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Tritium and Health

A report on tritium and health was recently released by Greenpeace which outlines a number of issues which have caused concern for area residents. Durham Region Health Department is providing additional information on the issue of tritium and health to give local residents a broader perspective of this issue, based on a report entitled Radiation and Health in Durham Region 2007 (PDF) that was recently issued by the Health Department.

Specific areas of concern included:

  • Is it safe to live in the Pickering and Clarington areas?

    Although the Greenpeace report recommends that pregnant women and children under four-years old should not live within 10-kilometers of nuclear plants, the Health Department has found no basis for this recommendation.

    The Health Department’s study on Radiation and Health in Durham Region 2007 (PDF) found that when stillbirths and various birth defects were examined in Ajax-Pickering and Clarington, rates were found to be at provincial levels, significantly lower or the number of cases was too small to report (less than five).
  • Is it safe to consume vegetation grown in the Pickering and Clarington areas?

    Another recommendation detailed in the Greenpeace report indicates that people who live very near the nuclear plant should not consume foods grown in their gardens. Ontario Power Generation (OPG) measures radiation levels in locally-grown foods including vegetables from private gardens and honey from local farms. This information is used to calculate the radiation dose to the public.

    Radiation is a form of energy. It is all around us and part of the natural and man-made environment. Radiation dose can be measured in micro-sieverts (µSv), which is a unit of measure that takes into account the type of radiation and the way that radiation affects different organs in the body.

    The radiation dose to the public from the plants is extremely low. In 2006, the dose to a critical group living near the nuclear plants was 1.1 µSv from Darlington and 2.8 µSv from Pickering. This compares to 0.1 µSv of radiation from eating a banana (natural potassium 40) and 12 µSv from a two-hour flight in an airplane (cosmic radiation exposure).

    Tritium is released from the nuclear plants in water and airborne emissions. All emissions are measured and incorporated in estimating the dose to the public.

Additional references