'Fukushima nuclear plant' radiation found at UK sites

Fukushima nuclear plant The Fukushima plant was devastated by an earthquake and tsunami

Low levels of radioactive iodine believed to be from the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan have been detected in Glasgow and Oxfordshire.

Health protection officials said the concentration of iodine 131 detected in air samples was "minuscule" and there was "no public health risk in the UK".

The Fukushima plant was crippled after being hit by a tsunami in the aftermath of a huge earthquake on 11 March.

Radiation leaks were recorded following subsequent explosions and fires.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) said it had been informed that an air sampler in Glasgow, almost 6,000 miles from Japan, had recorded the presence of radioactive iodine.

The agency said the value reported was consistent with reports from other European countries such as Iceland and Switzerland.

The organisation's radioactive substances manager, Dr James Gemmill, said: "The concentration of iodine detected is extremely low and is not of concern for the public or the environment.

"The fact that such a low concentration of this radionuclide was detected demonstrates how effective the surveillance programme for radioactive substances is in the UK.

Analysis

The level of radioactive iodine-131 found in air samples in Oxfordshire poses no risk to human health.

The measured level - 300 micro-becquerels per cubic metre - is much less than the natural background radiation dose to which a person in the UK is likely to be exposed in normal circumstances.

At that level, a child's exposure in one day would be less than one 10,000th of what they would receive from naturally-occurring background radiation in a day.

Radioactive iodine can collect in the thyroid gland, which controls the body's rate of growth and cell division.

At levels many, many times higher than those detected in the UK, radioactive iodine can trigger cancer - children are most at risk.

Cases of thyroid cancer among the young increased following the Chernobyl disaster in the 1980s - but only among people living close to the stricken nuclear plant.

"Sepa has an ongoing comprehensive monitoring programme for radioactivity in Scotland and has increased the level of scrutiny to provide ongoing public assurance during this period."

In a statement, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) also confirmed that radioactive iodine had been detected in air samples in Oxfordshire.

It said: "As anticipated, the UK is now beginning to see the minutest traces of iodine 131 associated with events at the Fukushima nuclear facility."

The agency said measurements taken at a monitoring station in Oxfordshire on Monday had recorded trace levels of iodine 131 at 300 micro-becquerels per cubic metre.

The statement added: "This followed reports from HPA's monitoring stations in Glasgow and Oxfordshire of measurements averaged over the last nine days which found 11 micro-becquerels per cubic metre.

"The dose received from inhaling air with these measured levels of iodine 131 is minuscule and would be very much less than the annual background radiation dose.

"The detection of these trace levels reflects the sensitivity of the monitoring equipment."

HPA said that levels of radioactive iodine "may rise in the coming days and weeks" but these would be "significantly below any level that could cause harm to public health".

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