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Washington Milk Shows Radiation–Product Still Safe

Friesian cow
Xurxo Lobato /Getty images

The U.S. government said Wednesday that traces of radiation have been found in milk in Washington state, but said the amounts are far too low to trigger any public-health concern.  The Environmental Protection Agency said a March 25 sample of milk produced in the Spokane, Wash., area contained a 0.8 pico curies per literlevel of iodine-131, which it said was less than one five-thousandth of the safety safety guideline set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The EPA said it increased monitoring after radiation leaked from Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. It expects more such findings in coming days, but in amounts “far below levels of public-health concern, including for infants and children.”

Iodine-131 has a half-life of about eight days, meaning levels should fade quickly. “These findings are a minuscule amount compared to what people experience every day,” the agency said.

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,” Patricia Hansen, an FDA senior scientist, said in a written statement distributed by the EPA late Wednesday.

The FDA last week said it will block imports of Japanese milk products and certain other foods produced in the area around the Fukushima nuclear facility because of concerns about radiation contamination.

An EPA spokesman said that while the agency isn’t certain that the iodine-131 found in the sampled milk came from Fukushima, its discovery is “consistent with” what the agency knows has been released so far from the damaged nuclear reactors there.

“We know we don’t normally see iodine-131 in milk. We know there’s been an incident where it’s been released,” the spokesman said. “And now we’re seeing it.”

Dairy industry officials stressed that products remained safe.

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