Hold the cesium: Ways to reduce radiation in your diet

Original story by TOMOKO OTAKE Tuesday, Sep. 20, 2011

Six months into the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No.1 power plant, this is a question many consumers have been asking — particularly those in eastern Japan who get most of their daily foods from Tohoku, the nation’s agricultural heartland.

While readings of radiation in the air have returned to pre-3/11 levels in most areas of Japan — not including areas close to the plant and the so-called hot spots — the contamination of soil, which affects the food chain, could pose a long-term health risk, experts say. Iodine-131, cesium-134 and cesium-137 were released in large quantities by the nuclear plant, and if they are accumulated in the body, they could cause cancer.

Since the disaster struck, the government has been monitoring radiation levels of food from Fukushima and neighboring prefectures and barring the distribution of any items containing radioactive materials exceeding the national safety limits. Still, public fears over food safety are hard to quell, even in Tokyo, more than 200 km away from the Fukushima plant. A recent letter to The Japan Times attests to the wide-spread sentiment:

“Each time I go to a supermarket, I pause in front of the shelves, at a loss as to what to buy,” a Tokyo woman, who called herself Yasuko Okayama, wrote in a letter to the JT published Sept. 8. “I choose food that comes from as far away from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant as possible. I wonder if I am overreacting.”

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