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.
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