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Seaweed Okay to Eat in British Columbia, Authorities Say

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Although seaweed tested in Barkley Sound has tested positive for the radioactive isotopes Iodine 131 and Cesium 137, with Japan’s leaky reactors as the probable culprit via the jet stream, the levels are low and not life-threatening, according to researchers quoted in the Alberni Valley News.

Scientists at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Vancouver have tested seaweed, a staple of some aboriginal diets, and found isotopes that are less than one-millionth of the amount needed to harm humans, the Alberni Valley News reported.

SFU nuclear scientist Kris Starosta said he’s confident that the Fukushima reactor is responsible for the recent discovery but cautioned that there is no immediate danger to the public, the university said in a March 28 release.

“It was expected that minute amounts of radioactivity from the Japanese nuclear reactor incident would reach B.C.,” the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control said in a Q&A on its website. “The amounts they found are less than one millionth the amount that has been shown to cause disease in the thyroid so there are no health concerns for people who drink rainwater or who eat seaweed here in B.C.”

To reach a level of concern in the thyroid, the BCCDC said, a person would have to drink 815,143 litres of water at one time.

“This radioactive iodine will continue to decay but we would expect that trace amounts may be found until several weeks after the nuclear reactor incident has resolved,” the agency said. “There is no health concern from the minute amounts of radioactive iodine detected.”

Taking potassium iodide not only is not recommended but may also be harmful, the BCCDC said.

Meanwhile, worried consumers on the west coast of Vancouver Island were stocking up on supplies of dried, packaged seaweed, nettles and mung beans as antidotes to possible radiation exposure, the Cowichan News Leader reported on March 23.