Radiation Levels in New York Remain Safe

Trace Amounts of Radiation Have Been Detected After Japan Nuclear Plant Incident

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 29, 2011) - Like other regions of the country, minute traces of radioactive iodine have been found in recent monitoring of air and rainwater in New York State – dramatically below levels that would cause human health concerns, State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., announced today.

"New York continues to have safe public drinking water supplies," Commissioner Shah said. "Our most recent testing has detected extremely low levels of radioactive iodine in the air. We use sophisticated equipment that can detect minute amounts of radiation. We continue to advise New Yorkers that they do not need to take any precautions because of the radioactive emissions from Japan's nuclear plants."

Dr. Shah added that exposure to this level of radiation is thousands of times lower than common medical imaging procedures, such as chest X-rays.

Air monitoring for radiation has been routine in New York for more than 30 years. To evaluate the impact of the release of radiation from Japan, the Department stepped up its analysis of samples from air monitors. The most recent analyses show that levels range from 0.01-0.1 picocuries (one-trillionth of a curie) per cubic meter in air. These levels are similar or below what other states are reporting.

"New York State is closely monitoring the potential health impact from the release of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, but to this point, only trace levels of radiation in the air and in surface waters have been found, and they are far, far below levels that would trigger any health concerns," Commissioner Shah said.

"The Department of Health continues to monitor air, water, sediment, milk and fish, and is working with all appropriate state and federal agencies to share data,"Dr. Shah added. "Based on our monitoring to date, what we are seeing is consistent across other states. There is no threat to public health."

Slightly elevated levels of airborne radiation in the United States are the result of radioactive particles being transported in natural air streams from Japan. When it rains or snows, some of these radioactive particles can reach the ground, but the amount of radioactive particles in precipitation is minute, and not expected to affect soil or the quality of drinking water.

In addition to New York's air monitoring network, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency operates the RadNet system, a nationwide network of fixed air monitoring sites that continuously sample air flow and collect particles to detect the presence of radioactive materials. RadNet sites in New York are located in Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, Albany, and New York City. Data from RadNet monitoring can be found at: http://www.epa.gov/japan2011/rert/radnet-data-map.html

Low levels of radiation are always present in our environment and are not considered harmful to a person's health. Slightly elevated levels of radiation in the United States are not surprising following the incidents in Japan. Monitoring will continue in order to track any changes.

The New York State Department of Health will continue to advise the public through the media, its website; www.health.ny.gov; Facebook and Twitter.