Scientist, FDA: Don't worry about radioactive fish

nherz@adn.comAugust 10, 2013 

Alaska fishermen and fish consumers shouldn't be concerned about the new disclosures of radioactive water leaking into the Pacific Ocean near the site of the hobbled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, according to an ocean chemist and a spokeswoman for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The amount of radioactive material flowing into the ocean is relatively minimal, compared to the size of the spills that occurred in the wake of the meltdowns that occurred at the site in 2011 following an earthquake and tsunami, said Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

"We have a new release that's smaller than 2011," Buesseler said in a phone interview. "And it's still far away, and the ocean is big."

But the situation should still be monitored, Buesseler added. In 2011, the major cause for concern was a radioactive isotope called cesium, which isn't retained or bioaccumulated by marine life.

Newer data, he said, suggested a shift to a higher proportion of another isotope called strontium, which has the potential to be absorbed by bones because it mimics the properties of another element, calcium.

The FDA is paying attention to the leaks, said spokeswoman Theresa Eisenman, but hasn't identified any concerns about Alaskan fisheries.

The agency works with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration "to test fish as needed," she said.

Reach Nathaniel Herz at nherz@adn.com or 257-4311.

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