A return to the Heartland over the holidays tracing the exact same route at the same time as a year ago again found high levels of radiation suggesting continued Fukushima fallout. Tests upon return showed Los Angeles basin air to be significantly above normal in both EnviroReporter.com and federal Environmental Protection Agency tests.
Jet cabin air, snow and California produce showed signs of heightened ionization during tests EnviroReporter.com conducted in the California to Michigan trip. The good news is that the level of contamination detected has declined since last sampled and tested in near exact conditions by about a fifth. The bad news is the levels are still high.
Crossing the Colorado River December 23 in a Boeing 757, an Inspector Alert nuclear radiation monitor tested 765.9 Counts Per Minute (CPM) at approximately 30,000 feet. This was 17.5 times the background at the terminal at LAX. The Inspector Alert’s manual reads “When you fly in an air plane at 30,000 feet your rate meter is getting 200 CPM [Counts Per Minute] for anywhere between 2 to 5 hours.”
This reading was 383% higher than that. Last year, in identical conditions, the reading was 1,035 CPM. This year’s results represent a 26% drop off that December 23, 2011 high. Even with radiation readings this hot, save for two journalists, none of the passengers were wearing any kind of air filter mask. Glad we were to have worn them as both exhibited signs of hot spots of radiation caught in the mask’s filtering material when tested in Michigan.
Nearly all tests of foodstuffs in grocery stores, restaurants and pantries in Michigan showed no evidence of radioactivity above background. Mandarin oranges from California, though, were noticeably higher coming in well over double background.
In Rad State Road Trip in autumn we found fresh snow in the Rockies and eastern plains of Colorado that wasn’t hot. Driving through thirteen states with the editor of EnviroReporter.com, Denise Anne Duffield, was exciting enough without having to contend with Fukushima-infused precipitation.
Now we were back with additional testing equipment. After a Christmas snow had begun in earnest, we took advantage of the snowfall and collected a kilo of fresh powder snow. We were able to weigh the snow on the treasured family butcher scale that goes back a few generations.
Snow can be deceiving. It can be hot and not show it. Water, albeit frozen, can block radiation detection. The snow came in at 24 percent above background. The mass was then allowed to melt and partially evaporate over three days. That liquid was then carefully poured twice through three filters. The damp mass measured 54.7 percent and was primarily composed of beta emitters.
Ingestion of beta emitters is a far more serious health threat than gamma-dominated background radiation. The significant beta presence in the melted snow filters, which have been retained for further testing, strongly suggests three of Fukushima’s most prevalent escaped radionuclides cesium-134, cesium-137 and strontium-90.
Photographs of the the destroyed reactors show the work done to cover them with sidings and roofs. The large exhaust stacks are to vent the massive amounts of vaporous fission isotopes high as possible so they blow away from the plant.
According to a Tokyo Electric Power Company report released on December 27, 10 million Bequerels of cesium-134/137 are still being released from melted down and destroyed reactor units 1, 2 and 3 every hour.
What goes up moves on the jet stream from Fukushima to North America. Radiation levels in the first class cabin on a Detroit to LAX flight New Years Day hit 1,098 CPM at 37,985 feet and then 1,050 CPM at 34,464 feet 125 miles from LAX. Both readings were over 5 times higher than what should be expected at 30,000 feet.
The high radiation readings in Los Angeles Basin air didn’t have us breathing any easier after a six day test begun after arriving back. The HEPA filter results showed a whopping 92 percent above background primarily caused by beta emitters. A screen capture of the EPA’s RadNet website also shows huge spikes in beta radiation for the same week with some days well over 5 times normal.
Compared to a 40-day period that ended April 20, 2012 which had the highest readings of HEPA filter ionization recorded by Radiation Station Santa Monica, the per day amount detected in the latest test was down 18 percent.
Winter hot zones from the Golden State to the Great Lakes State point to another year of radiation contamination in a nation almost entirely oblivious to the dangers. The common sense that dictates combatting this threat with simple face masks when flying and HEPA filters for the home and office seems to have eluded the American people.