The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kelly Trout, Friends of the Earth, 202-222-0722,
Linda Gunter, Beyond Nuclear, 301-270-2209 x 2,

FDA's Comparison of Radiation in Milk to Everyday Exposures Called 'Improper'


AU.S. Food and Drug Administration statement regarding milk contaminated with radiation from Japan failed to accurately inform and educate the public, four watchdog groups and a former senior advisor in the U.S. Department of Energy said today, pointing to the fact that exposure to ingested iodine-131 is substantively different than everyday exposure to radiation in the environment.

On March 30, in response to reports that radioactive iodine-131 has been found in milk in Washington state, FDA senior scientist Patricia Hansen said, "Radiation is all around us in our daily lives, and these findings are a miniscule amount compared to what people experience every day. For example, a person would be exposed to low levels of radiation on a round trip cross country flight, watching television, and even from construction materials."

This statement was called improper by experts at Beyond Nuclear, Food and Water Watch, Friends of the Earth andNuclear Information and Resource Service, as well as by Robert Alvarez, former Senior Policy Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Energy during the Clinton Administration.

Robert Alvarez, former Senior Policy Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Energy during the Clinton Administration, said:

"No matter how small the dose might be, it is out of context to compare an exposure to a specific radioisotope that is released by a major nuclear accident with radiation exposures in everyday life. The FDA spokesperson should have informed the public that radioiodine provides a unique form of exposure in that it concentrates rapidly in dairy products and in the human thyroid. The dose received, based on official measurements, may be quite small, and pose an equally small risk. However, making a conclusion on the basis of one measurement is fragmentary at best and unscientific at worst. As the accident in Fukushima continues to unfold, the public should be provided with all measurements made of radioactive fallout from the Fukushima reactors to allow for independent analyses."

Damon Moglen, Director of the Climate and Energy Project at Friends of the Earth, said:

"This is an apples-to-oranges comparison that lacks integrity. There is a big difference between ingesting radioactive material that accumulates in the thyroid and sitting on an airplane. You can't drink a TV or eat an airplane."

Cindy Folkers, Radiation and Health Specialist at Beyond Nuclear, said:

"It is important to remember that regardless of exposure level, as the National Academies of Science have reported, there is no safe dose of radiation. Children and pregnant mothers are particularly at risk from low-dose, long-term internal exposure."

Michael Mariotte, Executive Director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service, said:

"No mother should ever have to wonder if the milk she feeds her child might be harmful. Having worked on nuclear issues for 25 years, I know the difference between internal exposures and background radiation. But lots of people don't. As the father of an 11-month old daughter, I'm personally furious at the government for this misleading information."

Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food and Water Watch, said:

"FDA is doing a disservice to the public by comparing radiation released from a nuclear reactor accident to exposures from everyday life. FDA should be providing consumers with accurate information about risks and designing a program to try to protect the public from additional radiation exposures."

The joint FDA/EPA statement from March 30 is available here:

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