[ RadSafe ] Warning for infants to not consume water in tokyo

Min-Sook Kim msk02 at health.state.ny.us
Wed Mar 23 08:23:20 CDT 2011

The Japanese recommended limit of I-131 for infants (100 Bq/L) seems higher
than US drinking water standard (3pCi/L ; 0.111 Bq/L).


Warning for infants to not consume water in tokyo

Radiation levels in Tokyo tap water more than twice what is considered safe
for infants added to food safety woes Wednesday as rising smoke prompted a
new evacuation of workers trying to stabilize Japan's radiation-leaking
nuclear plant.

Another strong earthquake and aftershocks in Japan's northeast Wednesday
morning caused no further damage to the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant, a
Tokyo Electric Power Co. official said.

Radiation from the plant has seeped into vegetables, raw milk, the water
supply and even seawater in surrounding areas since a magnitude 9 quake and
killer tsunami crippled the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant nearly two weeks

Broccoli was added to a list of tainted vegetables Wednesday, and U.S.
officials announced a block on Japanese dairy and other produce from the
region. Japanese foods make up less than 4 percent of all U.S. imports, and
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said it expects no risk to the
U.S. food supply from radiation.

Tokyo Water Officials Urge Calm

Tokyo Water Bureau officials first began to see increased radiation levels
a few days after the power complex began to have problems. But now testing
has found the amount of iodine-131 is at 210 becquerels per liter, more
than twice the recommended limit of 100 becquerels per liter for infants.

That's a concern because babies' thyroid glands are most at risk of injury
from radioactive iodine, which can cause thyroid cancer. However, officials
urged calm, saying drinking small amounts of tap water was fine for babies,
and that the current level did not pose an immediate health risk to
children or adults.

"We advise against using the tap water for drinking and for making infant
formula for babies under 1 year old," said Shintaro Ishihara, Tokyo's

NPR's Richard Harris reported Tuesday that iodine-131 decays quickly — it
has a half-life of just eight days. That means that over the course of two
or three months, virtually all of it will be gone.

Smoke Billowing From No. 3

The new development affecting Japan's largest city, home to some 13 million
in the city center and 39 million in the greater Tokyo area, came as
nuclear officials struggled to stabilize all six reactor units at the
damaged power plant to the northeast.

In Depth

In a new setback, black smoke billowed from Unit No. 3, prompting a new
evacuation of the complex Wednesday afternoon, Tokyo Electric Power Co.
officials said.

"We don't know the reason" for the smoke, Hidehiko Nishiyama of the Nuclear
Safety Agency said.

The quake and tsunami that struck off the east coast March 11 knocked out
the plant's crucial cooling systems. Explosions and fires have erupted in
four of the plant's six reactors, leaking radioactive steam into the air.
Progress in cooling down the overheated facility has been intermittent,
disrupted by rises in radiation, elevated pressure in reactors and
overheated storage pools.

The plant operator had restored circuitry to bring power to all six reactor
units and turned on lights at Unit 3 late Tuesday for the first time since
the disaster a significant step toward restarting the cooling system.

It had hoped to restore power to cooling pumps at the unit within days, but
experts had warned the work included the risk of sparking fires as
electricity is restored through equipment potentially damaged in the

Tallying Human, Economic Tolls

Japan's government said Wednesday that the economic costs of the
catastrophic quake and tsunami could reach $309 billion. The damage to
housing, infrastructure and businesses in northeast Japan could cost
between 16 trillion yen and 25 trillion yen ($309 billion), according to
the Cabinet Office. Utilities have imposed power rationing, many factories
remain closed and key rail lines are impassable.

The national police agency says the death toll from the disasters has
exceeded 9,400, with more than 14,700 missing. Those tallies are likely to
overlap, but police officials estimate that the final figure will likely
exceed 18,000 deaths.

Tens of thousands of evacuees are living in temporary emergency shelters,
some of which were rattled by the latest aftershocks — one measuring
magnitude 6. For those who survived the March 11 quake, a simple door
slamming can cause a scare.

In one shelter, Tomoko Suenaga said she's upset that the government isn't
doing enough to help displaced people.

"I have to think, from now, what to do for my children. But I don't know
how. We must try," she said.

She and her family used to live just a mile and a half from the Fukushima
Dai-ichi nuclear complex. Now they are at a small shelter 60 miles away.

Min-Sook Kim, Ph.D., P.E.
New York State Department of Health

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