"Safe" Radiation Levels After Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Challenged by Citizens

by Alex Roslin
The Georgia Straight
August 25, 2011

After Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster, John Disney couldn’t help but worry. He was acting band manager of the Old Massett Village Council on the north tip of Graham Island in Haida Gwaii.
Canadian health officials were saying the radioactive fallout posed no health risk to Canadians. But Disney wasn’t convinced.
He sent samples of water, goat’s milk, and seaweed to a lab in Saskatoon for tests. The lab found 1.1 becquerels per litre of radioactive iodine in rainwater collected on March 28.
The lab told him the Canadian ceiling for iodine-131 in drinking water is six becquerels per litre. The rainwater wasn’t at the limit yet, but the sudden rise—over previously undetectable levels—worried Disney. He put out an alert to his community of 700, giving the numbers and advising residents to avoid drinking rainwater.
“It [the iodine level] was coming up fast, and I didn’t know where it was going,” he said by cellphone from Old Massett (also known as Haida Village). “Quite a lot of people around here are on rainwater [drinking] systems.”
The responses from Health Canada and Environment Canada were scathing. “They said I didn’t know what I was doing and that there was nothing to worry about. I’ve got half the world telling me I’m an idiot,” Disney said.

[Read the entire story here, and visit my investigative journalism blog here.]