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.”
EPA is analyzing rainwater samples taken from 18 monitoring stations around the nation, promising to release results soon. It is stepping up sampling of rainwater, drinking water, and milk.
The Food and Drug Administration released a statement on milk Saturday:
At this time, theoretical models do not indicate that harmful amounts of radiation will reach the U.S. and, therefore, there is little possibility of domestic milk being contaminated as a result of grass or feed contamination in the U.S. FDA, together with other agencies, is carefully monitoring any possibility for distribution of radiation.”
EPA also maintains 140 air monitoring stations. Those have detected radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in five Western states: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Washington, and, as of yesterday, Nevada.
The isotopes detected in Western states have been found in minuscule amounts, officials say, much too small to threaten health. Scientists trace the isotopes to Japan because they are products of nuclear fission—iodine-131, xenon-133, and cesium-137.
“Unless you have an accident like this, you wouldn’t expect to see this. No doubt it’s from Japan,” Ted Hartwell, manager of the Desert Research Institute’s Community Environmental Monitoring Program, told theAssociated Press.