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Japan advice on tap water called prudent

March 24, 2011 at 2:02 AM   |   Comments

BUFFALO, N.Y., March 24 (UPI) -- A University at Buffalo School of Medicine professor says the Japanese health ministry's advice not to give infants tap water is prudent.

Dr. Alan H. Lockwood, professor of neurology and nuclear medicine, and a board member of Physicians for Social Responsibility, says six weeks after the Chernobyl accident, he examined survivors at a Moscow hospital.

"The reason that iodine-131 is so dangerous in children is that their normal growth and development, especially of the brain, depends on the thyroid gland," Lockwood says in a statement. "And if there is exposure as a child, the risk of developing thyroid cancer later in life is higher."

However, it is reasonable to expect the higher levels of radioactivity in the tap water will not last very long, because Iodine-131 has a relatively short half-life of about eight days.

"It is quite predictable that radioisotopes have been detected in the Japanese food supply," Lockwood adds. "Japanese officials appear to be on top of this situation and have kept these foods out of the Japanese food supply. This is a reasonable preventive action that is in accord with one of the central principles of public health."

Radiation levels should be kept as low as reasonably achievable, Lockwood says.

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