After radioactive iodine levels were found to exceed legal limits at a water purification facility, Tokyo officials have warned parents not to let their infants drink tap water. Even though the earthquake-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant appears to be under control, officials said iodine-131 levels may still be too high for infants to consume in some parts of the city.

Iodine-131 levels were measured at 210 becquerels per liter at one purification plant, more than double the 100 becquerels per liter limit for infants. The limit for adults is 300 becquerels.

To reassure concerned citizens who are reluctant to consume anything that comes out of a tap. Yukio Edano, Chief Cabinet Secretary said that adults who drink this water for a whole year would experience no negative health consequences.

A becquerel (Bq) is the International System unit of radioactivity in which one nucleus decays per second.

At Fukushima prefecture locals have been told to avoid certain vegetables grown locally because of radioactive contamination concerns.

After black smoke was detected emanating from reactor number 3, workers have been temporarily evacuated. A spike in radiation levels was detected just before the smoke appeared – this has since come down, but is still higher than it was over the last few days. After the power to the cooling systems were broken down by the earthquake and tsunami, experts have been desperately trying to cool the reactors and spent fuel rods in an attempt to prevent a large release of radiation.

Parents of infants who may have consumed tap water have been told by officials not to be alarmed. An enormous amount would need to be drunk, much more than any baby is capable of since the radiation started leaking.

Local vegetable farmers have been told not to send their produce to market. Deliveries of milk and parsley from Fukushima’s neighboring prefecture, Ibaraki, have been ordered to halt deliveries immediately. These food warnings and measures triggered so much concern and apprehension among locals that the Japanese Cabinet Secretary had to intervene, he announced in public “Even if these foods are temporarily eaten, there is no health hazard. But unfortunately, as the situation is expected to last for the long term, we are asking that shipments stop at an early stage, and it is desirable to avoid intake of the foods as much as possible.”

Some of Japan’s trading partners, including Hong Kong have starting banning certain food imports. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration), USA, has stopped all imports of milk and dairy products from Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma prefectures.

Japanese authorities announced that the earthquake and tsunami have left 14,700 people missing, of whom 9,408 are so far confirmed dead. Approximately 300,000 of about 500,000 people who have been made homeless are in temporary housing or evacuation centers.

The Japanese government believes the total repair-bill will be approximately $309 billion in order to get everything back to how it was before.

Written by Christian Nordqvist