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No risk from trace levels of radioactivity in Hawaii, EPA says

By Star-Advertiser Staff

LAST UPDATED: 9:10 p.m. HST, Mar 22, 2011

Air filter monitors in Hawaii have detected “minuscule levels” of radioactive material consistent with that from the damaged nuclear reactors in Japan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today.

The isotope detected in preliminary results “is far below any level of concern for human health,” the EPA said in a news release.

The EPA release did not specifiy the exact type of material or the levels found in Hawaii.

It was the first time officials have said any material from the Japanese reactors has been detected in Hawaii. Last week the government said extremely small levels of nuclear material from Japan was detected in California, also at levels far too small to affect human health.

The isotope detected in Hawaii Monday night is “consistent with the Japanese nuclear incident. This detection varies from background and historical data in Hawaii. This isotope was detected at our fixed monitor in Hawaii, and it is far below any level of concern for human health.  The sampling filter from this monitor is being sent to our national radiation lab for further analysis,” the EPA statement said.

The state Department of Health issued this statement: “The Hawaii State Department of Health is confirming that the RadNet monitor located in Honolulu picked up a miniscule [sic] increase in radiation levels last night. Background levels fluctuate slightly, but are still considered safe. Current data from Hawaii RadNet monitors still indicate no risk of harmful radiation exposure. The Department of Health has sent the sampling filters from monitors here to the EPA laboratory in Alabama for further analysis and confirmation of preliminary findings.”The EPA said that during a detailed analysis of four west coast RadNet air monitor filters, it identified trace amounts of radioactive iodine, cesium, and tellurium consistent with the Japanese nuclear incident. These levels are consistent with the levels found by a Department of Energy monitor last week and are to be expected in the coming days.

The EPA’s samples were captured by three monitors in California and one in Washington State on Friday, March 18 and were sent for detailed laboratory analysis. The data was reviewed over the weekend and the analysis was completed Monday night.

Radiation levels detected on the filters from California and Washington monitors are hundreds of thousands to millions of times below levels of concern, the EPA said.

In a typical day, Americans receive doses of radiation from natural sources like rocks, bricks and the sun that are about 100,000 times higher than what is being detected as coming from Japan, the EPA said. For example, the current levels from Japan are 100,000 times lower than what a person would get from taking a roundtrip international flight.

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