Health Secretary Warns Against Taking Anti-Radiation Medications

7:33 PM, Mar 28, 2011   |    comments
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BALTIMORE, Md. (WUSA) -- The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene says it has detected traces of radioactive Iodine-131 in a rainwater sample from Baltimore that can be linked to the ongoing nuclear catastrophe in Japan.

"There is nothing that we have found that is of any concern,"  said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Maryland's Secretary of Health.  "This is an extraordinarly small amount of radiation."

The Iodine-131 was measured at 32 picoCuries per liter. 

"It's less than what we're exposed to just walking around,"  Sharfstein said.

Maryland officials detected radioactivity linked to the Japanese accident in air monitor samples taken Friday near the regions nuclear power plants at Peach Bottom, Pa. and Calvert Cliffs, Md.

Results of follow up sampling taken from rainwater in Baltimore were reported Monday. 

Additional testing has been done on municipal drinking water and food items such as milk.  No radioactivity linked to Japan has been detected in those samples.

"We all live in one world and radiation can travel, said Sharfstein. "By the time it gets here its a very, very small amount."

Sharfstein warns residents that taking anti-radiation medications such as Potassium-Iodide is not necessary and potentially even risky.  "Every medication has side effects," Sharfstein warned, "and right now there is just no benefit to taking it.

Everyone is exposed to a certain level of background radiation in daily life, according to Assistant Professor Jason T. Harris Ph.D. of Idaho State University's Department of Nuclear Engineering and Health Physics.  Harris estimated that exposure to the contaminated rainwater at 32 picoCuries per liter would raise the level of background radiation experienced by a person annually by about 6%, but only if that person drank a liter of the same water daily for a year.  However, after the contaminated rainwater is diluted by reserviors, rivers and water treatment the exposure would be dramatically less.

"Even though it is a measurable amount, the dose you would receive from this is very, very small," Harris said.

Idaho State University publishes an online radiation and risk report.

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