Parents told Tokyo tap water no longer safe for infants to drink, iodine levels twice the recommended limit

By Michael Evans - 23 Mar 2011 11:14:0 GMT
Further concern about radioactive contamination in Japan

Parents have been told that Tokyo tap water is no longer safe for babies to drink after it was discovered that iodine levels are more than twice the recommended limit.

Tests at the water treatment plant that provides most of the city's tap water showed 210 becquerels per litre of iodine-131, when the recommended safe limit for infants is 100 becquerels per litre.

This is an unsettling new development for Japan's major city, home to 39 million residents in greater Tokyo.

Young children are extremely vulnerable to radioactive iodine since it can cause thyroid cancer. The Tokyo governor, Shintaro Ishihara is quoted as saying that: ''Under government guidelines, water containing a radioactive substance of more than 100 becquerels per litre should not be used for milk for babies, but that the radiation level posed no immediate heath risk and water could still be used.'' It is understandable that people are confused.

150 miles north of Tokyo workers are still struggling to stabilise the stricken power plant at Fukushima Daiichi. After 13 days some progress has been made. Technicians have now succeeded in attaching power cables to all six reactors and late on Tuesday they succeeded in turning on the lights in Unit 3 for the first time.

They have also started a pump at one in one of the reactors to cool the overheating nuclear fuel rods, but concern was raised when the temperature in No 1 reactor rose to nearly 400 degrees Celsius above its design limit of 302 degrees.

There is still concern about lack of information coming from the Japanese authorities. According to the Daily Mail it is claimed that 'the plant was storing more uranium than it was designed to hold and had repeatedly missed safety checks.'

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) based in Vienna cited missing data on the temperatures of spent fuel pools at reactors 1, 3 and 4. Smoke and steam continue to pour out. Reuters quote John Lyons, a senior official with IAEA as saying: ''We continue to see radiation coming from the site … and the question is where exactly it is coming from?''

We may not know where the radiation is coming from, but we know where it is going.

It has now seeped into vegetables and raw milk as well as the water supply. Leafy vegetables such as spinach and now broccoli are said to be a particular risk. Even the sea is registering levels that are higher than normal, leading to a government order calling for the monitoring of seafood.

Reuters quoted the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as saying that it was stopping imports of milk, vegetables and fruit from Japan's crisis-hit northeast. South Korea appeared to be about to take similar action.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail reports that radioactive particles are spreading east across the Pacific, over North America and into the North Atlantic. They have already reached Iceland and were heading towards Britain where they are expected to arrive in the next few days.