Local News

Mar 31, 2011 1:34 PM by (DS)

State says no health risk from trace radiation in SLO County milk sample

The California Department of Public Health says the low levels of radiation detected in a milk sample taken in San Luis Obispo County do not pose a health risk. Below is information updated yesterday from the department's Web site.

Q. Does California test milk products for radiation?

A. California routinely screens milk for radioactivity on a quarterly basis. Since the Japan nuclear emergency, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has increased milk monitoring to once a week in San Luis Obispo County.

Q. Has CDPH found radiation in milk?

A. CDPH sampled milk on March 28 and preliminary results indicate a trace amount of iodine-131 which does not pose a threat to public health. California's full report and data will be posted on this site on Friday. These results are in line with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tests of milk in the state of Washington.

Q. Does that mean that the milk is contaminated?

A. The levels of iodine were more than 5,000 times less than the U.S. Food and Drug Administration health standards. There is no public threat to California's milk, water and food supply.

Q. How long does iodine-131 persist in the environment?
A. Based on what we now know about Japan's nuclear accident, radioactive iodine should decrease in the coming weeks. It is estimated that levels will be virtually undetectable soon and dissipate completely in the coming months. The amounts detected are so small they pose no public health risk.

Q. Why aren't you testing more sites for milk?
A. Combined, the U.S. EPA and state monitors have 20 air monitoring stations around the state. Air testing is the best predictor of any public health risk and so far, all testing stations have been reporting only trace amounts of radioactivity that do not pose a threat to human health.

Q. How can radioactivity get into milk?

A. When radioactive material is spread through the atmosphere, it drops to the ground and gets into the environment. When cows consume grass, hay, feed, and water, radioactivity will be processed and become part of the milk we drink. However, the amounts are so small they pose no threat to public health.

Q. What about breast milk? Am I breathing contaminated air and then poisoning my child?

A. No. The amounts of radiation detected in California are very small trace amounts that are not considered to pose a risk to human health. Breastfeeding is one of the best ways to protect the health of your child. No one should consider stopping breastfeeding for this reason.

Q. How does this compare with radiation we are exposed to daily?

A. Radiation is all around us in our daily lives, and these findings are a minuscule amount compared to what people experience every day. 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.

Click here for more information about radiation from the California Department of Public Health.



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