FAQs About Radiation from 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?
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?
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?.  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