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Radioactive Material from Japan found in Hawaii Milk

More radiation from the Japan nuclear disaster has made its way to United States milk. This time, for the radioactive isotope of strontium, said Forbes. The dangerous isotope was detected in a milk sample from Hilo, Hawaii, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“We have completed our first strontium milk sample analysis and found trace amounts of strontium-89 in a milk sample from Hilo, Hawaii. The level was approximately 27,000 times below the Derived Intervention Level (DIL) set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA),” EPA said in a statement, wrote Forbes. EPA found 1.4 picoCuries per liter of strontium-89 in the sample taken on April 4, said Forbes.

Of note, the EPA tests the milk that the FDA regulates and it is the FDA’s DIL that revealed 4,400 pCi/L for strontium-90. It is unclear if there is a different DIL measurement for Sr-89. The EPA’s Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) for Sr-89 in drinking water is 20 pCi/L.

Sr-89 and Sr-90 are both man-mad isotopes of strontium and are, said Forbes, some of the most dangerous products resulting from nuclear fission—such as what was seen at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Both isotopes are so-called “bone-seekers,” chemicals similar to calcium that look for bone and marrow and are carcinogenic, said Forbes. Children and fetuses are at significant risk from these elements.

Earlier this month, we wrote that radioactive material that likely originated from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was detected in milk in Arkansas, Arizona, and Vermont, as well as in drinking water in several U.S. cities. The Fukushima Daiichi plant was damaged by the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11.

The April 4 samples containing SR-89 from Hilo previously contained cesium-134 and cesium-137, according to the EPA; more cesium was discovered on April 13, wrote Forbes.

Concerns about radiation from Japan prompted the FDA to halt the import of produce and dairy products from areas of Japan near the damaged reactors, and to screen seafood and other products imported from that country. The EPA also stepped up monitoring of radiation in air and water here.

As we’ve reported, trace amounts of radiation from Japan have been detected in air and rainwater in several U.S. states including Alaska, Alabama, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Vermont, South Carolina, and Washington. Traces of radioactive iodine-131 also turned up in samples of milk in Spokane, Washington and San Luis Obispo County, California.

The EPA also detected the radioactive material iodine-131 in drinking water samples from 13 more U.S. cities. In all cases, the levels of iodine-131 detected were below 1 picocuries per liter; the EPA’s maximum contaminant level in drinking water is 3 picocuries per liter. Iodine-131 was also detected in milk samples taken in several states and milk samples from Phoenix, Arizona and Los Angeles, California, contained iodine-131 at levels roughly equal to the maximum contaminant level permitted by EPA. Cesium-137 was also detected in milk taken from a cow in Montpelier, Vermont. The levels of cesium-137 were measured at 1.9 picocuries per liter and marks the first time since the start of the crisis that cesium-137 was found in U.S. milk. Cesium-137 accumulates in the body’s soft tissues, where it increases risk of cancer, according to EPA.

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