The EPA is considering raising the levels of Iodine-131 it claims are safe by revising ‘Protective Action Guides’ that identify safety limits. It is being proposed within EPA that the level considered safe be raised up to a hundred thousand times levels currently considered safe. In effect, this would mean that a single glass of water could contain as much iodine-131 radiation as was previously considered a lifetime limit, according to the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility watchdog group. The radiation arm of EPA, called the Office of Radiation and Indoor Air (ORIA), has prepared an update of the 1992 “Protective Action Guides” (PAG) governing radiation protection decisions for both short-term and long-term cleanup standards. Other divisions within EPA contend the ORIA plan geometrically raises allowable exposure to the public. For example, as Charles Openchowski of EPA’s Office of General Counsel wrote in a January 23, 2009 e-mail to ORIA that "(T)his guidance would allow cleanup levels that exceed MCLs (Maximum Contamination Limits under the Safe Drinking Water Act) by a factor of 100, 1000, and in two instances 7 million and there is nothing to prevent those levels from being the final cleanup achieved (i.e., it’s not confined to immediate response of emergency phase)."

Another EPA official, Stuart Walker of the Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation, explains what the proposed new radiation limits in drinking water would mean: "It also appears that drinking water at the PAG concentrations may lead to subchronic (acute) effects following exposures of a day or a week. In a population, one should see some express acute effects–that is, vomiting, fever, etc."

"This critical debate is taking place entirely behind closed doors because this plan is ‘guidance’ and does not require public notice as a regulation would," says Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility counsel Christine Erickson.

Today, PEER sent EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson a letter calling for a more open and broader examination of the proposed radiation guidance that says, "We all deserve to know why some in the agency want to legitimize exposing the public to radiation at levels vastly higher than what EPA officially considers dangerous." Meanwhile, Canada has elected to reduce radiation monitoring while the Fukushima catastrophe is still unfolding, which will make it more difficult for Canadian authorities to detect any increase of radiation from the nuclear disaster. At the bottom of Canada Health’s detector monitoring page, the following statement appeared on March 25: "Please note that as of March 25, 2011, the frequency of data collection by NRCan using the mobile surveys has been decreased due to the low levels of radiation being detected. The surveys will be repeated periodically and the data table will be updated. Health Canada has a large radiation detection and monitoring network composed of over 100 stations distributed across the country in strategic locations and major population centres. The amount of radiation from Japan being detected from these monitors is minuscule and does not pose a risk to the safety of our air, water, milk or agricultural products."

Despite all this dire news, some scientists insist that US milk is safe to drink. Researcher Thomas Overton thinks that the low levels of radiation linked to the nuclear reactor crisis in Japan (which have been found in US milk supplies) do not pose a danger to Americans. He says, "Any potential risk to human health from this is extremely small. It looks like the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency are on it, and are doing a good job of pointing out that the levels are many thousands of times below any threshold for concern. Iodine 131 has a half-life of eight days, which means that any elevation in the food supply–likely due to low levels of contamination from the atmosphere coming into contact with feed and water consumed by cows–will be very transient."

Take milk in your coffee? You’re welcome to take it black at the Dreamland Festival, where we keep tea and coffee available at all times so you can meet new people and make new friends!

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