Japanese company finds radiation traces in baby powder

December 7th, 2011 - 3:41 am ICT by BNO News  

TOKYO (BNO NEWS) — Traces of radioactive material have been found in Meiji baby formula in Japan, just several days after reports emerged of water leaks at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, officials said on Tuesday.

Meiji Co. said the baby formula was found containing radioactive cesium of up to 30.8 becquerels per kilogram (2.2 pounds) after a random sample was taken and examined by the company, the Kyodo news agency reported.

How the baby formula became contaminated was not immediately clear, but company officials believe the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is directly related. Japan’s Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said such high levels of radioactive materials have not been found since the beginning of the country’s nuclear crisis and said it is already planning new limits for food products.

On Sunday, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) spokesman Hiroki Kawamata said that around 45 tons of highly contaminated water, believed to have contained high concentrations of strontium, leaked from desalination equipment used to decontaminate radioactive water. However, the system principally cleans out cesium from the contaminated water, leaving its strontium contents practically intact.

Beta ray radiation, which is usually emitted by strontium, was detected in the air over a gutter outside the cracked building. Tepco said the radiation measured 110 millisieverts per hour while gamma ray radiation of 1.8 millisieverts per hour was also detected.

Strontium is a highly chemically reactive alkaline earth metal that can cause bone cancer if ingested. The human body absorbs it as if it were calcium. It has a half-life of 28.9 years. However, beta rays are easily stopped by thin material such as clothing and do not travel far, although gamma rays are much more powerful.

The decontamination system that leaked had been utilized at the beginning of the nuclear crisis, but it was later shut down. Its operations resumed on Saturday at around 2:30 p.m. local time and, less than 24 hours later, the leak was discovered.

Japan has been facing an ongoing nuclear crisis since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was severely damaged on March 11 when a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and a subsequent tsunami devastated the country. The disaster disabled the cooling systems of the plant and radioactive elements leaked into the sea and were later found in water, air and food products in some parts of Japan.

At least 15,839 people were killed as a result of the earthquake and tsunami while 3,642 others remain missing. There are still more than 88,000 people who are staying in shelters in 21 prefectures across Japan.

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