Trace amounts of the radioactive material iodine-131 have been detected across
Europe over the past two weeks, according to nuclear officials there. The source of this radiation-spewing material is unknown.
Iodine-131 is a by-product of the type of nuclear fission reactions that occur in reactors and nuclear weapons; it emits radiation that can cause cancer when absorbed in high enough doses. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the levels of iodine-131 that have been detected in several locations across Europe are abnormally high, but not high enough to pose a public health risk, Reuters reported today (Nov. 11).
Austria's Environment Ministry said the small levels of radioactive iodine it detected would expose the population to a radiation dose equal to just one-40,000th of the dose received in a transatlantic flight.