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Officials have noted that the levels found in the food and water are not dangerous, but need to be banned because they are above government limits

Japan's 9.0-magnitude earthquake on March 11 has left plenty of destruction in its wake including tsunami waves, nuclear problems, and a death toll that could exceed 18,000

While troubles with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex in particular have become manageable, the World Health Organization (WHO) has pointed out a potentially harmful side effect of the radiation in Japan: contaminated food.

Recent reports have noted that radiation levels in Japan "remain safe," but WHO worries that radioactive particles have contaminated food and water in areas near and around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.  

"Quite clearly it's a serious situation," said Peter Cordingley, spokesman for WHO's regional office for the Western Pacific. "It's a lot more serious than anybody thought in the early days when we thought that this kind of problem can be limited to 20 to 30 kilometers. It's safe to suppose that some contaminated produce got out of the contamination zone."

In response, Japan has stopped the sale of spinach from the Ibaraki Prefecture and raw milk from the Fukushima Prefecture due to radioactive iodine and cesium found in both. Locally grown crops have been banned as well.  

"From reports I have heard so far, it seems that the levels of radioactive iodine and cesium in milk and some foodstuffs are significantly higher than government limits," said Jim Smith, a specialist in earth and environmental science's at Portsmouth University. "This doesn't mean that consumption of these products is necessarily an immediate threat, as limits are set so that foodstuffs can be safely consumed over a fairly long period of time. Nevertheless, for foodstuffs which are found to be above limits, bans on sale and consumption will have to be put in place in the affected areas."

In addition, the health ministry of Japan has warned those near the plant to avoid drinking tap water as well, which contains high levels of radioactive iodine.  

Officials have noted that the levels found in food and water are not dangerous, but need to be banned if they are above government limits. Food imported from Japan will be monitored.

The ban will likely affect farmers who depend on income generated from both prefectures.



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Iodine 131 has a short half life
By nafhan on 3/21/2011 11:51:10 AM , Rating: 2
Half life of iodine 131 (which I think is the more dangerous of the compounds mentioned above) is about 8 days. So, wait a week and radiation should be within the conservative government required levels.




RE: Iodine 131 has a short half life
By MGSsancho on 3/21/2011 11:54:05 AM , Rating: 4
normally about five half-lives are sufficient to remove most radiation so wait 40 days if your paranoid.


RE: Iodine 131 has a short half life
By MeesterNid on 3/21/2011 1:13:08 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sure that's a fine advice, but my milk goes bad in waaaay less than 40 days...not to mention the spinach.


RE: Iodine 131 has a short half life
By mianmian on 3/21/2011 2:03:36 PM , Rating: 3
Then do not milk the cow in 40 days. :)


RE: Iodine 131 has a short half life
By Iridium130m on 3/21/2011 2:09:53 PM , Rating: 2
ugh, the poor cows!


By Smartless on 3/21/2011 2:50:17 PM , Rating: 3
Yeah imagine if you had to hold it for 40 days. And cows randomly start exploding across northern Japan. Terrorists suspected.

In any case, at least Japan doesn't export a whole lot of their crops. I just hope our aid reaches them since North Japan supplies a lot of the country's food.


RE: Iodine 131 has a short half life
By boobo on 3/21/2011 2:47:19 PM , Rating: 2
Ah, but your milk hasn't been nuclear-pasteurized ;)


By Omega215D on 3/23/2011 8:08:27 PM , Rating: 2
The expiration date on that should rival those of Twinkies!


RE: Iodine 131 has a short half life
By Ammohunt on 3/21/2011 2:45:02 PM , Rating: 2
Not to mention you would have to have eaten enough of the radioactive food to experience a build up in the body to see any noticable negative effect.


RE: Iodine 131 has a short half life
By boobo on 3/21/2011 2:52:58 PM , Rating: 2
Or any noticable positive side effects, like getting nuclear-Popeye powers.


By Ammohunt on 3/21/2011 3:52:36 PM , Rating: 2
that would be cool! Giant ants FTW!


By Omega215D on 3/23/2011 8:09:03 PM , Rating: 2
Jolly Green Giant!


RE: Iodine 131 has a short half life
By drycrust3 on 3/21/2011 4:13:36 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
a build up in the body to see any noticable negative effect.

That you would be so lucky that the negative effects are noticeable now, e.g. your hair starts to fall out next week.
The far more likely scenario is that your kids will have birth defects, go to school with lots of other kids with similar defects, you and the other parents are too exhausted from cancer treatment to to stand and cheer at their sports events, and you will have a government that has done an inquiry and found it wasn't related to the radiation.


RE: Iodine 131 has a short half life
By futrtrubl on 3/21/2011 5:36:12 PM , Rating: 2
Then I suggest you don't get a CT scan, since that's the amount of radiation you would get from these products if you ate them for a YEAR!


By Solandri on 3/21/2011 5:49:59 PM , Rating: 2
You're correct, the amount of radioactivity they're finding on food is small enough that eating it for a year would give you about the same dose as a CT scan. That would be about 1/20th the lowest measured dose definitively linked to a cancer, and about 1/200th the dose where you begin to exhibit symptoms like hair falling out.

However, OP is correct that birth defects are a much higher concern, since a developing blastocyst (pre-embryo) is much more susceptible to damage from radiation. Pregnant women and women planning to become pregnant soon should definitely take these food prohibitions very seriously.


RE: Iodine 131 has a short half life
By Solandri on 3/21/2011 5:34:44 PM , Rating: 2
It's not the iodine you really need to worry about. As you said, wait a few weeks and it's mostly gone.

The problem is the Cesium-137. 30 year half-life, beta emitter which has a decay product which is a gamma emitter with a 2.5 minute half life. So for all practical purposes, it's a beta + gamma emitter with a 30 year half-life. And it's produced in a bit less than half the quantity of iodine-131. The stuff is nasty - used in medical radiotherapy equipment and pernicious if it gets out.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goi%C3%A2nia_accident

Fortunately it's not airborne like iodine, but it is water soluble. It's unknown yet how much of it got out - I haven't seen any reports beyond "radioactive iodine and cesium were detected". In fact that's all this report says about it too.

The other main radioactive product of note, strontium-90, generally needs some sort of fire to carry it away from the plant. So hopefully we won't be seeing that.

That said, the legal limits for radioactivity on food are set assuming a year's consumption of the contaminated food. So a few days or even weeks of consumption shouldn't be dangerous. Catching it this early and pulling the food off out of stores is a preventative measure, not a response to an imminent threat to people's health.


RE: Iodine 131 has a short half life
By nafhan on 3/22/2011 9:56:59 AM , Rating: 2
I remember reading about the GoiĆ¢nia thing. People found the Cesium and were rubbing it on themselves so they would glow in the dark, etc... terrible.

On a related note, don't know if you saw this, but it's an excellent visual comparison of radiation amounts from numerous sources by the XKCD guy: xkcd.com/radiation


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