Texas Tech Ecotoxicologist: Cutting-Edge Technology Needed to Clean Up Japan Following Toxic Waste, Radiation Spills

The radiation leak has added a whole new layer of complexity when it comes to cleaning up what the tsunami washed ashore and distributed.

Following the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan’s Northwest Coast March 11 and caused major radiation leakage at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, a Texas Tech ecotoxicologist said the Japanese face a huge toxic cleanup that could be even worse than the one left behind by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Ron Kendall, director of The Institute of Environmental and Human Health (TIEHH) at Texas Tech, said the radiation leak has added a whole new layer of complexity when it comes to cleaning up what the tsunami washed ashore and distributed.

“The Japanese may have to deal with a complicated toxic waste site with radiation overlaying it,” Kendall said. “We probably have toxic metals from oil and gas release. I don’t think there’s been anything like this before on this level of magnitude. It’s created a very complex scenario, and it’s yet to be determined how to approach cleaning it up. You’ve got toxic metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from oil and gas release and who knows what else. It’s like you had another Katrina event and then you just put radiation on it.”

On top of the toxic material problems, people could face immunodeficiency, birth defects and other cancers depending on the type and amount of radioactive materials released from the floundering nuclear power station. Heavy metals and radiation can depress immune systems, he said.

“It’s going to take a lot of cutting-edge remediation strategies to fix this problem,” he said. “We can definitely learn from this scenario when it comes to future planning of our own nuclear power stations near fault lines and coastal areas.”

During his career, Kendall was a part of the assessment for the Exxon Valdez as well as other oil spills and contamination events such as Hurricane Katrina’s impact on New Orleans and worked on projects at Rocky Mountain Arsenal. (RADIOACTIVE PLACE?). He also served as chief editor of “Wildlife Toxicology: Emerging Containment and Biodiversity Issues,” published by CRC Press.

The book is the first reference to address environmental threats to wildlife in a single volume and recommend proven mitigation techniques to protect and sustain Earth’s wildlife populations. Within a month of its release May 10, the book was labeled an international bestseller by the book’s publishers.

CONTACT: Ron Kendall, Director, The Institute of Environmental and Human Health, Texas Tech University, (806) 885-4567 or ron.kendall@tiehh.ttu.edu.