Fukushima Fallout: Low Levels of Radiation in US Milk, Contaminated Marine Life in Japan
Low levels of radiation have been found in milk in Washington and California, says the Daily Mail. The Environmental Protection Agency has announced that it is increasing its monitoring of radiation in milk, rain and drinking water, but the levels of radiation found do not seem to pose any dangers to public health.
Says the New York Times:
Radioactive materials in liquids are measured in pico-curies per liter, and the sample, taken March 25, showed a reading of 0.8 pico-curies, the agency said. Those numbers, it said, would have to be 5,000 times higher to reach the “intervention level” set by the Food and Drug Administration.
“These types of findings are to be expected in the coming days and are far below levels of public health concern, including for infants and children,” the environmental agency said.
Levels of iodine 131 entering the air can be very diluted, but if the iodine is deposited on grass eaten by cows, the cows will reconcentrate it in their milk by a factor of 1,000. This is mainly a concern with fresh milk, not for dairy products that are stored before consumption.
Iodine 131 has a half-life of eight days: after eight days, it loses half of its strength. So, iodine 131 from the Fukushima reactors (which were shut down on March 11) has already been through two half-lives, and “could easily be halved once or twice more again before the milk is consumed as cheese or yogurt.”
While milk products in the US seem to be safe, high levels of radiation have been detected in the waters off the coast of Fukushima, raising concerns about harm to marine life and the contamination of fish, shellfish and seaweed. Says that Guardian:
Tests on seawater near the nuclear power plant showed that levels of radioactive iodine reached 3,355 times the legal limit on Monday, one of several peaks in recent days that have fallen rapidly as radioactive substances decayed and were steadily diluted and dispersed by ocean currents.
Officials are watching levels of iodine-131 in seawater because although it has a half-life of eight days, meaning it is half as radioactive after that time, the substance builds up in seaweed, a common food in the Japanese diet. If consumed, radioactive iodine collects in the thyroid and can cause cancer.
According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), iodine-131 in seawater would soon be “of no concern,” provided that no more contaminated water is released into the sea water.
Also according to the IAEA, Japanese authorities have announced their first analyses of fish which were caught at the port of Choshi, in Chiba prefecture south of Fukushima. One out of five fish was found to be contaminated with a detectable level of caesium-137, which is a “far more persistent radioactive substance, though at a concentration that was far below safety limits for consumption.” A number of countries including Britain have started radiation testing on fish, shellfish and other fresh produce from Japan, or have imposed more extensive bans on products from the region.
The Daily Mail also reports that radiation from the Fukushima leak has been detected in 15 US states. Earlier this week, the EPA confirmed that radiation was found in air filters in Alabama and in rainwater in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.
In other words, we are all going to be living with the fallout from the Fukushima leak for some time.
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