More than a month into the nuclear crisis in Japan, efforts to contain radioactive emissions are still underway. Officials there have indicated that it will take years to fully cool the facility’s nuclear fuel, a process that may still be releasing radioactive material into the environment. Eleven types of vegetables have been found to contain radioactivity and have been deemed unfit for consumption. Tokyo’s drinking water has been deemed unsafe for children based on its levels of radioactivity.
The full impact of the Japanese nuclear crisis remains to be seen, but the health risks posed by radioactive contamination are well documented. In 2006, the National Academies of Science issued a definitive report on radiation exposure that concluded that even low levels of radiation can cause human health problems, including cancer, heart disease, or immune disorders. Children are especially susceptible to the impact of foodborne exposure to radioactive materials, making safeguards of food and water particularly critical.
While government officials have thus far downplayed the significance of radioactivity from the Japanese nuclear crisis, the science shows that the radioactive materials will have an impact somewhere, and that impact could last for decades.