Sunday, February 19, 2017

Elevated Level of Radioactive Iodine Detected Atmospherically in Europe

ZeroHedge is reporting that atmospheric levels of radioactive iodine increased in Europe, leading to detections in a number of countries:
Concerns Grow About A Nuclear "Incident" In Europe After Spike In Radioactive Iodine Levels
ZeroHedge relies on data posted by the French Institute of Radiological Protection, Institut de Radioptection Et De Sūreté Nucléaire (IRSN). Here is an excerpt from IRSN's press release:

Detection of radioactive iodine at trace levels in Europe in January 2017. 13/02/2017 Institut de Radioptection Et De Sūreté Nucléaire,
Iodine-131 (131I), a radionuclide of anthropogenic origin, has recently been detected in tiny amounts in the ground-level atmosphere in Europe. The preliminary report states it was first found during week 2 of January 2017 in northern Norway. Iodine-131 was also detected in Finland, Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, France and Spain, until the end of January....
It must be pointed out that only particulate iodine was reported. When detectable, gaseous iodine is usually dominant and can be estimated to be 3 to 5 times higher than the fraction of particulate iodine....
The 210Pb concentration detected by IRSN peaked at 1600 µBq/m3 in January, four times higher than the usual mean value.
This elevated level of Iodine-131 is concerning, although IRSN alleges there is no [significant] exposure risks (an allegation that is debatable).

Radioactive Iodine-131 is a byproduct of fission and has an approximately 8 day half life so the particulate iodine detected likely recently originated from a recent nuclear reactor accident or weapons deployment.

The CTBT, or Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty here, entails constant monitoring of radioactivity levels to identify nuclear deployments. The CTBT's administrative organization will correlate wind patterns with elevated radiation detections to identify likely sources.

There is no doubt that global leaders are aware of the likely source of the elevated iodine levels, which peaked at 4X higher than "the usual mean value." Perhaps the source is one of those troublesome reactors in the Ukraine that had problems over the last few years. Perhaps it is one of those troublesome western European Areva-EDF reactors (see discussion of problems here).

There are many possibilities, including Fukushima. Although our "leaders" likely know the source, the public will likely be kept in the dark while exposed to elevated levels.

The safety of these levels is highly contested given the totality of our exposures (i.e., the exposome). I believe that the strategy of considering the effects of single isotopes in isolation leads to systematic under-estimations of population risks.

The unfortunate fact about radioactive iodine-131 (and strontium!) is that it bioaccumulates in the food chain, especially in dairy products as fallout is incorporated into plants, which are consumed by cows, and concentrated in their milk. Humans are at the top of that particular food chain and their children are the most susceptible to harm from exposure.

Harold Knapp described how radioiodine from a single deposition in pasture-land bioaccumulates and biomagnifies, producing substantial and injurious radiation doses for children consuming milk in 1962.  

Ernest J. Sternglass and Steven Bell argued in 1983 that radioactive iodine from nuclear fallout could impact cognitive development in the womb and early infancy:

Ernest J. Sternglass and Steven Bell. 1983. Fallout and SAT Scores: Evidence for Cognitive Damage during Early Infancy. The Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 64, No. 8 (Apr., 1983), pp. 539-545. Stable URL: Accessed: 12-10-2016 17:25 UTC
[exceroted] This fallout acts on the thyroid of the developing fetus in the mother's womb and during infancy, when the thyroid is known to control the development of cognitive functions. In this article we will present the most recent evidence sup porting this hypothesis, as contained in newly available state-by-state data on SAT scores and data collected by the U.S. Public Health Service on radioactive fission products in pasteurized milk (p. 539)
I have previously discussed these processes and their risks here:
Radionuclides in Our Food NOT Safe, At Any Level. February 16, 2014, 
Sharp Increase in Autism Rate Among California Kindergartners: Could Increase be Linked to Fukushima Fallout? October 13, 2016,
In these articles I describe the levels of fallout detected in California and how these levels can bioaccumulate in the food chain, leading to adverse developmental effects for our most vulnerable members, and potentially explaining the recent spike in California children diagnosed with autism entering Kindergarten Fall 2015.

Of course, this hypothesis on exposure effects will remain untested because the research will not be funded so as to preclude findings that call into question the dominant paradigm for conceptualizing and measuring radiation-exposure effects.

I have deconstructed this model in my published books addressing Fukushima.
Fukushima and the Privatization of Risk (2013, Palgrave)

Crisis Communication, Liberal Democracy and Ecological Sustainability (2016, Lexington)

Co-Edited Fukushima: De-Nuclearization or Dispossession?


  1. The highest level detected in Poland indicates that it comes from a country close to Poland. It could be from one nuclear plant among those: Centrales nucléaires à l'est: Bulgaria 2, Czech republic 6, Hungary 4, Romania 2, Russia 36, Slovakia 4, Slovenia 1, Ukraine 15

  2. But the highest probability is it is a venting from a lab producing medical iodine 131. Releases which are currently occuring, permitted by the IAEA, and usually get diluted in the air. Sometimes like now weather conditions hindering its dilution...That is the conclusion made by the Criirad. A fully independent citizen radiation monitoring lab.

  3. Turns out it was an experimental sodium cooled thorium reactor. It was in Haldon Norway and had a partial meltdown. Go figure.