Radioactive seaweed fears eased by new study

Fears about eating Scottish food fertilised with radioactive seaweed have been eased by a new study showing contamination levels are below legal limits.

Concerns had been voiced that people were being exposed to higher doses of radiation as a result of eating food produced using seaweed contaminated by discharges from the Sellafield nuclear site in Cumbria.

But a study by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Food Standards Agency (FSA) published this month found potential doses from using seaweed to produce foodstuffs are ‘extremely small’ – much lower than legal limits.

Mark Toner, a senior radioactive substances policy officer for SEPA, said: “The seaweed study indicates that while seaweed is used extensively as a soil conditioner for land used for growing crops in coastal areas of Western and Northern Scotland, the predicted doses received by individuals are extremely small.

The highest being in the order of a few microsieverts in a year and much lower than the 1mSv (1000 microsieverts) limit.”

The report is one of two published last Monday (November 16) on radioactivity in Scotland’s food chain and environment.

The annual Radioactivity in Food and the Environment 2008 (RIFE) report shows in 2008 doses received by members of the public from authorised releases of radioactivity were within international dose limits.

SEPA, the FSA, the Environment Agency and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency are the statutory bodies charged with making sure UK doses from authorised releases of radioactivity do not pose “an unacceptable risk to health”.

The latest data shows radioactivity levels and concentrations measured in the environment in 2008 were similar to those in 2007.

To read the 2008 RIFE report visit the following link:

For the seaweed study, the Transfer of Radioactivity from Seaweed to Terrestrial Foods and Potential Radiation Exposures to Members of the Public, go to this link:

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