'Minuscule' Amount Of Radiation From Japan Detected In Colorado

Denver Already Has Background Radiation From Uranium In Rocks, High Elevation

Radiation from the burned and busted nuclear reactors in Japan has spread to Colorado, but don't panic, the state health department said the level is minuscule and there is no health risk.

Preliminary sampling picked up a radioactive isotope from the Fukushima nuclear power plant called iodine-131, the health department said Wednesday.

"Levels detected in Colorado are minuscule and represent no risk to human health," said Dr. Chris Urbina, chief medical officer and executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. "Radiation can be detected at levels millions of times lower than the level that would cause health impacts. Radiation levels detected in Colorado are consistent with those reported for other states."

The sample now goes to the Environmental Protection Agency for further analysis.

The EPA said in a typical day, Americans receive doses of radiation from natural sources like rocks, bricks and the sun that are about 100,000 times higher than what they have detected coming from Japan.

"For example, the levels we’re seeing coming from Japan are 100,000 times lower than what you get from taking a roundtrip international flight," the EPA said in its news release.

Even with reassurance, some people spending the day in Washington Park are still concerned.

"It's scary," said Ronni Coft, of Colorado Springs. "(My family comes) outside to enjoy the beautiful weather and its like, 'oh my gosh, I don't want to take a breath.'"

Denver already has unusually high levels of background radiation because of natural uranium in the rocks around it, and because the thin atmosphere of Colorado's mile-high city lets in more radiation from space, according to National Public Radio. Studies of Denver residents find no ill effects from those high background levels.

"We worry about a lot of things, probably needlessly," said Jan Arey.

Four days ago, California first reported detection of radiation from a state monitor. The New York Times reported Monday that officials have tracked the radioactive plume as it drifted eastward on prevailing winds from Japan -- first to the West Coast and now over the East Coast and the Atlantic, moving toward Europe.

The plume’s radiation has been diluted enormously in its journey of thousands of miles and -- at least for now, with concentrations so low -- its presence will have no health consequences in the United States, the state health department said.

Urbina said there is no need for people to take potassium iodide, as there is no risk to public health from the trace amounts of radiation being detected.

"Potassium iodide may have side effects. Using potassium iodide when it is unnecessary could cause intestinal upset (vomiting, nausea and diarrhea), rashes, allergic reactions, soreness of teeth and gums, and inflammation of the salivary glands. Pregnant women and the developing fetus are particularly sensitive to the health risks of taking potassium iodide," Urbina said.

Colorado’s monitor is part of EPA’s RadNet, a national network of monitoring stations that regularly collect samples for analysis of radioactivity. The RadNet network has stations in each state and has been used to track environmental releases of radioactivity from nuclear weapons tests and nuclear accidents. Nationwide RadNet reports can be found at its website. For information about radiation, please call COHELP at 877-462-2911.

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