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Officials reject concerns over 500 percent radiation increase on California beach

Health officials in California are now telling residents not to worry after a video uploaded to the internet last month seemed to show high levels of radiation at a Pacific Coast beach.

The video, “Fukushima radiation hits San Francisco,” has been  viewed nearly half-a-million times since being uploaded to  YouTube on Christmas Eve, and its contents have caused concern  among residents who fear that nuclear waste from the March 2011  disaster in Japan may be arriving on their side of the Pacific  Ocean.

Throughout the course of the seven-minute-long clip, a man tests  out his Geiger counter radiation detector while walking through  Pacifica State Beach outside of San Francisco. At times, the  monitor on the machine seems to show radiation of 150  counts-per-minute, or the equivalent of around five times what is  typically found in that type of environment.

After the video began to go viral last month, local, state and  federal officials began to investigate claims that waste from the  Fukushima nuclear plant has washed ashore in California. Only  now, though, are authorities saying that they have no reason to  believe that conditions along the West Coast are unsafe.

The Half Moon Bay Review   reported on Friday that government officials conducted tests  along California’s Pacific 250x250-bulletproof2Coast after word of the video began to  spread online, but found no indication that radiation levels had  reached a hazardous point.

“It’s not something that we feel is an immediate public  health concern,” Dean Peterson, the county environmental  health director, told the Review. “We’re not even close to  the point of saying that any of this is from Fukushima.”

According to the Review’s Mark Noack, counts-per-minute does  indeed measure radiation, but “does not directly equate to  the strength or its hazard level to humans.” And while the  paper has reported that testing conducted by Peterson’s  department on their own Geiger counters has since  revealedradiation level of about 100 micro-REM per hour, or about  five times the normal amount, officials are confident that there  is nothing to be concerned about.

“Although the radiation levels were clearly higher than is  typical, Peterson emphasized that it was still not unsafe for  humans,” Noack wrote. “A person would need to be exposed  to 100 microREMs of radiation for 50,000 hours before it  surpassed safety guidelines by the Occupational Safety and Health  Administration, he explained.”

Even so, officials are still uncertain as to why those levels —   even if they are relatively safe — seem to be five-times higher  than what is expected. Peterson told the Review he was   “befuddled” over the ordeal, but suggested the culprit  could be something not too sinister — such as red-painted eating  utensils buried on the beach.

“I honestly think the end result of this is that it’s just  higher levels of background radiation,” he said.

Researchers at the Geiger Counter Bulletin website have since  tried to make sense of the reading on their own, and agree that  the levels being detected are several times over what should be  expected. According to a post on their website from this weekend,  however, an independent testing of soil taken from near Pacifica  State Beach tested positive for some radioactive material — but  nothing that would have come from Fukushima.

The results of testing conducted by California’s Department of  Public Health are expected to be announced later this week.



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