening.
Read the full report here
See more from reporter Alex Roslin here:
Published: January 14th, 2012 at 3:17 pm ET