Japan radiation fears: Contaminated food not a concern in U.S.

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PHOENIX – With the radiation concern escalating in Japan in the wake of a 9.0 earthquake and a tsunami that damaged a nuclear power plant, the World Health Organization has been talking about the possibility contaminated food.

The biggest concerns are leafy green vegetables, milk, eggs and meat products. The vegetables absorb radiation in the air and the ground. Animals ingest the contaminated vegetation and the cycle progresses from there.

While the WHO said it does not have any evidence that contaminated food has spread internationally, many countries are stepping up their checks on imports from Japan.

Dr. Art Mollen talked to Kaley O’Kelley about radiation, the potential for food contamination and the recent rash of sales of potassium iodide (KI), which can protect the sensitive thyroid gland from radioactive iodine. While potassium iodide can block the absorption of I-131, it does not protect against other radioactive elements like cesium 134 and cesium 137.

U.S. health officials have said from almost the beginning that radiation drifting from Japan would not be a danger here. Mollen reiterated that.

“It’s not a concern for us in the United States, in Arizona,” Mollen said. “I think it’s a concern for people in Japan.”

County, state and national health officials have urged people to avoid taking potassium iodide absent the danger of radiation. Dr. Bob England of the Maricopa County Department of Health says the risks of taking the drug could outweigh the benefits and warns people to be cautious of allergic reactions.