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Radiation from Damaged Japanese Nuclear Plant Turning Up in U.S.

Apr 28, 2011 | Parker Waichman LLP
Oil Spill Side Effect

Japan Nuclear Disaster

Radioactive material from the Japan nuclear disaster is turning up in air, milk and water in the U.S., nearly two months after a massive earthquake and tsunami damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.  In the latest development, radioactive strontium-89 (SR-89) has been detected in milk in Hilo, Hawaii.

The stontium-89 was detected in the Hawaii milk sample on April 4, and measured 1.4 picoCuries per liter.  According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that’s 27,000 times below the Derived Intervention Level set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  The EPA’s Maximum Contamination Level for Sr-89 in drinking water is 20 pCi/L.

According to a report from Forbes, SR-89 is among the most dangerous products of nuclear fission to human and animal health. It collects in bone and marrow, causes cancer, and is especially dangerous to children and fetuses.

EPA's Discovery Revealed

The SR-89 was found in the same Hawaii milk sample which was previously found to contain cesium-134 and cesium-137, Forbes said.  More cesium was found in a Hilo milk sample on April 13.

The EPA had previously detected the radioactive material iodine -131 in drinking water samples from several U.S. cities. These include: Oakridge, TN; Chattanooga, TN; Helena, MT; Columbia, PA; Cincinnati, OH; Pittsburgh, PA; East Liverpool, OH; Painesville, OH; Denver, CO; Detroit, MI; Trenton, NJ; Wareton, NJ; and Muscle Shoals, AL. In all of these cities, the levels of iodine-131 detected were below 1 picocuries per liter. The EPA’s maximum contaminant level for Iodine-131 in drinking water is 3 picocuries per liter.

Iodine-131 was also detected in milk samples taken in several states, including Phoenix, Arizona and Los Angeles, California.  Cesium-137 was also detected in milk taken from a cow in Montpelier, Vermont.

According to the EPA, Japan radiation detected in the U.S so far has not occurred at levels that pose any health threat.

Concerns about radiation from Japan have prompted the FDA to halt the import of produce and dairy products from areas of Japan near the damaged reactors, and is screening seafood and other products imported from that country. Less than 4 percent of the food imported into the U.S. comes from Japan. According to the FDA, the most common Japanese imports include seafood, snack foods and processed fruits and vegetables.

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