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Radioactive iodine in rainwater: Canadian public was in the dark

Published: January 15, 2012
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After the Fukushima nuclear accident, Canadian health officials assured a nervous public that virtually no radioactive fallout had drifted to Canada.

But last March, a Health Canada monitoring station in Calgary detected an average of 8.18 becquerels per litre of radioactive iodine (an isotope released by the nuclear accident) in rainwater, the data shows.

The level easily exceeded the Canadian guideline of six becquerels of iodine per litre for drinking water, acknowledged Eric Pellerin, chief of Health Canada's radiation-surveillance division.

"It's above the recommended level (for drinking water)," he said in an interview. "At any time you sample it, it should not exceed the guideline."

Canadian authorities didn't disclose the high radiation reading at the time.

In contrast, the state of Virginia issued a don't-drink-rainwater advisory in late March after iodine levels in rain in a nearby city spiked to 3.4 becquerels per litre on a single day. That was less than half of the level seen in Calgary during the entire month of March.


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