New research has found radiation in tap water around Japan which isn’t just limited to the immediate areas surrounding Fukushima as many would have expected.
Testing conducted in February and March of 2015 found cesium in many tap water samples collected around Japan. While the numbers were fairly low it is still a persistent problem since tap water is used in some way in everything that is consumed. In the readings, Tokyo had higher tap water contamination levels than Fukushima City.
One reading that may cause confusion is the reading for Ichihara Chiba. It indicated iodine 131 was found in that tap water sample. That contamination would not be from Fukushima Daiichi. The reading is isolated, no other cities found iodine 131 in their water. If it had somehow been from Fukushima Daiichi, readings would have been found in areas closer to the plant. Iodine 131 has a short half life, any contamination decays away over a few weeks. This same problem was encountered in the US soon after the disaster were iodine 131 was being found in some east coast municipal water supplies. At the time it was unlikely to be directly due to fallout from Fukushima Daiichi as too much time had passed. What may be happening is linked to medical treatments.
People receiving iodine 131 radiation therapy treatments, used for certain thyroid disorders excrete the substance in their urine. Most hospitals use containment systems for waste water from radiation therapy patient wards. This is intended to allow any iodine 131 in the waste water to decay away. If a containment system is not used or not properly operating, iodine 131 can flow into waste treatment plants and eventually to the waterways. In the US patients are frequently sent home quite early while they are still radioactive and shedding iodine 131 in their urine. This directly adds contamination to waste water.
If that treated waste water is released into a water way and picked up soon enough downstream it could then contaminate public drinking water supplies. Ichihara Chiba Hospital does have a department that does iodine 131 treatments. So this may be another case of looking for Fukushima related radiation and finding some other radiation cause by accident.
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