Japan Radiation Turns Up in Washington State

Concerns that radioactive contamination from Japan could impact the U.S. continued to grow, as another West Coast state reported small amounts of radiation in the air. Meanwhile, growing questions about the safety of food produced in Japan continue to fuel additional fears about radioactive contamination.

Small amounts of radiation that likely originated from the Japan nuclear crises have turned up in Washington State. However, officials there said the radiation -described as “miniscule” – does not pose a threat to human health.

The radiation was picked up by a Washington State Department of Health air monitor in Seattle. According to a statement issued by the health department, the positive results are consistent with findings reported by federal and Canadian partners, and by independent researchers. As expected, because of the distance from Japan and air mixing, radiation reaching Washington State is so diluted there is no health risk here, making protective action unnecessary, the statement said. Despite the small amounts of radiation detected, the state’s overall background radiation levels haven’t risen.

The Washington Department of Health is also advising people not to take potassium iodide. Only people who work in or around nuclear power plants during an emergency, or who live near such a plant and can’t get away, should take potassium iodide.

This is not the first time radiation from the Japanese nuclear disaster has turned up in the U.S. On Friday, for example, monitors at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in California detected extremely low levels of nuclear radiation coming from Japan. Again, officials say the low levels detected don’t pose a health risk. According to KVEC.com, the San Luis Obispo County health department is now testing air for radiation more frequently because of the events in Japan. It is now pulling samples every 48 hours, rather than once per week.

Even as officials tried to calm fears over radiation in the air, concerns about radioactive contamination in Japan-produced foods continued to mount. According to a BBC News report, the World Health Organization (WHO) is now saying that the food contamination in Japan is ‘more serious’ than first expected. As we reported yesterday, Japan has already banned several affected prefectures from shipping some foods, and in Fukushima prefecture, location of the stricken nuclear reactors, milk shipments have been banned. In some prefectures, radiation has turned up in tap water, and residents in those areas were being told to drink bottled water.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has stepped up radiation inspections of Japanese food imports. The agency is also checking food that may have passed through Japan. 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.

In addition to food, the FDA is also monitoring drug products manufactured in Japan for possible radioactive contamination, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Despite the stepped up scrutiny of Japanese imports, health officials continue to insist that such products pose a serious public health threat.

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