Extremely low levels of radiation detected in Spokane milk sample


by Associated Press


Posted on March 30, 2011 at 4:01 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 31 at 7:03 AM

SPOKANE, Wash.-- The Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration said very low levels of radiation have turned up in a sample of milk from Washington state. But federal officials say consumers should not worry.

Officials said milk is safe to consume even for children.

"In terms of how it got there obviously the situation in Japan is what made this happen, it travelled across the jet stream across the Pacific ocean and landed on our shores. It's hardly a surprise that that happened, that was kind of expected,” said Blair Thompson, Director of Consumer Communications for the Washington Dairy Commission.

The government has been monitoring radiation levels in milk since the cold war.  The E.P.A. said the amount tested in Spokane was 5,000 times below the level of health concern.
"Radiation can be a scary word, but I think it's important to remember that actually we live surrounded by radiation every single day. It comes from the sun, it comes from our televisions, it comes from our cell phones,” said Thompson.

While the milk was tested in Spokane, it doesn’t mean the product came from a local dairy.  A local farm owner said the alert hasn’t hurt business.

"We've had a lot of customers today and we've had some ask about it as they're buying six or eight gallons of milk with their car full of kids. So I'm not to concerned....like I said food safety is of utmost importance, but I think this is probably just a little drop in the hat,” said Michael Vieira of Spokane’s Family Farm.

Both Thompson and Vieira think the radiation probably landed on feed through the air, then was consumed by cows, then transferred to the milk.

The E.P.A. or F.D.A. has yet to release where the contaminated milk originated.

Sen. Lisa Brown's statement on radiological monitoring in Spokane:

"After the disaster in Japan, many of us are understandably on heightened alert about the possibility of exposure to radiation.   Today's news about the infinitely small level of radiation in milk in Spokane is bound to trigger these concerns."

"People in Spokane should use their own judgment in how they respond to the news, but it's important to keep in mind that the level detected today is many orders of magnitude below that which would pose a threat to human health, including infants."

"I am committed to continuing to work with our federal, state and local health partners to ensure that citizens in our area remain fully informed of the most scientifically accurate data regarding radiation testing in Spokane County and our state." 

Gov. Gregoire's statement on ongoing radiological monitoring:

"Test performed by the Environmental Protection Agency confirm that Washington milk is safe to drink.  A screening sample of milk taken from Spokane on March 25 detected 0.8 pCi/L of iodine-131, which is more than 5,000 times lower than levels that would signal concern.  This morning I spoke with the chief advisors for both the EPA and the FDA and they confirmed that these levels are minuscule and are far below levels of public health concern, including for infants and children."

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

"Since the situation in Japan we have been monitoring for radiation.  We will continue our monitoring and work closely with the EPA, FDA, and CDC.  At no point have detection levels come close to levels of concern."