Radiation in some albacore tuna caught off the Oregon coast tripled after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown in Japan, a new Oregon State University study has found.
But those levels were a thousand times lower than the maximum safe level set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, USA Today reports.
"You can't say there is absolutely zero risk because any radiation is assumed to carry at least some small risk," said the study's lead author, Delvan Neville, a graduate research assistant in OSU's Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics. "But these trace levels are too small to be a realistic concern."
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For the study, researchers tested 26 Pacific albacore. Some were caught between 2008 and the March 2011 tsunami and nuclear accident; others were caught between the accident and 2012.
They discovered that levels of specific radioactive isotopes did increase after the accident, although by a minute amount.
"A year of eating albacore with these cesium traces is about the same dose of radiation as you get from spending 23 seconds in a stuffy basement from radon gas," Neville said.
The researchers also found that radionuclides were somewhat higher in older fish, suggesting that the younger albacore may have made only one trans-Pacific migration, while the older fish may have migrated through the Fukushima plume twice.
Although it is possible that additional exposure to the plume could further increase radiation levels in the albacore, it would still be at a low level, the researchers said.
The plume is expected to reach the West Coast this month. Federal agencies aren't testing for it, but the Oregon Health Authority tests quarterly samples of seawater.
The study has been published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
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