Clarifying the Issues at West Lake Landfill

The West Lake Landfill has been the focus of worry for many residents in the St. Louis area, but experts say there is little risk associated with the radioactive waste that has been stored at the location since 1943.

Scientists say that the majority of the radiation detected coming from the landfill is small, with the vast amount alpha particles which cannot penetrate through any dense material, including human skin. The only way these particles can do damage is internally, so when they are stopped at the skin they are rendered harmless.

The minute amounts of gamma rays which can pierce skin do not pose more than a tiny risk, similar to the risk of driving a car.

According to calculations made by the International Commission on Radiological Protection, the amounts of radiation which have been detected over the years by the EPA at the surface of West Lake is truly tiny. A person would need to ingest more than an ounce of the material to receive the same amount of radiation that a full-body CT scan delivers. According to the National Research Council, a CT scan’s risk is about 1 in 1,000 to cause cancer.

In addition, those levels are the highest at West Lake Landfill. Most of the radiation levels are much smaller, requiring closer to 4 ounces or more to equal the radiation exposure of a CT scan.
The following video debunks a few of the myths surrounding the dangers of the West Lake Landfill:

For more information about this important subject please read “Misplaced fears? Radiation risks from West Lake, Coldwater Creek low, say experts.”