Radioactive Santa Cruz

Every day, thousands of people flock to the coast and submerge themselves in the Pacific Ocean’s cool embrace.  Many San Lorenzo Valley High School students frequently enjoy the coastal activities that Santa Cruz offers us—from the surf team to sunbathers, many of us are beach people. In addition, our proximity to Steinbeck’s famous Cannery Row means that seafood is a huge part of Santa Cruz culture. Because of this, it is important for coastal residents to know that the US west coast will be contaminated by radioactive Cesium 137 released during the Fukishima power plant disaster.

Water pouring into the Japanese coast.

In March of 2011, Japan was hit by a massive earthquake—it measured 9.0 on the Richter scale, and generated a 50 foot tsunami wave that swept over the walls of the power plant and, essentially, wreaked havoc. 39 workers were injured, but perhaps the worst of the effects came later. Radiation has been leaking from Fukushima for two years, and may just now be reaching the California Coast.

Luckily, the radioactive material has been very diluted by ocean currents and the levels are under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s limits for drinking water. However, fish and other sea creatures may be found with higher levels of the particles in them due to the concentration of materials that occurs in a food chain. This is called magnification. When thousands of krill absorb radiation from the water they swim and live in, and then a whale eats those thousands of krill, they absorb all of the radiation, which is magnified in their body tissues. This will occur in the bodies of many aquatic species, and large animals such as tuna will carry much more radiation—you might want to lay off the sushi. According the the LA Times, scientists studying the issue say that it is not a much of a threat, but one can never be too careful, especially in the case of radiation. So, whether you surf, swim, or enjoy swordfish steaks, watch out for glowing green (just kidding-the radiation is invisible. Just be careful.)

-April Martin-Hansen

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