A major fallout from Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant disaster has hit the coast of California, according to scientists. Radioactive iodine was found in giant kelp beds off Laguna Beach to Santa Cruz within a month of the meltdown, reports the Los Angeles Times. The radiation "represents a significant input into the kelp forest ecosystem," warns the study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The levels—most likely not quickly harmful to humans—were significantly higher than measurements prior to the explosion, and similar to readings found farther north after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.
Radioactive particles released into the atmosphere by the Fukushima accident following the Japanese earthquake and tsunami last year—especially radioactive isotope iodine 131—traveled across the Pacific, then were likely deposited into the sea by rain, according to the researchers. It's not known exactly what effects such radiation will ultimately have, but it was consumed by organisms that feed on kelp, including sea urchins and crustaceans. Some fish may be especially affected because their endocrine systems contain iodine. Said the study's lead researcher," It's not a good thing."