During the 2011 Tsunami in Japan, Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was heavily damaged and it was reported that heavy nuclear waste leaked into the Pacific Ocean. Is it possible that the nuclear waste could affect the coastal regions of North America? Does that leak pose any health risks to Americans living on the west side of US?

  • A physics teacher I know went to Fukushima. The background radiation in Tokyo Airport was higher than the one 30miles away from the meltdown. So, no, Not really
    – Narusan
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 22:56
  • It should be worth noting that Fukushima Daiichi, at time of writing, remains heavily damaged and heavy nuclear waste is still leaking into the Pacific Ocean. One cannot say that no risk is posed.
    – PCARR
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 16:33

1 Answer 1


The WHO put out a statement in February 2013 addressing the health risks. Certain groups of people got fairly high doses of radiation:

Apart from emergency workers, the most affected people were those who remained in some highly contaminated towns and villages to the northwest of the power station for up to four months before evacuation.

These people will experience health risks, including increased risks of thyroid cancer:

The WHO estimated that there was a 70 percent higher risk of females exposed as infants developing thyroid cancer over their lifetime... The radiation exposure means about 1.25 out of every 100 girls in the area could develop thyroid cancer over their lifetime, instead of the natural rate of about 0.75 percent.

And other cancers:

In the most contaminated area there was a 7 percent higher risk of leukemia in males exposed as infants, and a 6 percent higher risk of breast cancer in females exposed as infants. Overall, girls had a 4 percent increased risk of developing solid cancers.

However, outside of those high-risk groups of people, risk is minimal:

There was no discernible increase in health risks expected outside Japan, the WHO said in a 200-page report which was based on an assessment by international experts.

“In the rest of Fukushima prefecture and in particular neighboring countries and the rest of the world, the estimated increased cancer risk is negligible. It’s within the variation of normal background rates,” said Angelika Tritscher, acting director of WHO’s department of food safety.

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