U.N. says Japanese radioactivity not yet world health hazard

Radioactive material from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan is gradually spreading into the global atmosphere, but at extremely low concentrations that do not present health hazards, the United Nations reported Friday.

Monitoring on the ground in Japan is being done by the World Health Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the World Meteorological Organization, the International Maritime Organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization and the World Tourism Organization. These are in addition to Japanese agencies.

The release of radioactivity has caused some concern in Costa Rica, mostly among those expats who remember the above-ground nuclear testing of the 1040s and 50s. Before most First World nations accepted a test ban treaty above-ground nuclear explosions were produced by the United States, Britain, France, the Soviet Union and later Communist China.

Through 1962 a site in Nevada was the location for a number of nuclear tests that spread strontium 90 and radioactive iodine throughout the United States. The atom bomb blasts were tourists attractions but those living downwind, mainly in Utah, appear to have increased incidents of thyroid cancer and in children, leukemia.

A number of U.S. soldiers also were exposed when they were stationed close to the explosions.
Strontium 90 showed up in milk products through out the United States because cows ate grass covered with fallout.

There have been some recent correlations that showed children exposed to radioactivity had a much higher rate of cancers. That was based on studies of radioactivity in baby teeth collected from the youngsters and compared years later along with their health histories.

Experiences in the Communist world were worst but mostly hidden.

The United States continued nuclear testing into the 1990s, but since 1962 the tests were underground. There also were efforts to use nuclear devices for land movement and for natural gas recovery through Project Poughshare. In a Colorado test, a blast liberated natural gas but it could not be used because it was radioactive.

U.N. officials told reporters in Vienna Friday that the overall situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant remains very serious with efforts continuing to cool down the damaged reactors in an attempt to prevent a meltdown of the radioactive fuel.

The restrictions on drinking tap water for infants remained in force in two locations in Fukushima prefecture, while radiation analytical data from three prefectures – Chiba, Fukushima, Ibaraki and Tochigi – show that contamination levels of vegetables, fruits, seafood, various meats and unprocessed milk remained above the levels set by the Japanese authorities, according to the U.N.

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