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Radiation In Mass. Rainwater Likely From Japan

This article is more than 12 years old.

BOSTON — State environmental officials are testing local drinking water supplies after finding traces of radiation in Boston rainwater. They say it came from Japan's crippled nuclear power plants, but there's no threat to public health.

Nuclear reactors give off an element called radioiodine-131. Swallowing a lot of radioiodine-131 can cause thyroid cancer. Local health officials have found only a low concentration of the it in rainwater collected last week.

There have been similar findings in other parts of the country. Traces of radioiodine have shown up in California, Washington state and Pennsylvania.

Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach said the radiation should not effect the drinking water supply because it is so diluted.

"If someone was simply using this rainwater as their main water supply, it's still 25 times less risky than it would need to be in order to cause any health concerns," Auerbach said.

State environmental officials found no traces of radioiodine-131 in the Quabbin or Wachusett Reservoirs, which supplies water to 2.5 million residents in the greater Boston area.

As a precaution, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard Sullivan Jr. said the state is testing 12 more water supplies.

"We don't believe there is a problem. None of the data we've seen indicates there is," Sullivan said. "But to be extra careful and be sure, we have a wide geographically diverse sample, we're doing this extra sampling effort today."

But, if things get dramatically worse in Japan, and the crippled nuclear plants release a lot more radiation into the atmosphere, that could mean higher concentrations of radiation in our rainfall, according to health officials. They say federal officials are keeping a close watch on the situation in Japan and would warn us if there's anything to worry about.


This program aired on March 28, 2011.


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