Iodine 131 found in California kelp, part of fallout from the Fukushima incident

27485 full
27485 full

Two biology professors from Cal State Long Beach say radiation from Japan has made its way into giant kelp off the Central and Southern California coast.

After the Fukushima incident last spring, Stephen Manley and Chris Lowe wondered how released radiation would affect giant kelp canopies, a keystone for the coastal ecosystem.

They gathered kelp from seven spots along California’s coast to look for radiation concentrated in the kelp’s blades.

Sampling revealed high levels of Iodine 131, as well as in some fish species that feed on the kelp. Iodine 131, a radioisotope, dissipates quickly. It has no known effects on kelp or fish, and Manley and Lowe said it’s not a human health concern.

However, one of the seven samples, taken from the area around Corona del Mar, found 250 times the iodine that kelp in the area usually yields.

Researchers suspect that airborne radioactivity carried in rainfall ran off into the ocean there. Iodine 131 was released in the Fukushima incident by air and into waters around the Japanese nuclear generating station.

As a result of this work, Manley and Lowe said they now want to trace longer-lived radioactivity through the marine food web.

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