WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration say that very low levels of radiation have turned up in a sample of milk from Washington state. But federal officials say consumers should not worry.
The FDA said such findings are to be expected in the coming days because of the nuclear crisis in Japan, and that the levels are expected to drop relatively quickly.
Results from a March 25 milk sample taken in Spokane, Wash., show levels of radioactive Iodine-131 that are still 5,000 times below levels of concern set by the FDA, including levels set for infants and children.
Trace amounts of the radioactive isotope, Iodine-131, were detected. The Spokane Regional Health District said it agrees with numerous agencies that it is not necessary that the public take any precautionary action.
It is unclear where the March 25th sample came from, a grocery store, a processing plant, or a dairy. But health experts are quick to bottle up any alarm. The level of radioactive Iodine-131 was 5 thousand times below the levels of concern set by the FDA.
We also know that iodine has a very short half life of 8 days, says WA Sec. of Health Mary Selecky. And the level detected in milk and milk products is so little, it will disappear in days.
Yet with dairy products being the second largest commodity produced in Washington state, radiation of any amount raises a few eyebrows.
This is obviously an issue of concern with us because in our industry, the quality and safety of our dairy products are the top priority, says Blair Thompson , consumer communications manager of the Washington Dairy Products Commission.
Thompson says federal agencies have been monitoring radiation in milk through random sampling since the cold war.
Health experts believe radiation from Japan got into our milk through the food chain.
It landed on feed stalks that were consumed by animals and therefore got transferred into milk, says Thompson.
The minuscule amounts of radiation were detected as part of EPA monitoring nationwide and are nearly 5,000 times below what the FDA considers to be of public health concern. According to chief advisors of EPA and FDA, a pint of milk at these levels would expose an individual to less radiation than would a five hour airplane flight.
The EPA said it is increasing the level of nationwide monitoring of milk, precipitation and drinking water following the crisis at the Japanese nuclear power plant.
Washington Governor Chris Gregoire said tests performed by the Environmental Protection Agency confirm that Washington milk is safe to drink.
In a press release from Washington State Senator Lisa Brown she said people in Spokane should use their own judgment in how they respond to the news. She goes on to say it is important to keep in mind that the level detected Wednesday is many orders of magnitude below that which would pose a threat to human health, including infants.
Sen. Lisa Brown's statement:
After the disaster in Japan, many of us are understandably on heightened alert about the possibility of exposure to radiation. Today's news about the infinitely small level of radiation in milk in Spokane is bound to trigger these concerns.
People in Spokane should use their own judgment in how they respond to the news, but it's important to keep in mind that the level detected today is many orders of magnitude below that which would pose a threat to human health, including infants.
I am committed to continuing to work with our federal, state and local health partners to ensure that citizens in our area remain fully informed of the most scientifically accurate data regarding radiation testing in Spokane County and our state.
Gov. Gregoire's statement:
Test performed by the Environmental Protection Agency confirm that Washington milk is safe to drink. A screening sample of milk taken from Spokane on March 25 detected 0.8 pCi/L of iodine-131, which is more than 5,000 times lower than levels that would signal concern. This morning I spoke with the chief advisors for both the EPA and the FDA and they confirmed that these levels are minuscule and are far below levels of public health concern, including for infants and children.
According to them, a pint of milk at these levels would expose an individual to less radiation than would a five hour airplane flight.
Since the situation in Japan we have been monitoring for radiation. We will continue our monitoring and work closely with the EPA, FDA, and CDC. At no point have detection levels come close to levels of concern.
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