Officials: Miniscule Levels of Radiation Found Last Week in Milk in Spokane

Federal officials and Gov. Chris Gregoire said Monday that the radiation levels found in the milk pose no health threat to Washington state.

By Brad Wong

Radiation that is 5,000 times lower than a level of concern set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administrion was detected in milk from Spokane last week, federal and state officials said Monday.

Radiation monitoring in the United States has been increased because of the earthquake and tsunami which struck Japan on March 11 and damaged that country’s nuclear facilities, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and FDA said in a joint statement.

After consulting with specialists, Gov. Chris Gregoire deemed the state milk as safe to drink. “This morning I spoke with the chief advisors for both the EPA and the FDA and they confirmed that these levels are miniscule and are far below levels of public health concern, including for infants and children,” she said in a statement.

“According to them, a pint of milk at these levels would expose an individual to less radiation than would a five hour airplane flight.”

The milk sample was taken on March 25 and was found to have 0.8 pCi/L of iodine-131, federal officials said.

They added that the findings were expected and could continue in the coming days. The level of radiation in milk is expected to drop quickly because Iodine-131’s half-life lasts about eight days, they said in their statement.

“Radiation is all around us in our daily lives, and these findings are a miniscule amount compared to what people experience every day,” Patricia Hansen, a senior scientist with the FDA said in a statement.

“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.”

State officials, Gregoire said, will continue to work with the federal government to monitor for radiation. “At no point have detection levels come close to levels of concern,” she said.

On March 21, the state Department of Health reported that radiation from Japan had been detected by an air monitor in Seattle. That radiation was so miniscule that it did not pose a health threat, officials said.

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