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Japan Tsunami Marine Debris Information

Radiation testing

Debris from Japan tsunami floating on the ocean's surface The Oregon Public Health Division is actively monitoring air in Portland and Corvallis and sand and water on the northern, central and southern Oregon coast for any higher than normal levels of radiation due to Japan tsunami marine debris. 

At this time, health officials have not received any reports indicating higher than normal levels of radiation in Oregon.

Radioactive debris highly unlikely

There is consensus among scientists that it is highly unlikely that debris from Japan is radioactive:

  • The debris from the tsunami was created in several areas along Japan’s coast; the leak from the nuclear reactor happened only in one spot. The majority of the debris is coming from several different points and likely did not come from the nuclear reactor area.
  • The nuclear reactor leak into the sea started several days after the debris moved out into the ocean. Exposure to the contaminated sea water, which also moves by currents, was unlikely to occur.  
  • Vessels coming into the United States from Japan were monitored for radiation, and readings were below the level of concern.

Food safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has deemed that based on current information, there is no risk to the U.S. food supply.

General safety tips for beachcombing

Debris washes up on Oregon coasts every year, and public health officials urge people to use caution when walking on the beach. In general, if you don’t know what it is, don’t touch it.

Keep an eye out for sharp objects to avoid cutting your feet and hands. Wear sturdy shoes and gloves to protect your feet and hands from cuts and scrapes. If you do cut yourself, administer basic first aid (cleaning and covering the wound) and then visit your local healthcare provider.

Beach debris frequently asked questions

Live at the coast? Just visiting? You can help keep the beach clean by removing human-made debris that washes up. Everyone is talking about debris from the tsunami that struck Japan in 2011, and we will see some of those objects here (derelict dock info), but the truth is debris lands on our shores all year long. No matter where it came from, you have a chance to protect Oregon’s beaches.

What can you do to help? Depends on what you find.

  • Litter and other typical marine debris.
    Examples: Plastic bottles, aluminum cans, buoys, Styrofoam.
    If practical, we encourage you to remove small debris and recycle as much of it as possible. You can get an official beach cleanup bag from any coastal state park office. Don’t break up styrofoam if you can help it, and tie your bag shut when full. If you can’t remove the debris from the beach by hand, please move it far enough away from the water so it doesn’t wash back out at high tide. If you see a significant amount of debris, or has living organisms on it, or is too large to move by hand, report it by email with the date, location and photos to If the debris has organisms growing on it, throw it away in a garbage can or landfill, or move it above the high tide line and report it.

  • Derelict vessel or other large debris item.
    Examples: Adrift fishing boat, shipping containers.
    Call 911 in an emergency. If the debris is a hazard to navigation, call 211 (or 1-800-SAFENET) and you will be connected with the US Coast Guard. Do not attempt to move or remove vessels.

  • Mementos or possessions.
    Examples: Items with unique identifiers, names, or markings.
    If an item can 1) be traced back to an individual or group and 2) has personal or monetary value, call 211 to report it or send an email at so we can make appropriate arrangements for return of items to Japan.

  • Potential hazardous materials.
    Examples: Oil or chemical drums, gas cans, propane tanks.
    Call 211 and you will be connected to the US Coast Guard’s National Response Center. Report as much information as possible. Do not touch the item or attempt to move it.

There are dozens of disposal stations on the coast ready to accept your bagged tsunami debris. If you see debris larger than what you can put in a bag—tires, refrigerators, and so on—don’t bring it to the disposal station. Report its location by calling 211.
Ready to go? Carry this information in your pocket! 

Additional resources