News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, March 30, 2011
SAVANNAH RIVER SITE---This morning, before the rain came, a team of scientists from Savannah River Site brought only News 12 along as they took an air sample. They weren't monitoring pollen or air pollution but rather radiation all the way from Japan's Fukushima reactor. Today's results aren't public yet, but recent samples show radiation is being detected.
"This was really kind of expected, because we anticipated that we would see very low levels of radioactivity from the incident that happened at the Fukushima Plant," said Thom Berry, a spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
He says monitors around the country have noticed a rise in Iodine 131, the radioisotope produced by nuclear fission.
"Is it a concern? Is it a problem for the public? No. Not at the levels we are seeing," he told News 12.
How low are the levels? They're about 0.1 millirem. What does that mean?
"Every year we get about 650 millirems of radiation just from life itself," said Berry.
"I'm totally not worried," said Dr. Darko Pucar, a radiologist at MCG Health.
He says the X-rays at his hospital give off much more radiation than what is being measured at SRS right now.
"It would be probably 1,000 or even 10,000 times more than that level of radiation," he said.
Back in Columbia, Berry says the tests going on now are about staying informed and being prepared. They've just been testing the air for now, but they do have the ability to test local waterways. Berry says the public seems to be scared right now, but they have no need to be.
"I've had people who have called my office to ask me, 'Do I need to take potassium iodine? Do I need to go try to find some masks?'" he told News 12.
Berry says rather than buying a mask or other materials, it would be smarter to send money to help relief efforts in Japan.