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Radioactive Tritium found in Vancouver B.C. Water

I have just readDr. Gordon Edwards’ article on Tritium Emissions.  Dr. Edwards is the President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility. Dr. Edwards is consultant on nuclear issues and has been qualified as a nuclear expert by courts in Canada and elsewhere.


Some key points concerning tritium:


1. Tritium is a radioactive hydrogen atom.  It replaces one of the stable hydrogen atoms in water H20 and is called tritiated water HTO.  Like H20, tritiated water is colourless and odourless. It has a half life of 12.3 years so it will be around for 123 years before it decays away.


2. Naturally occurring tritium is extremely rare on Earth, where trace amounts are formed by the interaction of the atmosphere with cosmic rays. The Ontario Drinking Water Advisory Council (ODWAC) says that anything above 2 bq/l of tritium in drinking water is due to man-made pollution from nuclear weapons or from nuclear reactors.


3. The Canadian standard for tritium in drinking water is 7000 becquerels per litre which is 350,000% higher than background. (One Bq is defined as the activity of a quantity of radioactive material in which one nucleus decays every second).



4. Two independent scientific advisory bodies in Ontario have recommended reducing the permissible level of tritium in drinking water by a factor of 350 – down to 20 becquerels per litre maximum.


5. The UK Committee Evaluating Radiation Risks from Internal Emitters (CERRIE) has concluded that the biological harm caused by a given tritium exposure could be as much as 15 times greater than the harm caused by a corresponding quantity of gamma or X-ray.


6. Every radionuclide has its own unique pathway through the body.  e.g Iodine 131 damages the thyroid. Cesium 137 goes to the muscle and is especially damaging to the heart muscle. Strontium 90 lodges in the bone and causes leukemia.  But tritium, because it is attached to water, goes everywhere in the body and becomes incorporated directly into organic molecules.


“The public is only now becoming aware of the magnitude of tritium’s hazards. Most studies indicate that tritium in living creatures can produce typical radiogenic effects including cancer, genetic effects, developmental abnormalities and reproductive effects. Tritium can cause mutations, tumors and cell death.”


8. It has been shown that tritium crosses the placenta and enters the body of a developing fetus quite readily and that tritium damages both chromosomes and genes. A sudden intake of tritium can have a disproportionate effect on the subsequent life of a developing fetus.


9. It is not possible to filter out tritium once it is in the water. Bottled water is the only way to avoid drinking it (as long as the bottled water is tested to be tritium free).  But it will still be in the rain water and will be absorbed through the skin in bath and shower water.




After the triple meltdowns and hydrogen explosions at Fukushima Daiichi in March, 2011, the City of Vancouver tested for radionuclides in the three open reservoirs at Capilano, Coquitlam and Seymour.


The lab gave a fairly high Minimum Detection Level for tritium - 15 becquerels per litre. For all three reservoirs, the results for March 16, 2011, March 25, 2011, March 28, 2011, April 5, 2011, April 11, 2011, April 18, 2011 and April 26, 2011 were all “less than 15 bq/l”.


Metro Vancouver either did not test for tritium on May 2, 2011 and September 21, 2011 or did not report results.


In January 2012, Metro Vancouver sent their water samples to the TestAmerica lab in Richland, Washington, U.S.A. TestAmerica sent results to Metro Vancouver but Metro Vancouver did not publish these results on their website. I found out about this because I contacted TestAmerica in August 2012 to find out about sending some foods to them for radioisotope testing.



TestAmerica said they could test my samples but that they would like me to have an expert to analyze the results.  I asked them to recommend someone to me and they said they didn’t know anyone in Vancouver but that Metro Vancouver had sent samples to them and they suggested I call Metro Vancouver for a recommendation. If TestAmerica had not told me Metro Vancouver had done a test with them, I would not have known that more water samples had been tested.  Once I had this information, I was able to request the test results from Metro Vancouver.  The results are public information, so Bob Jones of Metro Vancouver sent me the results.


TestAmerica has much lower detection levels than the previous lab used by Metro Vancouver. Their “Method Detection Limit” is 3.6 to 3.7 bq/l.



Results in Jan 2012:


Seymour:  0.574 bq/l ±1.813

Capilano:   4.884 bq/l ±1.924

Coquitlam: 5.698 bq/l ±1.924


Greater Vancouver Water Supply Sources & Systems


Keeping in mind what Dr. Gordon Edwards said – that 2 bq/l is background and anything over that is either from a nuclear reactor or nuclear weapons (i.e. man made) then the Capilano Reservoir is 144% above background levels and the Seymour Reservoir is 185% above background levels. 


Both Cesium 134 and Cesium 137 were detected in the January 2012 water tested.  Cesium 134 is a trademark of Fukushima.  The tritium could have come from Fukushima.



I 131


Cs 134





Sample Date

Seymour Intake









Jan. 4, 2012

Capilano Intake









Jan. 4, 2012

Coquitlam Intake









Jan. 5, 2012

As the earlier 2011 results only measured any levels over 15 bq/l, it is not possible to compare results and see if they are rising or falling. This is another good reason why Metro Vancouver should have an ongoing, regular, monthly system in place of monitoring the city water. Why they will not do this is still a mystery.


Metro Vancouver has not published the January 2012 results.  Metro Vancouver has not warned the public.  The public has the right to know and choose to buy bottled water or not drink water from these reservoirs.


Metro Vancouver has not replied to my queries as to whether they have done any further testing since January 2012.  Nine months later I do not know what the tritium levels in Vancouver water is. The reactors at Fukushima are still releasing an estimated 10 million becquerels per hour into the atmosphere - every hour of every day.


Metro Vancouver should be testing more regularly to see whether or not the disaster is affecting our open water supply.


Pacific Nuclear Awareness Group

(Japanese translation is done by a Vancouver Food Raditaion Monitering Volunteer)



Comment made by Mr. Eichiro Ochiai


Tritium is hardly produced by light water reactor like the one at Fukushima Daiichi, even though it is not none. On the other hand, it’s easier to produce Tritium in Canadian Candu reactor as heavy water is used as cooling water for it. It is reported by a German government agency that considerable amount of Tritium is released during regular operation of nuclear plant, and 2 times of leukemia cases are reported among children living within 5 km radius from a German plant than the area further away.  Although it is unclear that it is due to the release of Tritium.



The level of Tritium in Metro Vancouver drinking water is relatively high. If it was a normal level of Vancouver drinking water, and children kept drinking 1 litter of this water (average, 5bq/kg or litter) a day, they would received 18,000 radiation counts (particles) per hour. It means they would received 160,000,000 radiation counts in a year. How much it would affect on human health? It's definitely NOT zero, but should we worry? I suppose we do not have to worry so much. Because there are 5e11 (500,000,000,000) cells per kg in our body, so the amount of radiation which would hit to one cell is very small. This kind of test should be continued, by the way. The maximum acceptable limit of Tritium in Canada is surprisingly high. It should be lowered.

(English translation is done by a Vancouver Food Raditaion Monitering Volunteer)








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