Radiation in San Francisco rain won’t be dangerous 

A week of sunshine may come to an end today when what is expected to be mildly radioactive rain blankets the Bay Area.

The weatherman says there is at least a 60 percent chance of light showers, as well as isolated thunder, lightning and hail, especially during daylight — but the precipitation itself is not expected to be hazardous to your health.

Since tests following the rains of late March revealed traces of radioactive isotopes believed to have come from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant, local scientists say the precipitation should be handled with care.

“The pathways we’re concerned about are if you drink the water or if it gets into agricultural crops,” said Daniel Hirsch, a nuclear policy lecturer at UC Santa Cruz.

But Hirsch emphasized that the expected risk to individuals is extremely minimal.

“A 1-year-old girl drinking water or milk at the concentration found in the rainwater for about 10 days would have a one-in-a-million risk for cancer,” Hirsch said.

Bay Area rainwater tested last month by the Environmental Protection Agency contained trace amounts of the cancer-causing isotope Iodine-131 and exceeded federal standards for radiation in drinking water by 46 times.

However, since Iodine-131 cuts its radioactive potency in half every eight days, by the time any rain-soaked crops get to people’s plates, Iodine-131 will have likely deteriorated significantly.

The EPA says the rain is not a health concern, and provides no official guidance regarding any special precautions that citizens should take regarding the rain. Hirsch faulted the agency for the lack of information, saying it should be the government’s job to give advice.

Luckily, National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Mehle said the light showers should stop by Friday and resume Sunday. High temperatures will be in the 50s.


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Kamala Kelkar

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