The discovery of some slightly radioactive milk in Spokane, Wash., and San Luis Obispo, Calif., has rekindled fears that Americans will fall prey to harmful radiation from the damaged Japanese nuclear power plants.
But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration say amounts found so far have been "miniscule" compared to the levels of radiation consumers encounter everyday.
“Radiation is all around us in our daily lives, and these findings are a miniscule amount compared to what people experience every day. For example, a person would be exposed to low levels of radiation on a round trip cross country flight, watching television, and even from construction materials,” said Patricia Hansen, an FDA senior scientist.
State and local health officials agreed.
"I really want to reassure the public. It is safe to drink milk. It is safe to consume our dairy products," said Dr. Penny Borenstein of the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department.
The EPA and FDA say they have increased the level of nationwide monitoring of milk, precipitation, drinking water, and other potential exposure routes but so far have found nothing of significance.
EPA conducts radiological monitoring of milk under its RADNET program, while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has jurisdiction over the safety, labeling and identity of milk and milk products in interstate commerce. States have jurisdiction over those facilities located within their territory.
Results from a screening sample taken March 25 from Spokane, WA detected 0.8 pCi/L of iodine-131, which is more than 5,000 times lower than the Derived Intervention Level set by FDA.
These types of findings are to be expected in the coming days and are far below levels of public health concern, including for infants and children, the agencies said. Iodine-131 has a very short half-life of approximately eight days, and the level detected in milk and milk products is therefore expected to drop relatively quickly.