Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Japanese officials will test food, seawater to determine health risks

Japanese officials' concerns over food contamination expanded beyond the country's borders Tuesday as tests detected radiation in ocean water offshore.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said that high levels of radioactive substances were found in seawater near the plant, but said that the results did not represent a threat to human health.

"There should be no immediate health impact. If this situation continues for a long period of time, some impact can occur," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters.

The impact such radiation could have on marine life was unclear. Japanese authorities were scheduled to measure radioactivity in waters around the plant on Tuesday and Wednesday, the International Atomic Energy Agency said.

Earlier seawater radiation monitoring detected levels of iodine-131 that were 126.7 times higher than government-set standards, the electric company said on its website. Its monitors detected cesium-134, which has a half-life of about two years, about 24.8 times higher than the government standards. Cesium-137 was found to be 16.5 times higher than the standard.

The electric company detected these levels in seawater 100 meters (328 feet) south of the nuclear power plant Monday afternoon. Radioactive particles disperse in the ocean, and the farther away from the shore a sample is taken, the less concentrated the contamination should be. (read more)