RADIATION TRACES FOUND IN U.S. MILK
By Stephen Power
Wall Street Journal
March 31, 2011
The U.S. government said Wednesday that traces of radiation have been found in milk in Washington state, but said the amounts are far too low to trigger any public-health concern.
The Environmental Protection Agency said a March 25 sample of milk produced in the Spokane, Wash., area contained a 0.8 pico curies per literlevel of iodine-131, which it said was less than one five-thousandth of the safety safety guideline set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The EPA said it increased monitoring after radiation leaked from Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. It expects more such findings in coming days, but in amounts "far below levels of public-health concern, including for infants and children."
Iodine-131 has a half-life of about eight days, meaning levels should fade quickly. "These findings are a minuscule amount compared to what people experience every day," the agency said.
For example, a person would be exposed to low levels of radiation on a round-trip cross-country flight, watching television, and even from construction materials," Patricia Hansen, an FDA senior scientist, said in a written statement distributed by the EPA late Wednesday.
The FDA last week said it will block imports of Japanese milk products and certain other foods produced in the area around the Fukushima nuclear facility because of concerns about radiation contamination.
An EPA spokesman said that while the agency isn't certain that the iodine-131 found in the sampled milk came from Fukushima, its discovery is "consistent with" what the agency knows has been released so far from the damaged nuclear reactors there.
"We know we don't normally see iodine-131 in milk. We know there's been an incident where it's been released," the spokesman said. "And now we're seeing it."
Dairy industry officials stressed that products remained safe.
"Consumer safety is the highest priority for dairy farmers and dairy foods companies, and today's report by EPA and FDA confirms that our nation's dairy products continue to be safe to eat and drink," said Rob Vandenheuvel, general manager of the Ontario, Calif.-based Milk Producers Council, which represents dairies in Southern and Central California. "We recognize the concerns of our consumers, and the U.S. dairy industry will continue to work closely with federal and state government agencies to ensure that we maintain a safe milk supply."
JAPAN RADIATION FOUND IN MILK SAMPLE; U.S. STEPS UP MONITORING
By Kim Chipman
March 30, 2011
Radiation “far below” levels that pose a risk to humans was found in milk from California and Washington, the first signs Japan’s nuclear accident is affecting U.S. food, state and Obama administration officials said.
The U.S. is stepping up monitoring of radiation in milk, rain, and drinking water, the Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration said yesterday in a statement.
Radioactive iodine-131 was found in a March 25 milk sample from Spokane that is more than 5,000 times lower than risk levels set by the FDA, according to the agencies. The agencies said the amount was “far below levels of public health concern,” including for infants and children.
“Radiation is all around us in our daily lives, and these findings are a minuscule amount compared to what people experience every day,” Patricia Hansen, an FDA senior scientist, said in the statement.
Officials in California, the biggest milk-producing state, detected trace amounts of radioactive iodine-131 in a milk sample collected March 28, the state department of public health said. The reading was was also 5,000 times below the risk levels, department spokesman Mike Sicilia said in a telephone interview yesterday.
The U.S. is tracking radiation from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power station, which was crippled by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that knocked out power needed to keep nuclear fuel rods cool and undamaged.
'VERY, VERY LOW'
The amount of iodine-131 in the Washington milk was 0.8 picocurie per liter, according to the agencies. A picocurie is one-trillionth of a curie, a measurement of a radiological dose. Similar findings are likely in the coming days, the agencies said.
Ira Helfand, a director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, said the amount found in the milk is “very, very low” and wouldn’t require anyone drinking it to take potassium iodine pills, an antidote to prevent thyroid damage in the event of dangerous exposure.
While any exposure “raises the risk of getting cancer,” the levels reported in Spokane pose “very, very, very low health consequences” Helfand said in a telephone interview from Springfield, Massachusetts.
“I’m much more worried about the situation for people in Japan,” he said.
Japanese government officials asked farmers to keep cows and cattle in barns as radioactive contamination of milk spread from Fukushima prefecture, north of Tokyo. Japan restricted raw-milk shipments from Fukushima and neighboring Ibaraki prefecture after tainted products were found in random testing.
As many as 99 products, including milk and vegetables such as spinach, were found contaminated in Tokyo and five regions to its north and east as of March 26, according to a statement on the Japanese health ministry’s website.
In the U.S., elevated levels of radioactive material in rainwater were reported in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, according to the EPA. Radiation levels have been “very low,” pose no health concern, and were to be expected, according to the agency’s website.
The EPA said it’s reviewing the data from both states. The levels are above normal background amounts reported for the areas, according to the agency.
Iodine-131 has a half-life of eight days, and the level found in milk and dairy products is “expected to drop relatively quickly,” the agencies said.
Hansen said the radiation in Spokane is tiny compared with levels a person receives watching television or taking a round trip cross-country flight.
EPA BOOSTS RADIATION MONITORING, SAYS LEVELS ARE LOW
March 30, 2011
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday it is increasing its nationwide monitoring of radiation in milk, precipitation, drinking water, and other outlets in response to the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan.
The EPA already monitors radiation in those potential exposure routes through an existing network of monitoring stations across the country.
Results from a screening sample of milk taken March 25 in Spokane, Washington, detected radioactive iodine at a level 5,000 times lower than the limit set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the EPA said.
The I-131 isotope has a very short half-life of about eight days, the EPA said, so the level detected in milk and milk products is expected to drop relatively quickly.
The tests confirm that the milk is safe to drink, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire said.
"This morning I spoke with the chief advisers for both the EPA and the FDA and they confirmed that these levels are miniscule and are far below levels of public health concern, including for infants and children," Gregoire said in a statement.
"According to them, a pint of milk at these levels would expose an individual to less radiation than would a five-hour airplane flight."
FDA senior scientist Patricia Hansen also said the findings are "miniscule" compared to what people experience every day.
At least 15 states have reported radioisotopes from Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in air or water or both. No states have recommended that residents take potassium iodide, a salt that protects the thyroid gland from radioactive iodine.
Iodine-131 has been found in eastern states from Florida to Massachusetts as well as in western states like Oregon, Colorado, and California, according to sensors and officials in those states.
None of the levels poses a risk to public health, they said.
The Japanese plant has been leaking radiation since it was damaged in the earthquake and resulting tsunami earlier this month.
WORLD FOOD SUPPLIES MONITORED FOR RADIOACTIVITY
By Gretchen Goetz
Food Safety News
March 31, 2011
Governments are stepping up scrutiny of domestic food and water supplies as radioactive material spreads from the country's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday that it was increasing its nationwide monitoring of milk, precipitation, drinking water, and other potential sources of nuclear exposure.
So far, a sample of milk from Spokane, WA, showed minimal amount of radiation, although still 5,000 times lower than the level at which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires intervention.
"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," said the EPA and FDA in a joint statement.
Patricia Hansen, an FDA senior scientist, noted that, "Radiation is all around us in our daily lives, and these findings are a miniscule amount compared to what people experience every day. For example, a person would be exposed to low levels of radiation on a round trip cross country flight, watching television, and even from construction materials."
In Japan, on the other hand, radiation levels found in some foods in areas surrounding the damaged power plant have reached harmful levels.
The Japanese government has banned the distribution of raw milk and certain vegetables in Fukushima and 3 surrounding prefectures after tests detected harmful levels of radioactivity in these foods.
Two nuclear byproducts, iodine-131 and cesium-137, were found at varying levels in products grown in these regions, including spinach, broccoli and kakina, a local vegetable.
Data analysis of iodine levels in Japanese dairy and fresh produce from March 16-18 showed that the presence of radioactive iodine in food over that period was 5 times the acceptable level, according the FDA's Import Alert on Japanese foods.
Since that time, tests have shown somewhat lower levels of radiation in other Japanese vegetables.
The government's safety limit for iodine-131 is 2,000 becquerels per kilogram. For cesium-137, anything above 500 Bq/kg is considered dangerous.
This week, tests on wasabi from Fukushima showed an iodine-131 reading of 2500 Bq/kg, which surpasses the allowed concentration, and 340 Bq/kg of cesium, according to NPR.
And even among vegetables with levels of radiation not considered hazardous by the Japanese government, iodine-131 often succeeded 170Bg/kg, the level at which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends taking preventative measures.
Radioactive iodine does not last long in food. It has a half-life of eight days, meaning that it will decay to half its original amount in that time. However, "there is risk to human health if radioactive iodine in food is absorbed into the human body," according to the FDA.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), food containing iodine-131 must be eaten over a prolonged period of time in order for it to cause risks to humans. The element accumulates in the thyroid, and can increase the riskof thyroid cancer, especially in children.
Cesium-137 lingers much longer, with a half-life of 30 years. However, levels of radioactive cesium currently remain low relative to those of iodine in Japanese foods.
The FDA has already halted imports milk, fruits, and vegetable from the Japanese prefectures of Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki, and Tochigi, and is screening other foods imported from Japan, including seafood. Food from Japan accounts for less than 4 percent of all U.S. imports.
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