As Euractiv notes:
The risks associated with iodine-131 contamination in Europe are no longer “negligible,” according to CRIIRAD, a French research body on radioactivity. The NGO is advising pregnant women and infants against “risky behaviour,” such as consuming fresh milk or vegetables with large leaves.
The document, published on 7 April, advises against consuming rainwater and says vulnerable groups such as children and pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid consuming vegetables with large leaves, fresh milk and creamy cheese.
The risks related to prolonged contamination among vulnerable groups of the population can no longer be considered “negligible” and it is now necessary to avoid “risky behaviour,” CRIIRAD claimed.
However, the institute underlines that there is absolutely no need to lock oneself indoors or take iodine tablets.
CRIIRAD says its information note is not limited to the situation in France and is applicable to other European countries, as the level of air contamination is currently the same in Belgium, Germany, Italy and Switzerland, for instance.
The institute stresses that there is no risk whatsoever, even for children, of standing in the rain without protection. But consumption of rainwater as a primary source of drinking water should be avoided, particularly among children, it said.
As for tap water, underground catchments or large rivers should not present any problem. But the institute suggests that the situation of water from reservoirs that collect rainwater from one or more watersheds, such as hillside lakes, should be examined more closely.
As for watering one’s garden with collected rainwater, CRIIRAD advises watering only the earth and not the leaves of vegetables, as absorption is faster and more significant on leaf surfaces than through roots.
Spinach, salads, cabbage and other vegetables with large surface areas are among those food products that are particularly sensitive to iodine-131 contamination, if they are cultivated outside and exposed to rainwater. Washing vegetables does not help, as iodine-131 is quickly metabolised by the plants, CRIIRAD notes.
Fresh milk and creamy cheeses, as well as meat from cattle that have been outside eating grass, are categorised as foods that may have been indirectly contaminated and must also be monitored. Contamination of milk and cheese from goats and sheep may be of a greater magnitude than that of produce from cows.
CRIIRAD appears to count credible scientists among its ranks, including director Bruno Chareyron – who holds an engineering degree in Energy and Nuclear Technology and postgraduate degrees in Nuclear Engineering and Particle Physics.
The Euractiv article notes that radiation levels are much higher in the U.S. than in France:
Data for the west coast of the United States, which received the Fukushima radioactive fallout 6-10 days before France, reveals that levels of radioactive iodine-131 concentration are 8-10 times higher there, the institute says.
Radioactive iodine-131 values measured by the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) in recent days show the following, varying levels of contamination: 0,08 Bq/kg in salad, spinach and leeks in Aix-en-Provence, 0,17 Bq per litre in milk in Lourdes and 2,1 Bq per litre in goats milk in Clansayes.
(The French use a comma instead of a period as a decimal point).
0.17 becquerels per liter equals 4.59 picocuries per liter. But cesium levels of 19 picocuries per liter of radioactive cesium plus 18 picocuries per liter of radioactive iodine have been found in milk from Hilo, Hawaii (this is the official EPA data):
It is not surprising that radiation levels are higher in the U.S. than in Europe. As Canada’s Simon Fraser University notes:
The jet stream is carrying the radiation from Japan to North America. Most of the radioactivity disperses in the atmosphere and falls over the Pacific Ocean on its way over, but some of it has now reached the west coast, falling down with rain, and mixing with seawater. It’s also accumulating in seaweed.
As I noted on March 12th:
The jet stream passes right over Japan. The jet stream was noticed in the 1920’s by a Japanese meteorologist near Mount Fuji … If radioactivity got blown by surface winds up into the jet stream, it could spread widely.
So should American children and pregnant mothers also protect themselves from exposure to radiation by avoiding drinking rainwater and eating certain foods?
I don’t know. Each person must make their own decisions.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a health professional, and this should not be taken as medical advice. Nothing contained herein is intended to diagnose or treat any condition. You should consult your doctor before making any decisions about whether or not to take any of the foods, herbs, supplements or substances mentioned herein.