Radiation Across the Pacific
On Friday, March 11, 2011, a catastrophic earthquake hit Japan on the coast of Tohoku. This was the biggest earthquake to ever hit Japan, with a magnitude of 9.0. It caused a massive tsunami with waves reaching heights over 130 ft. This resulted in 15,833 deaths, 6,150 injuries, and 2,651 people missing. (Wiki) It was a tragic event that devastated the country of Japan. Buildings were destroyed, houses were submerged in water, and many were left without electricity or clean water. Radiation exposure as a result of the earthquake has not only affected the locals of Japan but has also made its way to our west coast. This radiation could lead to lasting health problems to those exposed and is harmful to the environment.
The 2011 Japan earthquake also affected thousands in another way. The earthquake caused a huge accident at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. The explosions triggered by the earthquake caused equipment failure, nuclear meltdowns, and the release of nuclear materials. (Lipscy) It also caused nuclear reactors to break down and expose the nuclear waste to the air and Pacific Ocean. (Romero) Although no confirmed health effects have been recorded from the public, there is no guarantee that health problems won’t arise later due to the exposure of radiation from the accident. Most health problems from radiation develop years after initial exposure. The most common health problem from radiation exposure is cancer, which doesn’t develop until much later.
According to recent observations, this radiation exposure did not stay in Japan. The Pacific jet stream carries the weather and water from the east coast of Asia to the west coast of North America. (Romero) Much of the radiation released from the accident at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant is making its way to the coast of southern California. Tourists and locals enjoying the southern California beaches are being exposed to radiation from the accident. According to the Huffington Post, “From airborne radiation to contaminated seafood, fears persisted that the Japanese nuclear accident would have lasting consequences for Americans.” (Gerken). The risk of cancer is higher for anyone in the area hit by the radiation. It is not only hazardous for those exposed but also for any offspring they may have. Effects of the radiation include physical deformities and mental disabilities.
Along with being harmful to people exposed, these radiation leaks are also harmful to the environment. The ocean life, ecosystem, and waters are all affected by the radiation. There have been recordings of seafood in the area testing positive for radiation. Scientists have found sea animals to be bleeding from their eyes, torso, and fins. (Turner) This too is a health risk for anyone who consumes the sea food. Water in the area is becoming contaminated, including some of the drinking water in the southern California cities. This water is dangerous to consume, bathe, or swim in due to the amount of radiation. The effects of the radiation hitting the west coast are difficult to manage, as the radiation is not in one centralized location. (Turner) It is also hard to contain it from spreading in the ocean. According to sources of the Huffington Post, it could take months for the radiation to clear out the area. (Gerken)
These recent accidents with nuclear radiation are the few of many hazardous accidents to have occurred in recent years. Many people still remember British Petroleum’s oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico a couple of years ago. These accidents have damaging effects on our ocean, marine life, and pose serious long-term health concerns. As scientists, it is important to acknowledge the importance of human safety preserving the environment. Although earthquakes