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Radiocesium Intake Remains Safe In Japan

Levels of cesium isotope in post-Fukushima diets have increased but remain below safety limits, study shows

by Elizabeth K. Wilson
January 14, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 2

After the March 2011 earthquake and resulting nuclear disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, levels of radioactive cesium in the diets of adults living in the region increased but have remained well below Japanese government safety limits, a study shows (Environ. Sci. Technol., DOI: 10.1021/es304128t). Akio Koizumi of Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine and coworkers collected food samples from the 24-hour dietary intake of 26 people. They tested the samples for radioactive 134Cs and 137Cs, and for comparison, the naturally occurring radioactive isotope 40K. They found that the median dose of radiation the people received was 23 microsieverts per year, much lower than the proposed new standard maximum permissible dose of 1 millisievert per year. Doses greater than 1 sievert received in a short time can cause acute radiation poisoning. Local persimmons, apples, and mushrooms contributed significantly to the radioactive cesium detected in the dietary study. The median intake of radio­cesium in the study was approximately eight times as large as the amount measured in a year-earlier study by the same team (Environ. Health Prev. Med., DOI: 10.1007/s12199-011-0251-9). Thus, the research team cautions that continuing studies of food intake will be necessary to fully determine people’s levels of radiation exposure.


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