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Radioactive material found in B.C. seaweed and rainwater

Low levels of iodine-131 found in B.C. seaweed
Low levels of iodine-131 found in B.C. seaweed

Andrea Stockton, staff writer

March 29, 2011 — Samples taken from rainwater and seaweed in B.C. show low levels of radiation from the damaged nuclear reactor in Japan.

Iodine-131 has a half life of eight days
Iodine-131 has a half life of eight days

A research team at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in B.C. say there has been a slight increase in radioactive material in samples of seaweed and rainwater on the west coast.

The rainwater was collected from the campus on Burnaby Mountain and the seaweed was taken near the SeaBus Terminal in North Vancouver. In a news release from SFU, scientists said the radiation from Japan's damaged nuclear reactor was carried by the jet stream and is mixing with sea water and accumulating in seaweed. The same material was detected on March 19, 20 and 25.

Although the team has detected an increase in iodine-131, which is sent into the atmosphere after a nuclear fission, health officials continue to stress that the levels are extremely low and are not a current threat to humans. Iodine-131 has a half life of eight days, so officials say it has a very rapid decay. It is usually used in the medical and pharmaceutical industries.

Since March 11, when the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and following tsunami devastated Japan, it has been a struggle to cool the Fukushima nuclear plant. Scientists predict that iodine-131 will be detected in B.C. for three to four weeks after the Fukushima reactor completely stops releasing radioactivity into the atmosphere.

With files from The Canadian Press and The Vancouver Sun

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