Foreign Policy Blogs

Radiation detected in food, water

Traces of radiation have been found in milk and spinach near the Fukushima nuclear power plant, as well as in tap water in Tokyo.

Tests done on milk found 20 miles from the plant detected small amounts iodine-131 and cesium-137. Iodine has been linked to thyroid cancer, and cesium poses a cancer risk to the entire body. Tainted spinach found as far as 75 miles south of the reactors contained iodine levels between three and seven times the safety limit. Tap water in Tokyo was found to contain 1.5 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive iodine.

Monday is the vernal equinox, a national holiday in Japan, and many Tokyo residents are taking advantage of the three-day weekend to seek relief from the supply shortages and blackouts. Hotels in Osaka, more than 300 miles from Tokyo, are packed with those fleeing from the capital.

Radiation detected in food, water

Pluto Boy says its safe to drink straight plutonium.

The government seems to be very much in tune with the public’s current concern about radiation. In 1993, when citizens in Fukui prefecture protested the building of the plutonium-fueled Monju prototype breeder reactor (the same plant I mentioned last Sunday), a government-owned nuclear fuel company introduced Pluto Boy (pictured at right, I couldn’t find the actual video) to educate the public. The anime released to Japanese schools and TV stations shows a cartoon boy, resembling Astro Boy, telling viewers that radiation isn’t as dangerous as protesters would have you believe, and even says plutonium is safe to drink. He then gives a glass of plutonium to a man who drinks it, and then exclaims he feels refreshed. Of course, the public was not fooled by this cartoon. The Monju plant leaked three tons of liquid sodium in 1995.

Officials are now trying to calm a jittery public by putting the amounts of radiation found in food and tap water into perspective. State Secretary of Health Minister Yoko Komiyama said you’d have to eat one kilogram of spinach every day for a year to be affected by the radiation levels found in the spinach. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said someone drinking the tainted milk for a year would consume as much radiation as in a CT scan. The Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan limits the intake of iodine to 300 becquerels per kilogram of water, much higher than the 1.5 becquerels per kilogram found in Tokyo’s tap water.

Edano said if further contamination is found, food shipments from the area would be halted, which could have a larger regional impact.



Dustin Dye

Dustin Dye is the author of the YAKUZA DYNASTY series, available through the Amazon Kindle.

He lived in Okayama, Japan, where he taught English at a junior high school through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program for three years. He is a graduate from the University of Kansas, where he received a bachelor's degree in anthropology.

His interest in Japan began in elementary school after seeing Godzilla fight Ghidorah, the three-headed monster. But it wasn't until he discovered Akira Kurosawa's films through their spaghetti Western remakes that he truly became fascinated in the people and culture of Japan.

He lives in Kansas with his wife, daughter and guinea pig.

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E-mail him: [email protected]