The Environmental Protection Agency said today that air monitoring readings taken in Hawaii show no elevated levels of radiation.
As of 6 a.m., EPA’s RadNet radiation air monitors across the U.S. show “typical fluctuations in background radiation levels,” the EPA’s website reported.
Daily monitoring reports show no change other than normal background levels of radiation, according to EPA spokesman in Hawaii Dean Higuchi.
The EPA maintains one radiation detector in downtown and plans to add two more — one on Kauai and another on the North Shore, Higuchi said.
State health officials previously said that based on all available information, they do not anticipate a risk of harmful radiation exposure to the islands.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Mayor Peter Carlisle issued statements yesterday reassuring Hawaii residents and visitors that the radiation posed no health hazard to Hawaii. And President Barack Obama specifically mentioned Hawaii and Alaska when he said yesterday that the United States and its Pacific territories are safe.
In Alaska, Dr. Bernd Jilly, director of state public health laboratories, also said today that monitoring had shown no readings of above-normal levels of radiation.
In Washington, D.C., the Food and Drug Administration said today that it will monitor foods imported from Japan for radiation exposure. Officials said they expect no risk to the U.S. food supply. They are collecting information on where imports are grown, harvested or manufactured in Japan so they can ensure those products are not tainted. They will also check food that may have passed through Japan.
The agency works with Customs and Border Patrol to inspect shipments of imported foods. The FDA said that imports of Japanese foods, which have been severely limited since the earthquake and nuclear crisis, make up less than four percent of all U.S. imports. The most common imports are seafood, snack foods and processed fruits and vegetables.
Concerns about radiation from the crippled Japanese nuclear power plant intensified this morning after the Associated Press reported that minuscule levels of radiation were recorded in California. A diplomat with access to radiation tracking by the U.N.’s Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization in Vienna cited readings from a California-based measuring station of the agency as “about a billion times beneath levels that would be health threatening.” He spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the CTBTO does not make its findings public.
The radiation was from a plume released last week from the Fukushima Dai-ichi and was driven by winds over the Pacific Ocean. The CTBTO forecast earlier this week that some radioactivity would reach Southern California by today. A CTBTO graphic obtained Thursday by the AP showed a moving plume reaching the U.S. mainland after racing across the Pacific and swiping the Aleutian Islands.
In Vienna, diplomats and officials familiar with the situation asserted that there was little to fear outside of the 12-mile evacuated zone around the plant.
“We want to study the data carefully, but one-billionth shows just how far away it is from human danger,” said Graham Andrew, a senior official of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency. “For members of the public, the dose limit in the air or ingested is 1 milisievert a year and this is 1,000 million times less than that.”
Andrew said that — after consultation with the IAEA — the International Civil Aviation Organization found there was no reason to curtail normal international flights and maritime operations to and form Japan and “there is no medical basis for imposing additional measures to protect passengers.”
The comments today reflected expectations by IAEA officials and independent experts that radiation levels — which are relatively low outside of the immediate vicinity of the Japanese plant — would dissipate so strongly by the time it reached the U.S. coastline that it would pose no health risk whatsoever to residents.
A presentation today showed radiation levels peaking in Tokyo and other cities in the first days of the disaster at levels officials said were well below risk points before tapering off.
“The rates in Tokyo and other cities … remain far from levels which require action, in other words they are not dangerous to human health,” said Andrew.
While set up to monitor atmospheric nuclear testing, the CTBTO’s worldwide network of stations can detect earthquakes, tsunamis and fallout from nuclear accidents such as the disaster on Japan’s northeastern coast that was set off by a massive earthquake and a devastating tsunami a week ago.
Since then, emergency crews have been trying to restore the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant’s cooling system and prevent overheated fuel rods from releasing greater doses of radioactivity.
Japanese officials today reclassified the rating of the accident at the plant from Level 4 to Level 5 on a seven-level international scale, putting it on a par with the 1979 Three Mile Island accident. The International Nuclear Event Scale defines a Level 4 incident as having local consequences and a Level 5 as having wider consequences.
Nuclear experts have been saying for days that Japan was underplaying the severity of the nuclear crisis.
Andrew refused to be drawn on that issue, saying severity assessments would be the task of a post-emergency investigation. Describing the situation as “very serious,” he nonetheless noted “no significant worsening” since his last briefing Thursday — when he used similar terminology.
Things are “moving to a stable, non-changing situation, which is positive,” he said. “You don’t want things that are rapidly changing,” he said.
Due to the increased concerns, the EPA is posting updates and raw data from the monitoring stations at: