Radiation levels not dangerous, Virginia officials say

As radiation readings at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan worsened Sunday, health officials said Virginians are not in any danger.

Monitoring systems across the commonwealth “continue to show no levels of public health concern,” according to the Virginia Department of Health.

State Health Commissioner Karen Remley said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been monitoring the air in the United States since a March 11 earthquake and tsunami devastated northeast Japan and crippled nuclear plants there.

“As a result of the incident with the nuclear power plant in Japan, several EPA air monitors have detected very low levels of radioactive material in the U.S.,” Remley said. “To date, none of Virginia’s multiple monitoring systems has detected a level of radioactive material that would pose a public-health concern.”

Remley said the EPA has found “elevated levels of radioactive material in rainwater in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.” But that had been expected, “since radiation is known to travel in the atmosphere,” she said.

“However, we are not seeing that in any of the monitoring data for the state.”

Even so, the Virginia Department of Health is taking steps to address concerns in Virginia:

The VDH was scheduled to conduct routine quarterly radiological health division monitoring and is moving up that schedule by one week to begin on Monday [March 28]. This routine monitoring checks radiation levels in air, drinking water, vegetation and milk at multiple sites throughout the state.

The department is working with the state’s laboratory to implement the proposed baseline testing plan for rainwater, drinking water, vegetation and milk. Further testing will follow if warranted by the baseline testing and ongoing monitoring. This is a standard VDH response when routine monitoring indicates a need to test further.

The VDH is advising residents that the state’s drinking water supplies are safe but that, “out of an abundance of caution,” Virginians should avoid using rainwater collected in cisterns as drinking water.

Besides the VDH’s routine radiological monitoring, studies are being conducted in Virginia by the EPA, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Dominion Virginia Power and the U.S. military.

The VDH also continues to advise the state’s secretary of health and human resources, Bill Hazel, and Gov. Bob McDonnell on the status of monitoring and levels of radiation detected.

For more information about radiation monitoring in Virginia, visit http://www.vdh.virginia.gov.
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