News / Asia

Tokyo Tap Water Said Unsafe for Infants

A woman fills a glass with water from a tap in Tokyo on March 23, 2011
A woman fills a glass with water from a tap in Tokyo on March 23, 2011
TEXT SIZE - +

Radiation spewing from a tsunami-battered nuclear power plant is causing wider concerns about Japan's food chain and water supply.  Meanwhile, high radiation levels, smoke and other challenges at the facility in northeastern Japan are hampering efforts to quickly restore cooling systems to all six of its reactors.

Millions of people in Tokyo received a new, sobering alert on Wednesday. The metropolitan government announced radioactive iodine, exceeding the legal limit, has been detected at one of the city's primary water purification plants.

City officials say the affected downtown facility supplies much of the tap water for Japan's capital and five suburban districts. They say the level recorded  in the water, drawn from local rivers, is nearly double that considered safe for infants to drink, but still within limits acceptable for adults to ingest.

Ei Yoshida, who heads the water purification division of the Tokyo Waterworks Bureau, says it can be assumed that the source of the contamination is the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant, which was damaged by the March 11 magnitude 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami.

Within hours of the announcement that Tokyo's tap water had higher than acceptable levels of radioactive iodine, bottled water quickly sold out throughout the city, March 23, 2011
Within hours of the announcement that Tokyo's tap water had higher than acceptable levels of radioactive iodine, bottled water quickly sold out throughout the city, March 23, 2011

The announcement immediately prompted panic. Citizens began buying huge amounts of bottled water in Tokyo, with some purchasing it by the boxes.

Japan's government quickly asked the public to refrain from excessive purchases of water and said it is looking at ways to provide pure water to families with infants in the Tokyo Metropolitan area.

Earlier Wednesday, the Japanese government ordered shipments halted of additional varieties of vegetables from Fukushima prefecture. Spinach had initially tested for excessive levels of radioactive iodine and cesium. Among the contaminated vegetables added to the the list: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and parsley.

Those living in the prefecture, which has a population of two million people, have also been instructed to stop eating leaf vegetables harvested there.

Officials and scientists insist the levels of radioactive iodine and cesium detected in food, the air, soil and sea water, are not harmful to people.

The spreading radiation emanates from the crippled Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant.  Its cooling system was knocked out by the tsunami. Efforts continue to restore the system and cool overheated reactors and fuel rods, which are emitting the higher than normal levels of radiation which are spreading over Japan.

Black smoke was seen rising late Wednesday afternoon from the damaged Number 3 reactor. The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, released a photograph of the smoke, but says it does not know the cause. Utility spokesmen told reporters the latest sighting of smoke prompted the evacuation of the entire complex where workers have been desperately attempting to repair the cooling system and spray water on overheated fuel for nearly a week.

The company and the government nuclear safety agency say no rise in radiation levels was detected after the smoke rose.

The International Atomic Energy Agency says it suspects the Number 3 reactor’s fuel, a mix of plutonium and uranium, was damaged after the March 11 natural disaster and the condition of its spent fuel pool is uncertain.

Nagasaki University Professor Shunichi Yamashita, a specialist on radiation health risks, has been named an advisor to the Fukushima prefectural government.  He says it is difficult to know the precise amount of radiation for every locality around the plant.

Shunichi Yamashita
Shunichi Yamashita

"The radiation cloud, the fallout, spreads not evenly over all areas. It's very heterogenous," he said. "It maybe depends on the wind, climate, temperatures, area  and so on.  Some areas it's surely high, spotty. Totally the other areas is a safe area.  So I recommend to them, if possible, they should evacuate. Or should they stop eating the local products, even water."

With hundreds of thousands homeless or displaced people posing another major concern, the overwhelmed Japanese government is caring for survivors. Japanese media say some, especially the elderly, have begun to succumb in evacuation centers and hospitals because of cold weather or lack of adequate treatment.

The official death toll from the disasters is around 9,200 people. Nearly 14,000 people are listed as missing.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid