The following information is provided to assist residents in the District of Columbia with any questions or concerns regarding the radiation situation at the Fukushima Nuclear Power plant in Japan.
Although low levels of radiation have been detected in some parts of the United States, there have not been any traces of radiation detected in the District of Columbia. Levels detected in other parts of the nation do not pose a health risk and there are no anticipated public health concerns at this time.
Are the levels we’re seeing in precipitation likely to lead to harmful levels in milk and/or drinking water?
While short-term events such as these do not raise public health concerns, the US EPA has taken steps to increase the level of monitoring of precipitation, drinking water, and other potential exposure routes.
Why are we beginning to see radioactive material in precipitation on the east coast as well as on the west coast?
EPA is beginning to receive verbal reports of elevated but trace levels of radioactive iodine in precipitation samples analyzed by State laboratories. EPA is analyzing their own RadNet samples at this time to confirm these reports.
Why is EPA sampling precipitation?
Sampling precipitation for radioactive contaminants during an emergency is one way to help public health officials ensure that food and water supplies are safe for the public.
In the event of a serious nuclear power plant accident, radioactive material may be released into the environment. Some of this radioactive material attaches itself to dust particles in the air and can be carried long distances in the wind. When these particles are caught in precipitation, e.g., rain or snow, they are deposited directly onto the ground. After landing on the ground, they may potentially contaminate drinking water sources and growing food supplies.
Does EPA test milk for radiation contamination?
EPA routinely samples cow milk at more than 30 stations every three months. Due to the incident in Japan, EPAS has accelerated our regularly scheduled milk sampling and will collect and analyze samples from sampling stations across the country immediately.
Why has EPA increased their milk sampling?
EPA’s existing milk sampling routine would have RadNet operators collect milk samples during the first week in April. Instead, their sampling stations across the nation will collect the samples immediately.
This action is precautionary; to make sure that EPA is gathering as much data as possible in order to inform EPA scientists and the public.
What levels of iodine/radioactive material in milk would make it unsafe for consumption?
FDA has set a Derived Intervention Level (DIL) for Iodine-131 of 170 Bq/kg in foods prepared for consumption. This level does not define a safe or unsafe level of exposure, but instead a level at which protective measures would be recommended to ensure that no one receives a significant dose. This guideline is based on very conservative assumptions regarding the percentage of the diet assumed to be contaminated as well as the amount of food consumed and the length of time an individual consumes contaminated food.
Is there any possibility of milk being contaminated as a result of cows eating contaminated grass or feed crop in the US?
At this time, theoretical models do not indicate that harmful amounts of radiation will reach the US and, therefore, there is little possibility of domestic milk being contaminated as a result of grass or feed contamination in the US FDA, together with other agencies, is carefully monitoring any possibility for distribution of radiation.
This guidance has been developed with available knowledge at the time it was written. DC DOH and DC EHC will update it as necessary with new guidance if more information becomes available.