Hawaiians have a problem. Lynn Nakasone, administrator of the Health Department’s Environmental Health Services Division, is giving reassurances based on misleading calculations.
From the Star Advertiser, April 12, 2011
“The limits for water as derived by the EPA are totally different from how it’s derived through the FDA,” Nakasone said. “The EPA is saying (their limit) is over a 70-year period, whereas FDA is more of a short-term duration.”
Using McMahon’s premise, “it’s like drinking two liters of water for 70 years to get their (the EPA’s) limit. So if you extrapolated to milk, you’d have to drink two liters of milk for 70 years to get that limit.”
Nakasone appears to be saying that it will take 70 years to reach dangerous levels of radioactive exposure from drinking milk at the EPA Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL). However, recall that the EPA MCL for milk is 3 picocuries per liter. Hawaiian milk contains 60 picocuries per liter of radioactive isotopes. Thus, it would only take 3.5 years to reach dangerous levels. But this does not take into account exposure from other sources. In Boise Idahao, 390 picocuries per liter of rainwater were detected. Many Hawaiians use rainwater as their source for drinking water [hat-tip, BeWell for this info]. Using Nakasone’s argument, people drinking water contaminated at this level would reach the danger limit in about six months. Combine milk, water and food and the danger limit could be reached in a month or two, using Nakasone’s own logic.
The FDA limits relate to a point source of contamination. The EPA limits relate to environmental contamination, ie, the 3 picocuries in one sample is used as an indicator of general contamination of the environment. Hawaii, and other US states, are facing environmental contamination, not single source contamination. If you add up all the point source contaminations, you can see why the EPA limits are set at 3 picocuries per sample.
Public officials are misconstruing the FDA limits in a way that grossly underestimates the risk. Whether or not this is driven by economic considerations I leave you to judge for yourselves.