SILVER SPRING, Md., Oct. 10 (UPI) -- There are serious gaps in U.S. preparedness for a major nuclear radiation incident with most states lacking resources to test for contamination, experts say.
After the earthquake and resulting tsunami off the coast of Tohoku, Japan, last March triggered the first nuclear crisis of the 21st century there was concern in the United States about exposure to radiation.
Megan Weil Latshaw and colleagues at the Association of Public Health Laboratories in Silver Spring, Md., analyzed data from two separate surveys.
The 2009 All-Hazards Laboratory Preparedness Survey examined overall laboratory capability -- ability to perform certain activities -- and capacity, or the volume of work that can be performed. A 2011 survey focused exclusively on radiation readiness, Latshaw said.
"Twenty-seven percent of the respondents reported the ability to measure radionuclides in clinical specimens; 6 percent reported that another state agency or department accepted and analyzed these samples via a radioanalytical method," the study said. "Of the Radiation Capabilities Survey respondents, 60 percent reported the ability to test environmental samples, such as air, soil, or surface water, for radiation; 48 percent reported the ability to test non-milk food samples; 47 percent reported the ability to test milk and 56 percent reported sending data for drinking water to the Environmental Protection Agency.
"It is likely that many of these laboratories are not certified to perform diagnostic testing for radiation exposure and in the event of a large-scale incident, such as the 2011 Japan radiation event, at least 70 percent of states would likely send their clinical specimens to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for analysis."
The findings are published in the Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness journal.