Monday, March 28, 2011

Elevated radiation found in rainwater

Low levels of radioactive iodine linked to the nuclear disaster in Japan were detected in a sample of rainwater in Massachusetts, state health officials announced yesterday.

The concentration of radioiodine-131 found in the sample is very low and did not affect the health of the state’s drinking-water supplies, said John Auerbach, commissioner of the Department of Public Health.

The rain sample was taken during the past week in Boston as part of regular monitoring by the US Environmental Protection Agency. No detectable increases in radiation were discovered in the air that was tested in the same location where the rainwater was collected, Auerbach said at a press conference yesterday at the William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute in Jamaica Plain.

“In Massachusetts, none of the cities and towns rely on rainwater as their primary source of water,’’ Auerbach said. “That’s why we’re so comfortable in saying that the drinking-water supplies throughout the state are pretty safe.’’

Officials would not specify which days the rain samples were taken or exactly where in the city they came from.

The concentration of radioiodine found in the rainwater sample was 79 pCi/L (picocuries per liter). Auerbach said that hypothetically, even if someone drank the rainwater directly, “it is still 25 times less risky than it would need to be in order to cause any kind of health concerns . . . . And that is even true for the population that would be the most vulnerable, such as pregnant women, breast-feeding women, and infants.’’

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