Scientists are investigating whether seals in Alaska that have recently fallen ill are being sickened by radiation from the destroyed Japanese Fukushima nuclear plant.
Several seals have washed up on Alaska’s Arctic coastline since July, suffering or killed by a mysterious disease marked by bleeding lesions on the hind flippers, irritated skin around the nose and eyes and patchy hair loss on fur, according to Reuters.
Scientists initially thought a virus was behind the animal’s illness but have not yet been able to identify one, so they expect radiation may be involved.
“We recently received samples of seal tissue from diseased animals captured near St. Lawrence Island with a request to examine the material for radioactivity,” said John Kelley, Professor Emeritus at the Institute of Marine Science at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Water tests have not picked up any evidence of elevated radiation in U.S. Pacific waters since the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan that crippled the Fukushima plant, according to the article.