The risk of contamination in Europe is no longer "negligible," according to CRIIRAD, a French research body on radioactivity. The NGO is advising pregnant women and children to avoid the "risk behaviors"
as the consumption of fresh milk or vegetables with large leaves.
as the consumption of fresh milk or vegetables with large leaves.
After the radioactive cloud from the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan has reached Europe in late March, CRIIRAD, a French research body on radioactivity, said it had detected radioactive iodine-131 in rainwater in south-east France .
In tests in parallel, the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), the national public institution monitoring nuclear and radiological risks, found iodine 131 in milk.
In normal times, no trace of iodine-131 should be detectable in rainwater or milk, as indicated by the Euratom Directive of 13 May 1996 laying down the general principles and safety standards on radiation protection in Europe.
In response to thousands of requests from European citizens, worried about the consequences of the nuclear catastrophe of Fukushima, CRIIRAD has compiled a packet of information on the risks of contamination by radioactive iodine-131 in Europe.
* The document, published on April 7, advises against consuming rainwater and calls on vulnerable groups such as children and pregnant women and nursing mothers to avoid consuming large leafy vegetables, fresh milk and cheese.
According to CRIIRAD the risk associated with prolonged contamination of vulnerable groups of the population can no longer be considered "negligible" and we need to avoid "risky behavior."
However, the institute points out that there is absolutely no need to shut themselves indoors or take iodine tablets.
The information notice of CRIIRAD is not limited to the situation in France, but is applicable to other European countries, since the level of air contamination is currently the same in Belgium, Germany, Italy and Switzerland, for example.
The data for the West Coast of the United States, which received the Fukushima radioactive fallout 6-10 days before France, reveals that in that the concentration levels of iodine-131 are 8-10 times higher, according to the ' institution.
According to CRIIRAD, a huge percentage of requests for information received related to the concern about the risks associated with rain water and food use of tap water.
The Institute stresses that there is no risk, even for children, to remain in the rain without protection. But consumption of rainwater as a primary source of drinking water should be avoided, especially among children.
About tap water, the underground reservoirs or large rivers should not present any problems. But the institute suggests that the situation of water from sources that collect rainwater from one or more river basins, such as lakes hilly, should be more carefully examined.
As for the irrigation of your garden with rainwater collection, CRIIRAD suggest watering the earth only, and not leaves of vegetables, since the uptake is faster and more significant on the surfaces of the leaf which through the roots .
Spinach, salads, cabbages and other vegetables with large surface areas are among those foods that are particularly susceptible to contamination from iodine-131, if they are cultivated outside and exposed to rain water.The washing of vegetables does not help, since iodine-131 is rapidly metabolized by plants.
Fresh milk and cream cheeses, as well as the meat of cattle that grazed outdoors, are classified as foods that may be contaminated and should be monitored indirectly. The contamination of milk and goat cheese and sheep can be greater than that of beef products.
Amount of risk
The Euratom Directive of 13 May 1996 sets out the general principles and safety standards on radiation protection in Europe. According to the Directive, the impact of nuclear activities can be considered negligible if radiation doses do not exceed 10 micro Sievert (mSv) per year. Above this value, they should be implemented all possible measures to reduce exposure.
While radioactive iodine-131 is present in the air especially in the form of gas, CRIIRAD notes that if the fallout of Fukushima, the main problem is to limit the intake of iodine-131.
CRIIRAD notes that the amount of iodine-131 capable of delivering a dose of 10 mSv varies greatly depending on the age of the consumer. Children under two years are the most vulnerable and ingestion of 50 becquerel (Bq) is enough to provide the body with a dose of 10 mSv, according to the institute.
If the foods (leafy vegetables, milk, etc.) contain between one and 10 Bq / kg or more, it is possible that the reference level of 10 mSv may be exceeded within two or three weeks.
The values of radioactive iodine-131 measured by the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) in recent days show the following levels of contamination: 0,08 Bq / kg of salad, spinach and leeks in Aix-en -Provence, 0.17 Bq / l in milk in Lourdes and 2,1 Bq / l in the milk of goats in Clansayes.
The contamination will continue in the coming weeks
CRIIRAD notes that "huge amounts of radioactive material were released from the Fukushima Daiichi plant by Saturday, March 12, 2011. Tuesday, April 5, 24 days after the accident, the issue was still continuing. This means that the air masses contaminated in Europe will last, with a delay related to the distance of 15,000 km from part of the gases radioactive aerosols. "
What's written in the document of CRIIRAD?
Rainwater and irrigation
To evaluate the deposition of radioactivity on the ground, the laboratory CRIIRAD analyzed eight samples of rainwater collected from different regions of France. The activity of iodine-131 (the only radionuclide found) ranged from 0.24 Bq / l and 4.9 Bq / l.
This very low level does not cause any risk for people who found themselves in the rain without protection. However, the use of rainwater as the main power source is not recommended, especially if consumers are young children. Note that the current legislation does not consider rainwater as drinking water. Water from underground reservoirs or the great rivers should not be a problem. However, it should be examined more closely the situation of the reservoirs as the hill reservoirs that collect rainwater from one or more river basins.
Potential food risk
There are, in principle, two categories of foods to consider: the leafy vegetables such as salads, beets, spinach, cabbage, sorrel ... (unless they are grown in greenhouses, of course) ; milk and cheese (especially goat and sheep), meat, except for farms in the barn. The risks are certainly reduced, but in view of the possible length of the contamination and the existence of particular eating habits as well as the vulnerability of certain groups of the population, there is more in the range of negligible risk and is therefore important to ensure that foods risk constituting, in the coming weeks, the staple diet of the family. This measure of common sense applies especially to children, pregnant women and nursing mothers.
How long will the contamination?
Technical reports of the manager (TEPCO) and the Authority for the Security Japanese (NISA) fear a release for still several days or even weeks. If there will be new fire or if operators will again be forced to release steam to prevent hydrogen explosions, can cause new phases of massive emissions. In France, the impact remains very low and the protective measures are relatively easy to implement. Tremendously worse the situation for Japan.
Translation by Monia Benini