U.S. environmental and health regulators promised to step up radiation monitoring after traces of radioactive iodine-131 turned up in samples of milk in Spokane, Washington and San Luis Obispo County, California. According to a joint statement issued by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radiation levels in the milk tested were not high enough to impact human health. The agencies also noted that iodine-131 has a short half-life of just eight days, so even this low level is expected to dissipate quickly.
The higher radiation in the milk is likely the result of the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan. Reactors at the country’s Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station have been leaking radiation since being severely damaged in an earthquake and tsunami that hit the country earlier this month.
According to the Associated Press, EPA spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said the radiation detected in Spokane is different than what is normally found there.
“While there can be naturally occurring levels of radiation in milk â€” as there are in the air, at levels far below levels of concern â€” we don’t generally see this particular isotope as part of those background levels,” Gilfillan said. He added that the radiation most likely ended up in the milk after a cow ate grass or drank rainwater that contained it.
In response, the EPA said it will increase the level of nationwide radiation monitoring of milk, precipitation and drinking water.
As we’ve reported previously, Japan radiation has turned up in air and rainwater in several U.S. states including Alaska, Alabama, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Vermont, South Carolina, Washington and others. Experts continue to maintain that the levels of radiation being reported in the U.S. are far below levels considered hazardous.
Last week, the FDA halted the import of produce and dairy products from areas of Japan near the damaged reactors. 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.
Meanwhile, there seems to be no end is site for the Japan nuclear crisis. As we reported yesterday, Japanese officials said the seawater near the plant contains 3,335 times the normal amount of radioactive iodine, and radioactive plutonium has been found in soil outside the plant. Higher than normal levels of radiation have been found in vegetables, milk and tap water.
According to The Washington Post, the Japanese government may issue new evacuation orders because potentially dangerous radiation levels are spreading further from the damaged reactors. This after the International Atomic Energy Agency reported on Wednesday that Iitate Village, 25 miles northwest of the power plant, posted radiation levels â€œabout two times higherâ€ than levels at which the agency recommends evacuations. Right now, a mandatory evacuation zone extends to a 12 mile radius around the plant, though people living within an 18 mile radius have been encouraged to leave.