Several states have reported finding Iodine-131 in surface water (e.g., lakes, rivers, and reservoirs) and rain water. What does this mean for the public’s health?
Highly sensitive radiation monitors operated by EPA and others have detected very low levels of radioactive material in the air in the United States. These levels are consistent with estimated releases from the damaged nuclear reactors.
These findings were expected, given the sensitivity of our monitors and the fact that radioactive material is known to travel in the atmosphere. Federal, state, and local authorities will continue to monitor levels.
Will contaminated rainwater hurt me? Is it okay for my kids to play in the rain?
The very low levels of radioactive material currently being measured in surface water and rain water are far below those of public health concern.
Is it okay for my pet to drink the rainwater?
Drinking rainwater contaminated with radioactive material at the levels currently being detected is unlikely to harm your pet.
Since contaminated rain may have fallen in my area, is it okay to eat food from my garden or use rain water to irrigate it?
Yes. Keep in mind that it is always a good idea to wash food from your garden before you eat it.
Are there any groups of people that should be especially sensitive to radiation?
Infants, pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding are particularly sensitive to radiation. However, levels being measured now are still many times below the risk for even these groups, even for people who drink rainwater. Drinking water levels are many times below this. At this time, there is no need to take extra precautions with regard to drinking water.
Is it okay to take a shower or bath? Swim in a pool? In a river or lake?
Showering, bathing, or swimming in water with the amount of radioactive material that is currently being measured will not harm your health.
Should I drink bottled water instead of tap water?
At this time, there is no reason to switch to bottled water. State and local authorities will provide information for your community if this situation changes.
Should I be testing my water?
At this time, there is no need to take extra precautions with regard to drinking water.
States and the federal government routinely conduct water monitoring for safety and are working to ensure that drinking water does not pose a health risk to people in the US.
Is this likely to be a long-term problem?
Given the uncertainty related to the nuclear reactors in Japan, we don’t know how levels of radiation currently seen in surface water and rain water will change in the immediate time period. However, we do know that Iodine-131 disappears relatively quickly in the environment.
Who can I contact for the best information about my community?
The best source of information about your community is your local drinking water program or department, or your state environmental protection division or program.
Content source: Radiation Studies Branch (RSB), Division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects (EHHE), National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH), Coordinating Center for Environmental Health and Injury Prevention (CCEHIP)
LATEST RESULTS UPDATED DAILY
Scientists Say NO SAFE LEVEL of Radiation
According to the National Academy of Sciences, there are no safe doses of radiation. Decades of research show clearly that any dose of radiation increases an individual’s risk for the development of cancer.
“There is no safe level of radionuclide exposure, whether from food, water or other sources. Period,” said Jeff Patterson, DO, immediate past president of Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Exposure to radionuclides, such as iodine-131 and cesium-137, increases the incidence of cancer. For this reason, every effort must be taken to minimize the radionuclide content in food and water.”
The father of Health Physics, Dr. Karl Morgan stated, “There is no safe level of exposure and there is no dose of radiation so low that the risk of a malignancy is zero”
“Consuming food containing radionuclides is particularly dangerous. If an individual ingests or inhales a radioactive particle, it continues to irradiate the body as long as it remains radioactive and stays in the body,”said Alan H. Lockwood, MD, a member of the Board of Physicians for Social Responsibility. …the FDA and EPA must enforce existing regulations and guidelines that address radionuclide content in our food supply here at home.”
EPA Statement on Rainwater Results
Elevated levels of radioactive material in rainwater have been expected as a result of the nuclear incident after
the events in Japan since radiation is known to travel in the atmosphere – precipitation data collected by EPA in
the states of California, Idaho and Minnesota have seen elevated levels of radiation in recent precipitation
In all cases these are levels above the normal background levels historically reported in these areas.
While short-term elevations such as these do not raise public health concerns – and the levels seen in rainwater
are expected to be relatively short in duration – the U.S. EPA has taken steps to increase the level of monitoring
of precipitation, drinking water, and other potential exposure routes to continue to verify that.
EPA’s “About the Rainwater Data”
EPA scientists routinely test precipitation samples from more than 30 sites in the U.S. The stations submit
precipitation samples to the EPA lab as rainfall, snow or sleet occurs. Under routine circumstances, samples are
composited and analyzed by EPA scientists monthly. In response to the Japanese nuclear incident, gamma
analyses are being performed on the precipitation samples as they’re received.
It may take up to five days for results because of the number of samples being directed to the laboratory. This is
to ensure the proper analysis and quality assurance measures takes place before the results are released.
EPA expects to see radioisotopes consistent with the Japanese nuclear incident during sample analysis. EPA
expects the measured levels to be extremely low as this air mass disperses across our planet. All results are in
picocuries per liter (pCi/L). A picocurie is one trillionth of a curie.
EPA’s “About the Milk Data”
As part of our efforts to ensure that there is no public health concern in the U.S. related to radiation exposure, EPA routinely samples cow’s milk at more than 30 stations every three months.
EPA has accelerated our quarterly milk sampling across the nation to collect the samples immediately. This action is precautionary, to make sure that we are gathering as much data as possible, informing our scientists and the public.
The milk samples are analyzed by gamma spectrometry, looking for fission products such as iodine-131 (I-131), barium-140 (Ba-140), and cesium-137 (Cs-137), which could become present in the event of a nuclear accident. All results are measured in picocuries per liter (pCi/L). A picocurie is one trillionth of a curie.