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Hawaii Health Department, EPA, Monitoring Air Quality for Nuclear Radiation from Japan; So Far No Elevated Readings

HONOLULU – The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) has not detected any elevated radiation readings, and air samples remain at ambient or normal background levels following a small release of radiation Saturday at a nuclear reactor facility in Japan.

The release of radiation occurred from two nuclear reactors in Japan that were damaged in Friday’s earthquake and tsunami.  The DOH Indoor and Radiological Health Branch (IRHB) is closely monitoring information on the radiation release, and with the current size of the release and the distance from Hawaii, no public health risk to the state is expected.

The DOH in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a system in place for ambient monitoring for radioactive dust.  The system (RADNET) looks at real-time data as well as particulate sampling (from monitors located on the islands of Oahu and Hawaii) which are analyzed by the DOH and at a laboratory in Alabama.

At this time, the department has no indication of any readings above normal background levels and does not expect any “spikes” due to the limited amount of material released and the current environmental conditions.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) released a statement on March 13 stating, “All the available information indicates weather conditions have taken the small releases from the Fukushima reactors out to sea away from the population. Given the thousands of miles between the two countries, Hawaii, Alaska, the U.S. Territories and the U.S. West Coast are not expected to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity.”  A news release from the Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) indicated that the amount of radioactive material released from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station was relatively small.  However, should the situation change, the department is making preparations by coordinating with national and statewide partners and ensuring medical stockpiles are readily available.

The department’s Radiological Health staff is currently working with other state and federal entities on radioactive plume modeling.  All models are based on real-time atmospheric conditions and indicate that the release is headed away from the Hawaiian Islands.

For further information go to the DOH website at www.hawaii.gov/doh or go to the following sites:

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
http://emergency.cdc.gov/radiation/

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
http://www.epa.gov/radiation/rert/monitoring.html
http://epa.gov/narel/radnet/

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