Low Levels Of Radiation Reach U.S. Milk Supply

Radiation from the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan continues to spread around the world:

Washington (CNN) — There is no health risk from consuming milk with extremely low levels of radiation, like those found in Washington state and California, experts said Thursday, echoing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“When we have a disaster like we’ve had with a nuclear power plant in Japan, we’re probably going to find things that are truly not a public health risk, but I think it’s very difficult for the public to assimilate this information and understand the risks,” said Dr. Wally Curran, a radiation oncologist and head of Emory University’s Winship Cancer Center.

The federal agency said Wednesday it was increasing its nationwide monitoring of radiation in milk, precipitation, drinking water, and other outlets. It already tracks radiation in those potential exposure routes through an existing network of stations across the country.

Results from screening samples of milk taken in the past week in Spokane, Washington, and in San Luis Obispo County, California, detected radioactive iodine, or iodine-131, at a level 5,000 times lower than the limit set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, officials said.

At that level, a person would have to drink 1,000 liters of milk to receive the same amount of radiation as a chest X-ray, said Dr. James Cox, radiation oncologist at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center.

So, nothing to worry about. Still, I’m sure some people will panic.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Gustopher says:

    Wait… it’s 5,000 times less than the legal limit, and you would have to drink 1,000 liters of milk to have the equivalent dose of radiation from a chest x-ray… It’s legal to sell milk that is so radioactive that drinking 1 liter gives the same dose of radiation a 5 chest x-rays?


    I’m not doubting the slightly radioactive milk we have is safe, but either one of those facts is wrong, or the legal limit for radioactive milk is way too high.

  2. matt says:

    Reading comprehension fail..