(WICHITA, Kan.) — Thursday afternoon, Kansas health officials announced miniscule levels of radiation from japan have been found in the Kansas air.
Authorities are quick to point out this is thousands of times below any un-safe level.
"The list is long, long, long on what contains radiation," said Randy Owen. He is the Supervisor for the city of Wichita's Air Quality Program. He, like any other science expert will tell you, "there's always radiation, it's everywhere."
Stones, rocks, concrete all emit radiation. Even the ashes of burned plants have radiation. Radiation surrounds us, even without a nuclear power plant in trouble half a world away.
"And we're kind of seeing that with Japan," said Curtis Redington, in Owen's department. "They're actually able to detect what they think is radiation from that plant as it moves across the United States."
We know that because of a radiation monitoring device near downtown Wichita. "It in and of itself is not radioactive," explained Owen with a smile. "It's just pulling in the air and putting it on a filter. And that's how we measure that amount of radiation." It is one of dozens set up by the Environmental Protection Agency across the US.
Inside each tower is a filter, and a computer to record the readings. Redington records the filter readings, then send them, and the now-dirty filter, to the EPA for analysis. Simultaneously, an antenna at the top of the silver monitoring tower transmits the readings.
Don't ask Redington or Owen what the numbers mean. "We're not radiation experts," said Owen, "so we don't do any interpretation on them."
On Thursday, for the first time, Kansas detected minute radiation amounts from Japan. But officials say that has not affected -- nor should it affect -- Kansans. "In all the cases they've found it," said Redington, "it's been so low to be barely detectable but of absolutely no concern to health."
The radiation measured in Wichita on Thursday is about as much radiation as Denver residents experience (because, as Mile High City residents, they are closer to the sun, which is a source of radiation). You would have to be exposed to more than a thousand times that amount to get radiation sickness.