Thursday, March 31, 2011
EPA: Radioactive Iodine Exceeding Maximum Contaminant Levels for Drinking Water Found in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts ... But It's Safe
Forbes' blogger Jeff McMahon points out:
The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday reported finding elevated levels of iodine-131, a product of nuclear fission, in rainwater in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. The levels exceed the maximum contaminant level (MCL) permitted in drinking water, but EPA continues to assure the public there is no need for alarm:
“It is important to note that the corresponding MCL for iodine-131 was calculated based on long-term chronic exposures over the course of a lifetime – 70 years. The levels seen in rainwater are expected to be relatively short in duration,” the agency states in a FAQ that accompanied yesterday’s brief news release.
“In both cases these are levels above the normal background levels historically reported in these areas.”
EPA said it is receiving “verbal reports” of higher levels of radiation in rainwater samples from other states as well, and that Americans should continue to expect short-term contamination of rainwater as radioactive isotopes spread through the atmosphere from Japan.
“We continue to expect similar reports from state agencies and others across the nation given the nature and duration of the Japanese nuclear incident.”
The EPA also found radioactive iodine in milk in Washington State.
Fortunately. the half life of radioactive iodine is only 8.02 days. That means that the iodine loses half of its radioactivity within 8 days.
If you trust the EPA to tell you if radiation levels are unsafe, then carry on.
But if you do not trust the government to tell you the truth, and if you are afraid of radioactive exposure, you might consider stocking up on a little extra milk and water, and then letting each container of fluids sit for a couple of weeks on a shelf or in your refrigerator before drinking. That will greatly reduce the radioactivity caused by the iodine 131.
Specifically, every 8 days, the amount of radioactivity in the iodine 131 is reduced by half according to the general rule of radioactive half lives:
You'll have to find out current radioactive iodine levels to determine how long your beverages have to sit before the radioactive iodine falls to a level you consider safe.
Obviously, beverages packed before the Japanese earthquake are safe.
(Because radioactive cesium has a much longer half-life, a couple of weeks of storing fluids before drinking them obviously wouldn't do much for that material).
In addition, if you're still worried about exposure to radiation, you might want to note that some vitamins and herbs have been shown to be radioprotective.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a health professional, and this should not be taken as medical advice. Nothing contained herein is intended to diagnose or treat any condition. You should consult your doctor before making any decisions about whether or not to take any of the foods, herbs, supplements or substances mentioned herein.