For Immediate Release
April 7, 2011

KDHE Office of Communications
communications@kdheks.gov, 785-296-0461

Update: Miniscule Level of Radiation from Japanese Nuclear Plant has reached
Kansas, but no Anticipated Health Threat to Kansans

Findings follow reports of similar findings in surrounding states

Recent state environmental samplings have detected miniscule levels of iodine-131 in Kansas from the Japanese nuclear reactors in Fukushima Dai-ichi. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NCR) and other federal agencies, these types of findings are being found all across the country and are far below levels of human health concern, including for infants and children.

Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer, M.D. stressed there is no anticipated health threat to the U.S. or Kansas.

“We understand the concern Kansans may have. What we are seeing is a miniscule blip on the meter. The consensus remains from international, national and state health experts that this does not pose a health risk to Kansans,” said Lt. Gov. Colyer. “Along with the EPA, NRC and other federal agencies, we have been monitoring the situation from the beginning and expected to eventually see some evidence of slightly increased radiation levels in the United States. We will continue to monitor the situation and keep Kansans informed.”

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) conducts a wide variety of environmental samplings on a weekly and quarterly basis. They include soil, air, water, vegetation and animal life.

“In Kansas, we remain at no risk for any adverse affects from the current situation,” said Dr. Robert Moser, secretary of KDHE. “The miniscule traces of radiation found are equal to what the health and environment regulators in surrounding states are seeing.”

According to radiation experts with KDHE and EPA, all of us are exposed to natural radiation on a daily basis. Elevated levels of radioactive material in the U.S. have been expected as a result of the nuclear incident in Japan since radiation is known to travel in the atmosphere.

“While these levels are well below any need for public concern, we are working with county health departments in case Kansans have any questions,” said Moser. “We will also continue to monitor our state’s environment and report future spikes in these levels if they were to occur.”

Kansans are still advised against taking potassium iodide (also called KI) pills in response to the nuclear incident in Japan. Generally, KI is only issued to emergency responders and nuclear power plant workers who must work in close proximity to a radiological release or are likely to receive a higher than normal exposure to radioactive iodine. Consumption of KI can lead to harmful side effects if not taken properly.

KDHE will continue monitoring the environment and will notify the public as pertinent information becomes available.

“The Kansas food supply is safe and secure,” said Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman. “We continue to work with our state and federal partners to monitor the safety of our food supply.”

Maj. Gen. (KS) Lee Tafanelli, the adjutant general and director of the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, said that KDEM will continue to monitor the situation and coordinate all information with its partner state agencies.

“Our mission is to ensure the safety of Kansans,” said Tafanelli. “In this situation, the best way for us to do that is provide the public with accurate information. At this time, there is no cause for concern and that is not expected to change. We are diligently monitoring the situation and will provide updates should anything new develop.”

The state of Kansas prepares and conducts exercises for disaster response routinely and recently updated its Kansas Response Plan. It details how state agencies respond to emergencies in the state to assist local governments and coordinate with federal agencies, should federal assistance be needed. The document is available for the public at http://kansastag.gov/KDEM.asp?PageID=413.

There is one nuclear plant in Kansas, Wolf Creek Nuclear Generating Station near Burlington in Coffey County. A plant in Nebraska, Cooper Nuclear, is within 50 miles of the Kansas-Nebraska border. The state of Kansas works closely with Wolf Creek and Cooper to ensure that all possible precautions are taken to protect the health and safety of the public.

Wolf Creek was designed to withstand the effects of earthquakes, tornadoes and other disasters. The plant was also designed with multiple safety systems to ensure it can be shut down safely. The state conducts several exercises with Wolf Creek and Coffey County each year to test emergency plans regarding the plant under different disaster scenarios.

Any updates to the FAQs will be posted on the www.KsReady.gov Website.

Additional information may be found at the Environmental Protection Agency Website http://www.epa.gov and the Food and Drug Administration Website http://www.fda.gov

NOTE TO MEDIA: These telephone numbers are for media inquiries regarding health and public safety issues. They are not for public release.

Kansas Department of Health and Environment: Jonathan Larance, 785-296-5795

Kansas Division of Emergency Management: Sharon Watson, 785-274-1192; 785-806-4063

Kansas Department of Agriculture Chelsea Good, 785-296-2653

Nuclear Regulatory Commission    301-415-8200

CDC Information on Potassium Iodide (KI) Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

CDC Radiation Emergencies Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

NRC news releases Information from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission


FAQs About Radiation from Japan’s Nuclear Disaster
According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Japan’s nuclear emergency presents no danger to the United States at this time. The Kansas Governor’s Office, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Kansas Division of Emergency Management, and Kansas Department of Agriculture are monitoring this situation closely with our federal partners, including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Energy and FEMA Region VII.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q.         What is the risk for Kansas from the current nuclear power emergency in Japan?

A.       The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) indicates Japan’s nuclear emergency presents no health risks to the citizens of the United States at this time. Any radioactive materials that may reach the United States will be at levels that pose no risk to human safety.

Q.         What is being done to test for radiation that might be coming or is present in the environment?

A.       Both the state of Kansas and the federal government are continuously monitoring the environment and will be able to immediately detect any elevated levels of radioactive material. For more information, see the Environmental Protection Agency website: www.epa.gov/radiation

Q.         Does Kansas have a plan in place to respond to a radiological emergency?

A.       The Kansas Response Plan, revised in late 2010, provides the guidelines for every state agency to respond to all types of disasters, including radiological emergencies. The state conducts six to eight exercises annually with Wolf Creek Nuclear Generating Station and Cooper Nuclear Station to prepare for potential issues that might arise from the facilities whether from natural disaster, terrorism or plant/mechanical failures. For more information, a video describing a recent radiological emergency preparedness exercise in the State of Kansas can be viewed at the following link: http://www.kdheks.gov/beh/index.html

Q.         Does Kansas recommend potassium iodide tablets if radiation from Japan were to make its way to Kansas?

A.       Potassium iodide tablets should not be taken unless directed by authorities. Potassium iodide tablets are not recommended at this time and can cause potential side effects.

Q.         Why are potassium iodide tablets used during emergencies involving radiation exposure?

A.         Potassium iodide is used in certain situations to protect the thyroid gland from taking in radioactive iodine. If taken prior to or within an hour of exposure to radioactive iodine, it can block approximately 90% of the radioactive iodine from being taken in by the thyroid gland. It should be noted that potassium iodide has no effect on any other form of radiation or radioactive material.

Q.         Should I purchase potassium iodide as a precaution?

A.       No. Potassium iodide is only appropriate when one is very close to an incident at a nuclear facility and is most often used by nuclear power plant workers or emergency responders.

Q.         With many pharmacies out of potassium iodide (KI), Internet sources suggest taking large doses of iodine water purification tablets. Is that a good alternative?

A.         No. State health officials advise against taking anything to protect against radiation exposure when there is no radiation hazard.

Q.         Will foods imported from Japan be safe to eat?

A.         The Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is closely monitoring the situation in Japan and is working with the Japanese government and other U.S. agencies to continue to ensure that imported food remains safe.

FDA is responsible for the entry of all products with less than 2% meat or poultry; USDA Food Safety & Inspection Service provides re-inspection activities for meat and poultry products that do not fall under this exemption.

The FDA has no concerns with imported food products that have already reached the U.S. and are in the distribution process. The FDA will continue to collect information on all FDA regulated food products exported to the U.S. from Japan, including where they are grown, harvested, or manufactured. The FDA will continue to evaluate whether, in the future, food products may pose a risk to consumers in the U.S. and additional monitoring strategies will be implemented if determined necessary. FDA will be examining both food products and raw ingredients labeled as having originated in Japan or having passed through Japan in transit.

Routine monitoring of food and animal feeds for unsafe substances, including radiological materials, is a standard part of inspection procedures for commodities and conveyances entering the United States. This monitoring is a regular part of inspection procedures carried out at every port of entry nationwide.

Q.         Should sensitive populations take special precautions in our state?

A.         No. Radioactive materials from Japan are not expected to reach the United States in any concentrations that will pose a risk to public health or safety.

Q.         Is it true that we are all exposed to radiation daily?

A.         Yes. It is important to understand that people are exposed to natural radiation on a daily basis. The radiation comes from the sun and from natural materials found in the ground, water and air. People can also be exposed to radiation from certain medical procedures or from receiving an X-ray. Radon is a significant source of natural radiation and every household should test for radon.

Q.         How can I protect myself?

A.         The best thing anyone can do is to stay informed. The Adjutant General’s Department will continue to update its news release site as any new information becomes available. http://kansastag.ks.gov/media.asp. Kansas and our federal partners are monitoring the situation. If circumstances change, officials will alert the public to appropriate precautionary procedures. At this time, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission reports Japan’s nuclear emergency presents no health risks to the citizens of the United States. Any radioactive material that may reach the United States will be at levels that pose no risk to public health or safety.

            Keep yourself and your family informed by obtaining accurate information. Know where to get information, such the Environmental Protection Agency or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, rather than relying on unverified Web sites, where invalid information may spread quickly.

            The situation in Japan serves to remind us of the need to be ready for emergencies of all types. In Kansas, tornadoes, floods or other events can put our families at risk. We will soon enter the severe weather season in Kansas. If you have not yet prepared an emergency supply kit and a plan for keeping in touch during and after an emergency, now is the time to do so. For more information on getting ready, please visit the KDHE Bureau of Public Health Preparedness Web site at www.kdheks.gov/cphp/families.htm; www.ksready.gov or www.ready.gov

Q.         What about U.S. citizens living in Japan?

A.         The State Department has issued a news statement advising all U.S. citizens living within 50 miles of the Fukushima reactors to evacuate the area. This recommendation was made using the guidelines for public safety that would be used in the United States under similar circumstances.

For additional information:

Kansas Guidance on Potassium Iodide http://www.kdheks.gov/radiation/download/KDHE_Q&A_on_KI.pdf

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Radiation Information www.epa.gov/radiation.

NRC news releases Information from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corp. http://www.wcnoc.com