PRESS RELEASE: March 29, 2011
Monitoring for Increased Levels of Radioactive Material in US
As a result of the incident with the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, highly sensitive radiation monitors operated by EPA are detecting very low levels of airborne radioactive material in the United States. Expected and consistent with estimates of the releases from the damaged nuclear reactors, the current levels are far below that which would be of public health concern.
“Once again we see how small our world can be,” said Rose Puelle, PhD, director of the Public Health Preparedness division of the Hunterdon County Department of Health. “Like during the pandemic of 2009, a health threat anywhere around the world can become something we need to watch closely right here. The most important thing early on and throughout a crisis is to be sure you get your information from credible sources such as the Centers for Disease Control or the EPA. Today, with so many outlets delivering news and opinions, the risk of misinformation has never been higher. Too many times, that begins a cycle of rumor that can lead to unnecessary anxiety and panic.”
The EPA also reports that several states including Pennsylvania and Massachusetts are seeing elevated levels of radiation in rainwater following recent precipitation events. While these readings are above levels historically reported in these areas, they are still about 25 times below the level of concern where such water would be used as a sole source over a short period of time, even for infants and pregnant or breastfeeding women, who are the most sensitive to radiation.
While short-term elevations such as these do not raise public health concerns – and the levels seen in rainwater are expected to be relatively short in duration – the EPA is increasing its level of monitoring of precipitation, drinking water, and other potential exposure routes to continue to verify that no public health threat develops.
At this time, there continues to be no indication for anyone in the United States to take potassium iodine or switch to bottled water on the basis of the events in Japan.
“Even though this current crisis is not directly confronting us, it should make all of us pause to consider how important it is to have a personal shelter-in-place plan and an evacuation plan worked out for our families,” said Puelle. “Each and every near disaster is a reminder to do what you can now to always be prepared. That way, you can help yourself and even be ready to help others when the time comes.”
For more information about preparedness, visit the county health department website at www.co.hunterdon.nj.us/health/bioterrorism.htm. Additional information about the current radiation crisis can be found at the websites of the EPA www.epa.gov/japan2011/; the CDC http://emergency.cdc.gov/radiation/isotopes/iodine131surfacewater.asp; and USA.gov www.usa.gov/Japan2011.shtml.