Will Japanese radioactive iodine affect the US?

Update 3/22/11: The New York Times is reporting that the FDA has banned the importation of dairy and produce from the area around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex.

Update 3/20/11: Japanese village near nuclear site advised not to drink tap water. (LA times Story)

The Pacific Ocean serves as a great first line of defense against radioactive material such as iodine 131 traveling from Japan to the continental United States.  However, reports of Japanese food being contaminated with radioactive iodine are concerning because imports of contaminated Japanese food would not have the same opportunity for the radioactive iodine to dissipate over the ocean.  Several reports provide information that helps characterize the extent to which there is a threat and the steps that are being taken to protect people in the United States.

  • The Associated Press reports that radioactive materials have been discovered and Japanese food products including spinach and milk.
  • Today reports that the FDA is increasing inspections to protect the US food supply.
  • Scotsman.com provides a greater level of detail relating to some of the food issues being faced in Japan.
  • The Journal of the National Cancer Institute has an article that characterizes some of the cancer risks associated with iodine 131 and indicating that acute exposure is more dangerous than equivalent doses over longer periods.