HALF MOON BAY -- The state of California is rebuffing Internet theories that a 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan is now causing alarming levels of radiation on West Coast beaches.
A YouTube video touted by radio host Alex Jones shows elevated radioactivity at a Half Moon Bay beach, which prompted San Mateo County health officials to alert the state. But the state said this week the radiation is naturally occurring and seen often along California's eroding coastline.
"There is no public health risk at California beaches due to radioactivity related to events at Fukushima," the California Department of Public Health stated emphatically this week.
The original YouTube video includes someone walking around with a Geiger counter showing spikes in radioactivity, and by Thursday had been seen nearly 650,000 times. Immediately after the reactor meltdown, slightly elevated levels of radiation were discovered in West Coast air and milk samples, though they posed no health threat and have since subsided.
In March 2011, a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami caused major damage to the 40-year-old Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, triggering global nuclear concerns and ongoing monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Several months ago, radioactive water from a storage tank leaked in the ocean, and there is widespread suspicion the scope of the problem there is underreported.
Reports on Foxnews.com elsewhere site have touted a study showing an expected "wave" of radiation set to hit the West Coast in 2014. But experts say the levels are so low they pose no threat to human health, and the study those reports are based on noted Cesium-137 and other radionuclides wouldn't begin hitting California until 2016.
Nevertheless, both San Mateo County and the state tested the beach at Half Moon Bay recently and found the radiation to be naturally occurring and to have nothing to do with Fukushima. State and federal officials also perform ongoing radioactivity monitoring.
"The California Department of Public Health is not aware of any recent activity at Fukushima, or any new data that would cause elevated radioactivity on California shores from the Fukushima incident," the state said.
"Recent tests by the San Mateo County Public Health Department and CDPH show that elevated levels of radiation at Half Moon Bay are due to naturally occurring materials and not radioactivity associated with the Fukushima incident."
The EPA estimates people are subject to about 620 millirems of radiation annually, with an average of 200 millirems coming from home radon exposure, which is also found throughout nature. About half the exposure is from natural sources, with medical procedures accounting for the other half.
People living in coastal regions typically see an average of 24 millirems of cosmic radiation, while those living near functioning nuclear power plants typically see less than 1 millirem from that source.
Locally, surfer Tyler Fox recently took a Geiger counter to various locations along the Santa Cruz coast and found nothing out of the ordinary. County health officials also said they have no reason to question the safety of local beaches.
"No, not due to contamination from Fukushima," said John Hodges, the county's interim environmental health director. "At this time, we have no indication of a hazard on our local beaches."
Additionally, the most recent reports from an EPA air monitoring in San Jose, the nearest outpost to Santa Cruz, show no abnormal elevation in gamma rays.
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©2014 the Santa Cruz Sentinel (Scotts Valley, Calif.)
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