Nevada has joined several Western states in reporting that minuscule amounts of radiation from Japan's damaged nuclear plant are showing up. But as with the other states, scientists say there is no health risk.
Extremely small amounts of the radioactive isotopes iodine-131 and xenon-133 reached a monitoring station near Las Vegas' Atomic Testing Museum last week, said Ted Hartwell, manager of the Desert Research Institute's Community Environmental Monitoring Program.
Hartwell said he's certain the isotopes came from Japan because they're not usually detected in Nevada. But he said the readings were far below levels that could pose any health risks.
"Unless you have an accident like this [in Japan] you wouldn't expect to see this. No doubt it's from Japan," Hartwell said.
California, Colorado, Hawaii and Washington State have also reported tiny amounts of radiation from the Japan accident. Officials have said those levels also are not harmful.
Nevada health officials have said they do not expect any risk to the state from Japanese radiation releases because of the distance the materials would have to travel.
"Any material released must travel 10,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean, during which time it will be dispersed and diluted in the atmosphere to levels that might eventually be detectable, but which will not present a health hazard nor require any protective actions," said Eric Matus, radiation physicist for the Nevada State Health Division.
Scientists say they weren't surprised that isotopes from Japan were detected.
"They get caught up in the right wind pattern, and they'll move across the ocean," said Jeff Daniels, an environmental scientist with Reno-based DRI.
Tiny amounts of the radioactive isotope cesium-137 were detected at a University of Nevada, Las Vegas, laboratory between March 17 and 21.