Radiation spreads to vegetables, milk and water at Fukushima

In Breaking News, Radiation on March 21, 2011 at 3:15 AM

This is the chain of events about radiation in food (local time):

Thursday, March 17.

The Health Ministry said that iodine levels slightly above the limit were detected Thursday in Fukushima prefecture. On Friday, levels were about half that benchmark, and by Saturday they had fallen further.

Earlier, the ministry said tiny amounts of the iodine were found Friday in tap water in Tokyo and five other prefectures. The ministry says the amounts did not exceed government safety limits. But tests on water, which for decades were only done once a year, usually show no iodine.

Outside Fukushima, the highest reading was less than a third of the allowable limit.


Slight amounts of radioactive iodine have been detected in tap water in Tokyo, its vicinity and most prefectures neighboring Fukushima, the government said the same day (saturday).

While the substance was found in Tochigi, Gunma, Niigata, Chiba and Saitama prefectures as well as Tokyo, traces of cesium have been also found in tap water in Tochigi and Gunma, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology said, adding the levels would not affect human health even if ingested.

Tochigi, Gunma and Niigata prefectures border Fukushima Prefecture.

The education ministry said 77 becquerels of iodine was found per kilogram of water in Tochigi, 2.5 becquerels in Gunma, 0.62 becquerels in Saitama, 0.79 becquerels in Chiba, 1.5 becquerels in Tokyo and 0.27 becquerels in Niigata, against an intake limit of 300 becquerels.

The amount of cesium per kilogram of water was 1.6 becquerels in Tochigi and 0.22 in Gunma, against the limit of 200 becquerels set by the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan.

The Gunma prefectural government said it had detected the substances for the first time since it began testing tap water for radioactive materials in 1990.


Friday, March 18.

WHO, the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system, publishs an eight pages document about information on radioactivity and health actions to take in case of being exposed.

Officials in Japan’s 47 prefectures have been asked to test agricultural products, seafood and drinking water for possible contamination to prevent tainted grains, milk, vegetables, meat and eggs from being consumed, Kumiko Tanaka, an official at the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, said March 18.


Saturday, March 19.

Tainted milk was found 30 kilometers (18 1/2 miles) from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and spinach was collected as far as 100 kilometers (65 miles) to the south, almost halfway to Tokyo.

But Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano stressed to reporters Saturday afternoon that the levels were not extremely high: A person who consumed these products continuously for a year, he said, would take in the same amount of radiation as that of a single CT scan.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that equates to 7 millisieverts, more than double the 3 millisieverts that a person in an industrialized country is typically exposed to in a year.

Health effects would become more evident, he said, if such products were taken in daily for a lifetime. Edano said high radiation levels were not systemic for all spinach and milk tested, and that more data would be collected and analyzed under the Japanese health ministry’s watch to help determine what steps to take next.

The Fukushima prefecture, or province, is just to the northeast of Tokyo. According to the prefecture’s website, Fukushima plays an important role in supplying food, not only to Tokyo, but also to the nation. The prefecture is Japan’s fourth-largest farmland area and ranks among the top producer of fruits, vegetables, rice, tobacco and raw silk. The favorable climate lends itself to an active agricultural industry that includes livestock farming.

The website also states that the prefecture’s 159 kilometer-long coastline is home to a thriving fishing and seafood processing industry, and the area’s haul of fish is among Japan’s largest.

Jim Walsh, CNN consultant and international security expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, warned that should a reactor suffer a meltdown and radiation reach ground water, the situation would be much worse, as it would be impossible to tell where the contamination starts and stops.


Edano said spinach and milk were only products found with abnormally high levels of radioactive material but the government was considering comprehensive tests at farms away from the plant. Food safety inspectors said the amount of iodine-131 found in the tested milk was five times the level deemed safe. In spinach it was more than seven times higher. The spinach also contained slightly higher amounts of cesium-137. Iodine-131 can accumulate in thyroid and cause cancer. Cesium-137 damages cells and leads to an increased risk of cancer.


The government didn’t say how the milk and spinach became contaminated, making it difficult to assess the risks, Lam Ching-wan, a chemical pathologist at the University of Hong Kong School of Medicine, said by telephone.

They should seriously think about restricting any agricultural products in that area,” he said. “It seems that the whole ecosystem could be affected, so they shouldn’t take any chances.”

One millisievert, a measure of radioactivity levels, in a liter of milk consumed by a six-year-old child would increase the risk of cancer by 0.017 percent, Lam said. A full-body CT scan would produce exposure of 12 millisieverts, according to the World Health Organization.

Japan will check the source of contaminated milk and spinach and will recall the products that show higher than standard radiation levels, Kyodo News said, citing Kohei Ohtsuka, vice minister of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

People living within 30 kilometers (19 miles) of the Fukushima plant should wear masks and long sleeves and stay out of the rain, Japan’s nuclear safety agency said yesterday.



We can see that the Japanese government was aware of the fact that poisonous radionuclides were leaking to water and spreading over vegetables when it issued a command to officials in the 47 prefectures of Japan on Friday. By Thursday they knew that tap water in Tokyo and other five prefectures contained radioactive iodine.

Sadly, they waited for two days to admit publicly these data, and more sad, they didn’t follow the World Health Organization requests on Thursday (they too knew something) to protect growing vegetables and animal fodder, bring livestock in from pasture or at least (because of destruction by earthquake and tsunami) to avoid consumption of locally produced milk or vegetables and fishing.

Again and again the Japanese government is hiding relevant information to the people, and acting after the events, not before them. The consequences are that Japanese people are receiving more radiation than supposed.

More bad news are people reporting there is insuficcient food in the area, so there are no choices to eat or not local food. Meanwhile, Ground Self Defense Forces own enough CH-47 Chinook helicopters to send food or evacuate the rest of people staying in the 30 kilometers exclusion zone.

Worse news are that experts and officials are saying even now things like:

that radiation decreases rapidly as one moves away. The reason is a simple rule of geometry called the inverse square law. That law means that someone standing one kilometer from a gamma radiation source will receive just one one-millionth the dose absorbed by anyone sitting on the reactor.

As for the steam and smoke seen rising from the site — the “plume” that has caused so much worry — it, too, can carry particles that emit alpha, beta and gamma radiation. THE WASHINGTON POST

The problem is this data is true in a laboratory, but in real world, the heat of the reactor or the spent fuel rod pools makes these particles rise and fall kilometers away of the original point.

Even worse, the heavy radionuclides like plutonium can move far than expected. I have found an old report saved long time ago in my hard disk about how colloids (tiny particles) can trap electrostatically the radioactive elements and transport them long distances giving time.

I presume that the zone could stay heavy contaminated in future, especially if the reactors are buried at last.


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