December 8, 2011 in Nation/World

Radiation tainted baby formula

Extent of Japan nuclear plant spill unfolds
John M. Glionna Los Angeles Times
 

SEOUL, South Korea – A Japanese baby food manufacturer has announced the recall of 400,000 cans of infant formula that reportedly contain traces of radioactive cesium connected to the nation’s recent nuclear plant meltdown.

After panicked parents deluged Tokyo-based Meiji Co. with calls and emails, officials of the Tokyo-based food and candy maker responded Wednesday that they do not know how much of the tainted formula had reached consumers but said the milk was manufactured in March and April and shipped not long afterward.

The incident marked the second time this week that skittish Japanese citizens learned of more radioactive after-effects from the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. The facility was struck March 11 by an earthquake-triggered tsunami that knocked out its cooling system and led to several reactor core meltdowns that spewed radiation into the air, water and soil.

On Sunday, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., or Tepco, announced that 45 tons of highly radioactive water had leaked from a filtration system at the atomic plant, with some of the water possibly reaching the nearby Pacific Ocean.

Critics say the leak counteracts assurances that Tepco has largely controlled the environmental damage at the coastal plant, located 220 miles northeast of Tokyo. The radiation in the water from Sunday’s leak measured up to 322 times higher than government safety limits for various types of cesium.

On Wednesday, plant officials acknowledged that nearly 40 gallons of water from the weekend leak had reached the Pacific Ocean. The water, which was used to cool the reactors, contained not only cesium but strontium, another dangerous isotope, the utility said.

The facility is not capable of removing strontium, which tends to accumulate in bones and is feared to cause bone cancer and leukemia, Tepco said. However, the impact will be “negligible” even if people continue to eat marine products from the area, the utility said.


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