A Radiation Fallout Avoidance Suggestion for People with Kids: Mind Your Milk Supply

According to the experts, the nuclear plume from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant reached California today. Wheee!

For whatever it’s worth, here’s a suggestion if you’ve got kids: Forget about potassium iodide, and go buy some milk.

By all indications, the plume poses very little risk in California. But there is one possible asterisk: According to the New York Times and Bernalwood sources who have been in contact with public health authorities, parents with children may want to avoid fresh dairy consumption — perhaps for as long as three months.

The New York Times Green blog says:

Experts I’ve interviewed strongly doubt that there will be any significant risk on the West Coast, and say there is no reason to take the potassium iodide unless high levels of radioactive iodine develop. But again, scientists consider high levels unlikely in the United States. In addition, about 98 percent of a person’s dose comes from drinking contaminated milk, and if fallout were to reach here (again, unlikely) most people could protect themselves by not drinking milk or eating dairy products. Children are much more vulnerable than adults.

Blame the bovines: Fallout lands on the grass. Cows eat the grass. Fallout is concentrated in the cows and passed on via their milk.

One of our contacts, a journalist who lives in Bernalwood and who has interviewed California public health authorities, says, “The state said they are doing short and long-term monitoring of the dairy supply. I admit that is one thing I have stocked up on lately because milk these days has a long expiration date.”

Parents with kids might want to do the same. Consider putting a few gallons of milk in the fridge ASAP, and if you’re extra-concerned, you might buy a few boxes of shelf-stable, ultra-pasturized milk to use during the weeks ahead.

Admittedly, this may not be necessary at all, and your assessment will vary based on your own evaluation of potential risks. But as precautionary measures go, stocking up on a little extra milk seems pretty simple.

Image: Graphic by Telstar Logistics

2 thoughts on “A Radiation Fallout Avoidance Suggestion for People with Kids: Mind Your Milk Supply

  1. This doesn’t actually make sense. As someone who has worked on four dairy farms and visited dozens of others, I can tell you that it is extremely rare for a dairy cow to have the luxury of going outside and eating grass. It’s too inefficient, both in terms of time and calories. The answer must lie elsewhere. Perhaps in the silage they eat? But that corn and hay is barely even growing yet and won’t be harvested and eaten for many months.

    • Good points, all. Thank you. Substitute silage for grass, and the same mechanism is at play. I am certainly not an expert in either daily farming or radioactive fallout. Likewise, while it is clear that the risk for now appears to be low, to the extent that there is any risk at all, daily products seem to be the thing to watch.

      There is a direct correlation between risk and distance the source of the fallout (closer = higher risk), and California’s distance from Japan will likely insulate us from harmful effects. Put another way, what happens in Japan is NOT at all an indication of what may happen here. Nevertheless, when I opened my NYTimes this morning, here’s what I found.


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