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Tsunami debris includes toxic waste

Industrial chemicals reaching the West Coast, contamination is a risk

TORONTO | May 29, 2012

Industrial chemicals from the March 2011 tsunami in Japan are reaching the West Coast of North America, and contamination is a risk, scientists say.

"Finding one drum of paint thinner, or something you might find in your garage, is not hugely toxic, but if you find 50 of them all washed up on a rocky shore and then breaking and leaking, then you have some problems. If one tiny community got hit, it could wipe out their tourism industry for a year or it could wipe out their fishing for a year," said Dr. M. Sanjayan, lead scientist of the conservation group The Nature Conservancy.

A report by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. Monday pointed out the risk of chemical contamination is sizable as slow-moving debris from the tsunami reaches the west coast, since the affected area of Japan was industrial, and used many toxic chemicals in manufacturing operations.

The majority of the debris is heavy and slower-moving than the more buoyant items that have already been observed on the coastline, said Dianna Parker of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, one of the few organizations keeping tabs on debris movement.

2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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