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

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, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Russia’s Prosecutor General to Review Legality of Baltics Independence

Move, announced Tuesday, has alarmed Baltic States and strained even further their increasingly tense ties with Moscow More

US Urged to Keep Up Pressure on Cuba Rights

Communist government continues to hold dozens of political prisoners, tightly restricts freedom of expression, uses threats, intimidation to discourage critics, according to activist groups 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.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs