Officials see no risk to B.C. from Japanese radiation

Food supply testing expected, Metro mayors want more info on potential 'worst-case scenario'

Public health officials are trying to calm fears that B.C. residents may become contaminated by radiation carried here from the nuclear disaster underway in Japan.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) said Wednesday no abnormal radiation levels have so far been detected by an international network of monitoring sites put in place along the entire West Coast in the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident.

“We do not expect any health risk following the nuclear reactor releases in Japan,” said provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall.

That hasn’t stopped some people from snapping up supplies of potassium iodide tablets, which can be used to neutralize the harmful effects of radioactive iodine, including thyroid cancer.

BCCDC officials said the potassium iodide tablets would only help people exposed to higher levels of radiation within 30 kilometres of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, where explosions or coolant failures at multiple reactors threaten to cause a meltdown.

Kendall urged pharmacies not to dispense or stockpile the pills after an apparent run on them by spooked shoppers.

Even if there is a major release of radiation into the atmosphere from northeast Japan, Kendall said the particles would be so widely dispersed on their five- to six-day jet stream trip to North America that it’s unlikely they could pose a health risk.

“All the scenarios say that for us, because of the distance we are away, no they would not be posing a significant health risk to British Columbians.”

He cautioned against comparing Chernobyl, where the reactor fuel burned and sent large amounts of long-lasting radiation across Europe, to the Japanese reactors, which have containment facilities and are less likely to release large amounts of long-lasting radioactive isotopes.

Metro Vancouver Board Chair Lois Jackson said she wants a better picture of the potential threat in a worst-case scenario after the issue was raised at a meeting of the region’s mayors Wednesday morning.

“The outcome of a disaster of this sort could be very widespread,” she said. “The cloud rises up into the jet stream and what goes up must come down.

“My concern is that we are kept up to date honestly so we’re not as a nation scrambling if the worst was to happen.”

Jackson wants to find out from the federal government precisely where and how many radiation monitoring stations are located in B.C.

“It’s concerning to me that we don’t have that information.”

Neither Metro Vancouver’s air quality monitoring network nor the provincial government have any capability to measure wind-borne radiation that could come across the Pacific if nuclear reactors in Japan melt down.

Air quality planning manager Roger Quan said Metro monitors various types of pollutants at stations across the Lower Mainland, but they aren’t equipped to detect radiation.

Kendall said there are four federally run sites on Vancouver Island and one in the Lower Mainland that continuously sample for radiation and data can also be drawn from other international stations in the Pacific at islands like Guam.

SFU nuclear chemist Jean-Claude Brodovitch said he agrees with Kendall’s assessment of the risks, adding there is no sign of radiation reaching B.C.

“We have our own equipment we monitor with and we haven’t seen anything,” he said.

Although small amounts of radioactive iodine were detected in plants such as seaweed off the North American coast after Chernobyl, Brodovitch said that doesn’t equate to any significant human risk.

“There could be transportation of some dust in the atmosphere,” he said. “But when it gets around the globe it’s extremely diluted. After 7,000 kilometres, it would not be a real concern.”

Asked about the potential that radiation could enter the food chain, potentially via contaminated crops, Brodovitch said that was a possibility, but only in Japan and the local area around it.

“If there’s deposition in the ocean, there would be some impact on seafood,” added Kendall, who predicted authorities will be vigilant about protecting Canadian consumers.

“We’re going to see a lot of monitoring of foodstuffs in areas around the plume and in the ocean,” he said. “But that’s a longer-term concern.”

Just Posted

Rachel Rivera (left) and Claire Ouchi are a dynamic art duo known as the WKNDRS. The two painted the new road mural at Uptown. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Artistic mural at Uptown brings creativity, fun to summer shoppers in Saanich

Road installation the largest of its kind in Greater Victoria

Kathy and Doug LaFortune stand next to the new welcome pole now gracing the front entrance of KELSET Elementary School in North Saanich. LaFortune completed the piece after suffering a stroke with the help of his wife and son Bear. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
KELSET school in North Saanich unveils welcome pole on National Indigenous Peoples Day

Carver Doug LaFortune completed pole with the help of his son, wife after suffering a stroke

Victoria police continue to look for missing man Tyrone Goertzen and are once again asking for the public’s assistance in locating him. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Victoria police put out another call for help finding missing man

Tyrone Goertzen, 33, was first reported missing June 4

Colwood council is looking at potential summer weekend closures to traffic of a section of Ocean Boulevard at Esquimalt Lagoon, to allow for more of a park-like setting during summer events such as the popular Eats & Beats event, shown here in 2018. (Black Press Media file photo)
Mayor lobbying for summer weekend closures of beachfront Colwood roadway

Rob Martin to bring motion forward to June 28 council meeting

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

Bernadette Jordan addresses the media following a swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on January 14, 2019. Jordan says the government will provide $2 million to allow First Nations to continue to strengthen the marine safety system across Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
First Nations receive federal funds to purchase marine rescue boats

Quatsino, Heiltsuk, and Kitasoo First Nation’s among eight across Canada to receive funding

Most Read