By Mary Clare Jalonick
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Low levels of radiation have turned up in milk samples from two West Coast states. Officials say there is no public health threat.
Traces of radioactive Iodine-131 were found in milk in California and Washington state, according to federal and state authorities who are monitoring for contamination as the nuclear crisis unfolds in Japan.
The officials say the levels are still 5,000 times below levels of concern.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday that radiation was found in a March 25 milk sample from Spokane, Wash.
The California Department of Public Health said on its website that a similar result was found March 28 at a dairy in San Luis Obispo County.
Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power complex began leaking radiation after it was damaged by a devastating earthquake and tsunami earlier this month.
The EPA always monitors radiation levels in the air at several sites throughout the country, but the agency said this week that it is increasing the level of nationwide monitoring of milk, precipitation and drinking water in response to the situation in Japan. Those substances are normally monitored for radiation only a few times a year.
EPA spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said the radiation detected in Spokane is different than what is normally found there.
“While there can be naturally occurring levels of radiation in milk — as there are in the air, at levels far below levels of concern — we don’t generally see this particular isotope as part of those background levels,” Gilfillan said. The EPA has found very low levels of radiation in the air connected to the Japanese incident in Alaska, Alabama, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Saipan, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and Washington state.