Added Jacqueline Williams, program director for radiation medicine at the Center for Biophysical Assessment and Risk Management Following Irradiation at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York: "Obviously, if it's going into the ocean, there's going to be a dilution factor. We're 5,000 miles away. There's a lot of ocean between Japan and the U.S."
Also, Williams explained, "the particular isotope everyone is fussing about [iodine 131] has a half life of about eight days, which means that every eight days, the level of radioactivity is halved."
"After 56 days, you're down to a little less than 1 percent," Fisher said. "After 10 half lives, you're down to about one-tenth of 1 percent so it's almost certain it's not going to be a problem."
The greater contamination risk is likely to come from iodine uptake by seaweed, Williams.
While seaweed is a much more significant component of Asian diets than North American ones, people here do occasionally consume Japanese seaweed, for example, in sushi.
"There's a chance that some seaweeds are going to have pretty high iodine concentrations and if they're consumed as part of sushi or some other use for human consumption it might be a problem," Fisher said.
How big of a problem? Not much, he added.
"There are two reasons to be a little bit optimistic," Fisher said. "As I understand it, most of the seaweed harvested in Japan for human c
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