Update: Harmful radiation from Japan is not reaching the United States—no need for Americans to take potassium iodide
Posted By Peter Wehrwein On March 27, 2011
Minutes after I posted my article today about radiation from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant not reaching the United States in harmful amounts, I heard a news report about iodine-131 from the plant being detected in rainwater in Massachusetts.
Iodine-131 is a radioactive form of iodine. It’s a byproduct of the reaction that creates energy in a nuclear power plant. The Fukushima power plant has been emitting iodine-131 into the atmosphere.
Both are helpful and address issues ranging from the risk to pets who drink rainwater (“unlikely to harm your pet”)” to kids playing in the rain (current levels are “far below those of public health concern”) and switching to bottled water (“no need” at this time).
Here are some key points about the latest news:
Massachusetts officials say that until the Fukushima plant is brought under control, iodine-131 may continue to be detected in rainwater in the state but at levels significantly lower than any health concern.
After hearing the news about iodine-131 in the rain water, I spoke with Dr. Richard Zane, vice chair of the emergency department at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital and medical director for emergency preparedness for Partners Healthcare in Boston. My previous post today includes a question-and-answer with Zane. Here is what Dr. Zane said:
It is rainwater that is contaminated with iodine-131. When it gets mixed with groundwater, the levels will be so diluted that it will undetectable. Does it pose a health hazard? No. Does it pose a hazard if you get rained on? No. There is no reason for people to do anything [in reaction], and that includes taking potassium iodide.
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