In an example of crowdsourced science, a group of citizens in Tokyo has conducted tests and found several "hot spots" that contained high levels of radioactivity, the New York Times reports.
In 22 of 132 tested spots, radioactivity was higher than the levels deemed contaminated at Chernobyl.
After the March 11 accident at the Fukushima nuclear plan, wind and rain helped to disperse radioactive materials far outside the 12-mile evacuation zone around the plant.
For instance, radiation levels in Tokyo, which is 160 miles away from Fukushima, spiked on March 15 and again on March 21 during rain. However, after those incidents, radioactivity in the air and water dropped, and government officials relaxed their testing.
But more scientists say that the government's lack of urgency may be exposing more people to radiation than initially believed.
A group of concerns Tokyo residents formed the Radiation Defense Project, which teamed up with the Yokohama-based Isotope Research Institute, to help members collect soil samples from neighborhood areas as diverse as a children's baseball field and a church. The samples were then submitted for testing.
One father sampled soil under shrubs near the neighborhood baseball field where his son plays; that sample contained nearly 138,000 becquerels per square meter of radioactive cesium 137, which can lead to an increased risk of cancer.
The New York Times reports the government's response to these tests:
Kaoru Noguchi, head of Tokyo’s health and safety section, however, argues that the testing already done is sufficient. Because Tokyo is so developed, she says, radioactive material was much more likely to have fallen on concrete, then washed away. She also said exposure was likely to be limited.
“Nobody stands in one spot all day,” she said. “And nobody eats dirt.”
While the samples do not indicate how widespread contamination is across the city, they have led nuclear experts and activists to urge more comprehensive testing in Tokyo and possible cleanup.
via: New York Times
photo: smartneddy/Wikimedia Commons