Updated Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Idaho public health and safety officials are closely monitoring information on the radiation release reported from Japan’s damaged nuclear power facilities. Idaho continues to share information and data with federal partners and other states to monitor the situation and keep the public informed.
Risk to Idaho: Very Low
According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the situation does not pose a radiation health threat to the United States. Given the thousands of miles between the two countries, Hawaii, Alaska, the U.S. Territories and the U.S. West Coast are not expected to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity.
Monitoring Activities in Idaho
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is monitoring information from their network of highly sensitive radiation detectors, which provide hourly reports of ambient radiation. The monitors are part of a national network run by the EPA called "RadNet." The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is monitoring data from the Meridian
, Idaho Falls
RadNet sites. DEQ also is monitoring data from radiation detectors at the Idaho National Laboratory near Arco.
Radiation Levels: Air Samples Remain Normal
None of the RadNet detectors have measured any elevated radiation levels at the United States monitoring stations and all air samples remain normal. The Idaho Division of Public Health will continue working with federal and state partners to monitor the situation and inform the public of any changes that may occur.
Monitoring stations in more than 20 states across the nation, including Idaho, have detected trace amounts of radiation that are believed to be from the Japanese reactors. The estimated overall maximum biological effect from the trace amounts of radiation currently detected in Idaho from the events in Japan is about 0.000160 mrem per day. To put this into perspective, a person would need to be exposed to this level all day, everyday for over 100 years to equal the exposure from ONE chest X-ray
The EPA has increased monitoring across the entire country to ensure the public is protected. Along with air monitoring, the EPA also is monitoring precipitation, drinking water, milk and other potential exposure routes.
With EPA precipitation monitoring, samples of rain from 15 states, including Idaho, detected trace levels of radiation. This was expected and remain well-below levels that could harm human health.
Drinking water samples from more than a dozen states, including Idaho, tested by the EPA also revealed trace amounts of radioactivity. Drinking water samples collected in Boise on March 28th showed results of 0.2 picocuries per liter. At this level, the EPA estimates a person would have to drink over 1,800 gallons of water to receive the equivalent radiation exposure we experience on a daily basis from natural sources in our environment. A follow-up sample collected on April 14th showed no detection of radiation.
The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality also tested water from 18 Idaho municipal water systems that use surface water for public drinking. The samples, which were collected the week of April 11th, showed no detection of radiation. No further testing is planned by DEQ beyond regularly scheduled routine sampling conducted by the agency's Idaho National Laboratory Oversight program.
The Food and Drug Administration is closely monitoring the situation to ensure imported foods remain safe. Imported food from Japan
makes up less than four percent of all foods imported to the United States
. There is no concern for food products that have already been imported from Japan
, with current Japanese export activity extremely limited due to earthquake and tsunami. Seafood and fish are not likely to be affected by radioactive material, however, the FDA is taking all steps to evaluate and measure any possible contamination.
Both federal and state agencies are monitoring milk. Trace amounts of radioactive Iodine-131 have been detected in milk sampling in seven states, including Idaho. The levels are thousands of times less than safety standards and do not pose a human health risk.
In Idaho we may continue to see trace amounts of radiation detected until the Japanese can better contain the damaged facilities. We do not expect to see any harmful levels reach U.S. soils.
Since much of the northwest is seismically active, many people are taking this opportunity to learn more about preparing for a possible eathquake. The Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security has issued a publication called "Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country"
that has valuable information to prepare yourself and your family.
The tragedy in Japan and subsequent problems with the nuclear reactors have raised concern and anxiety for many people, from children through adults. The federal government has some helpul information for parents and others to help them manage their stress and cope with ongoing events. For more information, click here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there any protective measures I should currently take?
No, not given our current situation. If the potential risk to Idahoans changes, local Idaho officials will inform you of the appropriate precautionary procedures. The most important thing you can do today is stay informed.
What can I do?
No elevated levels of radiation have been detected in the US at this time. In fact, Idaho is much more likely to experience an earthquake. Take time now to make sure your family is prepared.
I’ve heard a lot about potassium iodide. What is it?
Potassium iodide (KI) is an iodine supplement that is available over the counter, such as ThryoSafe™ and ThyroShield™. KI is used around nuclear releases to block the uptake of radioactive iodine in the thyroid. KI is not an “anti-radiation pill;” it’s only helpful in very specific conditions, and protects only against radioactive iodine.
Do I need to take KI to protect against radiation from Japan?
No. KI is only appropriate within a very close proximity to a nuclear event. Because we are more than 5,000 miles away there is no need for protection. In fact, using KI when inappropriate could have potential serious side effects such as abnormal heart rhythms, nausea, vomiting, electrolyte abnormalities and bleeding.
Does the State stockpile potassium iodide (KI)?
The state does not stockpile KI; there are federal stockpiles of medical supplies including KI for distribution to all states if an emergency made that necessary. There are currently no conditions at the power plants in Japan that would require people in the U.S. to take KI.
Why don’t you think KI will be necessary in the wake of Japan’s nuclear problems?
KI protects the thyroid against high concentrations of radioactive iodine, which is a type of radioactive material that is very unlikely to make it to the upper atmosphere. If it were to get in to the upper atmosphere, by the time the winds blew it from Japan to other parts of the world such as Idaho, it would be at such low levels that it would pose no health threat to people. Levels would be diluted by wind and distance.
With many pharmacies out of potassium iodide (KI), Internet sources suggest taking large doses of iodine water purification tablets. Is that a good alternative?
NO. In fact, state health officials counsel against taking anything to prevent against radiation exposure since there is no unusual radiation source.
Are there any protective measures I should currently take?
No, not given our current situation. Idaho public health and environmental officials are monitoring the situation with national experts and if the potential risk changes, will inform you of any appropriate precautionary procedures.