Concern over New Mexico radiation is misplaced

LAWTON, Okla._A leak of radioactive materials in New Mexico nearly two weeks ago now has folks in the sooner state worried about the aftermath.

According to a New Mexico newspaper, two radioactive elements, Americium and Plutonium, were found half a mile from a nuclear plant in the southeastern part of the state. Now several websites like Red Dirt Report and claim Oklahomans could be in the path of this drifting radiation.

One projection map claims that a radiation cloud is drifting all the way into most of Oklahoma. After it was published, several local residents voiced their concerns about the reported danger. Cameron Biology Professor, Dr. Michael Dunn, said the elements found in the New Mexico air earlier this month can be lethal in large doses, "They're radioactive, radioactive decay in particular can be potentially carcinogenic so it can disrupt your DNA. And once that whole system gets out of whack, that's what cancer is."

He said the sooner state shouldn't be alarmed when it comes to traveling radiation from this recent event. In fact, Dr. Dunn says southwest Oklahomans are surrounded by radiation everyday. It's located in the granite that makes up our local mountains. The radiation in the rocks located in the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge is more than we'll ever see from the leak in New Mexico.

Dr. Dunn said the radiation levels found at the initial site were incredibly low, "Even half a mile from the site, the dose was so low that it's not's considered within the acceptable risk. About a tenth of what you would get from a chest x-ray, and considerably less from a dental x-ray."

Meaning those levels aren't dangerous to us at all. Dunn says even though a few were exposed to the radioactivity in New Mexico, most were fortunate that it wasn't worse, "They got lucky this time. And hopefully they'll make the corrections so that it never happens again."

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality has monitors in Oklahoma City and Tulsa to measure radiation in the ground and in the air. They said as of Thursday, no reports of any foreign radioactivity have been measured in our state since the leak two weeks ago.