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Canadienne heifer dairy cow However, one clear result that we can report is that the lab detected radioactive Strontium 90 in the local milk.

In the first two samples that we sent to the lab in the fall of 2011, no Strontium 90 was detected. The lab could only tell us the levels were below their relatively high detection levels of 0.2 Bq/l.

It is possible that in the fall of 2011, the cows had not started eating the post Fukushima 2011 hay crop. As well, it takes a while for the Strontium 90 to bio-accumulate up the food chain.

It is unfortunate that the detection level for the lab was so high at 0.2 Bq/l. As noted earlier, Health Canada’s lab was able to detect Strontium 90 at lower levels of detection (0.0176 Bq/l). Their equipment is clearly much more sensitive than the equipment at the lab we hired – a whopping 1,136% more sensitive!

Our testing lab’s equipment was not sensitive enough to detect the very small amounts of some radioactive fallout isotopes that can present a health issue, particularly in regards to children, and pregnant women.

If we had had a lab that was able to detect Strontium 90 at the levels possible in the Health Canada lab, we may have detected Strontium 90 in our milk earlier.

Nevertheless, by January 2012 our lab detected Strontium 90 at 0.3 Bq/l. By February 2012 the level detected had risen to 0.4 Bq/l.

In September 2012, we sent another sample of our milk to the same lab that had previously tested for and detected the Strontium 90. We received a call from the lab telling us that they had had an “explosion” because of the processing – get this – of our milk samples. They would no longer test our milk for Strontium 90.

We had to search for a different lab. We tried two other labs, not happy that their standards may be different or that we probably would not be able to compare results with those already obtained. Subsequent results from milk samples sent to the new labs in May 2012 and October 2012 showed that they were not able to detect Strontium 90 in our milk even though their detection levels were lower than those of our first lab.

We are not sure if the new labs are as good as the old one. Strontium 90 is difficult to detect. Possibly the new labs didn’t have the same ability to detect the Strontium as our original lab. Possibly the last two milk samples were from milk of a different dairy that may not have had any localized fallout. Six samples in 12 months is not enough to definitely say anything other than we know Strontium 90 was detected in the milk and we need to encourage the government to do regular testing.

It costs $400 to test each milk sample. Only the government has the kind of money needed to test our milk weekly.

Standards and “Acceptable Limits”

Canadian and American Standards for what levels of radionuclides are considered safe are quite different. The EPA Maximum Contamination level for Strontium 90 is 8 pCi/l which converts to 0.29 Bq/l The Canadian Standard is much much higher at 5 Bq/l.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Canada has an even higher level of “action” following a nuclear emergency. According to the “Canadian Guidelines for the Restriction of Radioactively Contaminated Food and Water Following a Nuclear Emergency”, the action level from Strontium 90 is 30 Bq/l.

Thirty becquerels is the same as 810 pCi/l – over 100 times higher than the EPA Maximum Contamination Level. Does the Canadian government think that human beings can handle more radiation just because there has been an nuclear emergency?

But government standards of what is “acceptable” really have nothing to do with the issue. We always ask ourselves “acceptable” to whom”?

No matter what standard the governments use, it’s important to know that there is NO safe level of radioactivity. In 2006, the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council’s Committee to assess Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation approved the Linear No-Threshold (LNT) model says that radiation is always considered harmful and has no “safety threshold.”

This means that when there is no radiation, there is no health risk. As soon as there is any radiation at all, no matter how small, there becomes a risk to health. There is no level low enough that will not increase the risk of cancer. As the level of radiation increases, so does the risk.

As well, the sum of several very small exposures are considered to have the same effect as one larger exposure.

It is clear that by January 2012, the level of Stronium 90 in our local milk, 0.3 Bq/l or 8.1 pCi/l had surpassed the U.S.’s EPA Maximum Contamination Level (MCL).

By February 2012, the level was even higher at 0.4 Bq/l (10.8 pCi/l) which meant it was 35 % over the EPA MCL.

In an email communication with the head of the National Monitoring Bureau of the Radiation Protection Bureau at Health Canada, when he was asked if Health Canada indeed stopped testing British Columbia milk for Strontium 90 on May 22, 2012 or had there been more tests, he replied:

“No more tests have been done or are planned. We are ready to resume testing if we have any reasons to believe Sr-90 might be a problem in BC milks.”

EPA milking and testing of milk for radiation Yet we believe our new tests provide reason to believe there may have been a spike in Strontium 90 in B.C milk after the Fukushima Daichi catastrophe, which has worsened.

We believe our test results will give Health Canada a reason to restart testing British Columbia milk. We have sent them our results and we are awaiting their reply.

We have written to them with our results and asked them if these results are enough reason for them to resume testing. We can only hope that a future article by Team EnviroReporter will announce a resumption of government testing.

To be sure, though, we are not holding our breath.

What Strontium 90 does to the body

Strontium 90 never occurs naturally. It is man-made by the nuclear fission reaction. Strontium 90 is a “bone seeker.” It mimics calcium and if a bone is deficient in calcium, it will take up Strontium 90 in place of the calcium.

But whereas calcium will make your bones strong, Strontium 90 gets deposited in the bones and bone marrow and causes bone cancer and cancer of the tissues nearby. It can also get into the blood and cause leukemia.

Strontium 90 decays by practically pure beta radiation. When beta particles are ingested, they penetrate cells at the molecular level and are so strong that they can actually change the structure of the molecules they strike. If the molecule it strikes is a DNA molecule, then it can cause a spontaneous mutation.

Babies and pregnant women are the most sensitive to the effects of radiation. If a pregnant woman is drinking milk that has radioactive Strontium 90 in it, the fetus will concentrate that radioactivity. If a woman who is breastfeeding is drinking radioactive milk, the Strontium 90 will concentrate in her breast milk and thus get transferred to her baby.

Young children are the next most affected. Young girls are more affected than young boys. Women are more susceptible to the effects of radiation than men.

Strontium 90 has a half life of 28.79 years so it will be around for about 290 years before it completely decays away to a nonradioactive and risk-free form. That is, any Strontium 90 you ingest and lodges in your bones will remain in your body, decaying away, for your entire life.

There is no question about it – Strontium 90 is a man-made poison that we should never have to consume.

Dairy Cattle Knowing the grave damage Strontium 90 can do to a body, it’s a good idea to ask yourself– do I want any Strontium 90 in my body or the bodies of my children.

What do the levels mean?

The highest level we found in our lab tests post-Fukushima was 0.4 Bq/l .

0.4 Bq/l sounds like such a small number doesn’t it? Consider for a minute that one becquerel (bq) is one disintegration every second. One becquerel is defined as the activity of a quantity of radioactive material in which one nucleus decays every second.

Thus, when we say that radioactive Strontium 90 decays, we mean that its nucleus decays or disintegrates. As mentioned earlier, Strontium 90 decays by beta radiation and you have already read how damaging this type of decay is.

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17 Comments

  1. Gordon Jenkins

    In 1961, there was a fire and nuclear meltdown in Idaho at something called SL-1 that released huge amounts of radioactive contamination into the atmosphere, including Strontium 90. Now the thing of it is that at that time there was a huge dairy company called United Dairies Limited of Calgary, Alberta (now owned by Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. in Laval, Quebec, Canada through a long series of transfers in ownership). They also had an ice cream division called Crystal Dairy in Medicine Hat, Alberta. through many above ground nuclear tests, fallout and processing contamination from nuclear weapons processing in the U.S. and the Northerly Chinook winds, many Albertans, especially the young and vulnerable ones were exposed to gene-damaging levels of radioactivity in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. In those days milk delivery to homes was common in Calgary, Lethbridge, and Medicine Hat. Many genetic defects and health problems have developed over the years in the young southern Albertans, including those of my eldest brother. The Dairy Industry of Alberta, The Government of Alberta, The Government of Canada, the Cancer Society of Alberta have all conducted a conspiracy of silence and coverup campaign of our exposures. The American Cancer Society Map of Radiation Exposure ends at the Canadian Border. Canada and Alberta have no such radiation exposure maps, in fact they are Deathly Silent on the matter.

  2. Now one has to tell me that there is a high amount of radiation in our food or water as my pets go out and eat grass only to vomit blood after that and go into excruciating pain and not just that . I have noticed that some of my garden plants chard and other plants tasted like chemicals. We are all in big trouble.

  3. @Sais Your comments are anecdotal and easy to logically pick apart. Let’s hear some real scientific analysis.

    1) Why does the story need to talk about Fukushima? That is not necessary. You seem to be implying cherry picking.

    2) How would those two 15 year old girls know about their health status of something so subtle? Did they have the appropriate tests performed on them? Where exactly did they live? It’s obvious that nuclear radiation sickness effects can take years to manifest so they may still be affected but not feel any symptoms. Unless you know the details, speaking generally can invalidate all your comments.

    3) If you know anything about statistics, correlations, probabilities as it applies here, it does not imply any certainty about being dead at 50. That is your own faulty logic.

    From your comments, you appear to be a naive believer in the power of science and that what is “known” is safe enough to trust. What you fail to realize is that there is more unknown than is known. Human knowledge is imperfect because nature is infinitely interdependent. We may know a few links in her chain, but most we are ignorant of. We’ve never had widespread radiation that is polluting entire oceans and large portions of the planet at these significant levels before. Nature is very nonlinear and interlinked and it is highly presumptuous of you to think that we can rely simply on what we presently know to judge the future in such an uncertain scenario. As has always happened in the past, as concerns drive investigation, new knowledge will reveal itself to show missing links of how nature works and our current models will then have to adapt.

  4. Why has there been no mention of the radioactivity levels in the populated areas of Japan near Fukashima in this article or the following comments? I just had two Japanese 15 year old school girls stay in my Australian home for a week. They live about 30 miles from the reactor. No comments about ongoing emissions. They thought they lived far enough away to have no problems. Your story makes me even more sceptical. Your statistics suggest they will both be dead of cancer by 50! The stats were incomplete, e.g.no cancer risk. The logic of ceasing to eat radionucleotides, by ceasing to eat top of food chain,I.e.go vegan. was missed.

  5. @mario – goats milk historically has had higher radiation readings than cows milk.

  6. Thank you for this perfectly-written and informative article. Thank you also for your selflessness in testing the milk and sharing your results.

    Your article makes it even more concerning that in 2009 the EPA signed off on Protective Action Guidelines whick allow a permissible 1,000-fold increase of Strontium-90 in drinking water!

    http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2009/01/21-0

    Strontium-90 was also found in Florida rain as reported by an Enenewser.

    Also, if anyone would like to see the EPA’s results for Strontium-90 in milk for your area, you can run a query here:

    http://iaspub.epa.gov/enviro/erams_query_v2.simple_query

    Out of curiosity, I ran a query for the western U.S. region for Strontium-90 in Pasteurized Milk from 1978-2013, and here is the result:

    http://oaspub.epa.gov/enviro/erams_query_v2.simple_output?pStation=0&Llocation=EPA+Region&subloc=09&media=PASTEURIZED+MILK&radi=Strontium-90&Fromyear=1978&Toyear=2013&units=Traditional

  7. Where's the truth?

    I am heart broken at this event and all of the events of mass destruction I’ve witnessed and had the displeasure of reading about from in mankinds history. Japan has been the evil powers that be’s radiation playground for some time now. Sadly, we experience these disasters and pick up from where we left off and blindly carry on as though, ahh it’s halfway across the globe, it’s not in my backyard so no worries.

    We (north America) will have many of the sins we consent to our government performing around the world come upon our heads tenfold because we do nothing to try and stop it. Continue to feed the beast and when you can no longer sustain it’s appetite, it will in turn feed upon the land and it’s inhabitants that gave it it’s power.

  8. Mrs Stevie Hobbs

    The British Government is going nuclear – rather than spend money on wind farms and wave power they prefer to join the happy band of profiteers who own the Nuclear industries. Does anyone know how to find out if we are also testing our milk etc and who do I write to to find out?

  9. @Susan

    Below is an initial response from an environmental lawyer answering my questions about using Dr. Busby’s petition approach.

    ************************************************

    It appears to me that, in Canada, what would be required would be integration of the safety protocols into regulations under federal law. One can review a variety of current regulations on the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) website (http://nuclearsafety.gc.ca/eng/lawsregs/index.cfm ). The creation of new regulations typically involves a level of lobbying and advocacy and requires a high level of persistence. Some non-government organizations in Canada (such as Sierra Club Canada http://www.sierraclub.ca ) have been involved in issues surrounding nuclear energy and may have some insight in terms of strategies.

    Generally, a starting point would be to contact the CNSC and ensure that they have all the relevant evidence. Follow up meetings with the Commission might follow to outline the need and relevance of safety approach you are advocating.

    In terms of bringing the matter forward to a domestic tribunal or court, I think there would be a need to find circumstances which are illustrative of the risks involved and to present the need for greater regulation, in that instance. This in itself would require significant monitoring and background work it seems to me as the EU is far more active on this front (or so it seems from my general awareness).

    In terms of other alternatives, one can bring an environmental petition to the office of the Auditor General of Canada and the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development (a guide to this process can be viewed at http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/docs/pet_lp_e_930.pdf ). Please see the example — http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/pet_163A_e_28897.html . As you will note in the petition that is linked the applicant sought to establish whether the federal government viewed the Charter of Rights and Freedoms included a right to a clean environment (to which the government responded by avoiding an answer and claiming existing legislation protected the environment).

  10. Yet Another Simi Mom

    Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, Canadians felt that their society was far advanced, in comparison with that of the United States, in terms of protection of the country’s citizens.

    Fast forward to the 2000’s and pro-business Conservative Stephen Harper became Prime Minister and in that role is the person who selects those who manage Canada’s federal government. Prime Minister Harper’s interests are business, business, business. It’s very clear that it is not in the economic interests of Canada’s businesses that the Canadian government admit reality: That certain dairy or farming regions have been irreversibly harmed by Fukushima’s radiation, and that the continuing releases of radiation will make the harm to Canada’s dairy and growing regions and their businesses permanent. Since the Conservative Canadian government is unable to stop the continued nuclear contamination of parts of Canada due to Fukushima’s ongoing melt downs, the Conservative government simply decides to say nothing and do nothing, allowing Canadian businesses to continue to sell contaminated dairy products, and perhaps contaminated beef, to fellow Canadians.

    As a result, a generation or more of Canadian children will be put at risk of the same sort of nuclear contamination caused illnesses found in Belarus and south west Russia as a result of the Chernobyl radiation.

    Morally, pre-Harper Canada usually took the high ground and told the truth, even if the truth was painful and the problem difficult and long term.

    It’s so sad that as to this critical public health issue, Canada’s federal and provincial governments have fallen to a new low…matching the reckless, callous conduct of the U.S. government.

  11. “People have a right to know.” – on page 4

    Some of us do know, but we had to look for it. No agency or government is going to stand up and say they were wrong.

    The Nuclear Overlords and their servants are never going to say squat! …and they certainly aren’t going to ‘announce’ it via mainstream media to a large number of people who think Fukushima is done and over. That might cause panic.

    Even worse… it might get people to thinking just how insanely dangerous Nuclear Power really is. …and they wouldn’t want that either.

  12. Fantastic article! Just a correction: the biggest source of sr90 in foods and milk in the U.S. and Canada in the 1960s was not continental testing at the Nevada Test Site, but rather from high atmospheric fallout created by huge H-bomb tests in the Pacific and in Siberia. That 1960s fallout actually hit Canada much harder than the U.S. If you look at 1960s UNSCEAR reports, you’ll see that Canadian soils had 150-200% higher sr90 depositions than in the U.S., on average, and higher values in wheat, etc… Question: did the labs you worked with also test for strontium-89? Is there any reason you didn’t ask them to test for that isotope as well?

  13. @ Marlo – as far as I know, no one has tested goat’s milk. However, this needs to be done. Peter Daley of The Food Lab has told us that goats milk concentrates radionuclides even more than cow’s milk. If you are drinking goat’s milk, I encourage you to send in a litre of it to a certified testing lab.

  14. has anyone tested goat’s milk at all and has testing been done in the interior of b.c.?

  15. David, we NEED your help! Chris Busby’s petition is very interesting. Also, going through the legal system has possibilities. It takes time, energy and money to get these initiatives going. Everyone needs to get active on this issue of our very survival.

    Every reactor produces so much highly radioactive nuclear waste and there is NO WHERE to put it!!! Even without a disaster, every nuclear power plant is allowed to release radioactivity into the environment. When there is a disaster, it is a complete catastrophe – look at Japan – changed forever – contaminated land, sick and dying people, no end in sight.

    We currently have a campaign started to close down the closest nuclear power plant to our home.

    Everyone needs to find out where their closest nuclear reactor is located. Then they need to find out if there is a group working to shut it down. If there is, they need to JOIN IT! If there isn’t, they need to CREATE ONE!

    As Jerry Mander and Ernest Callenbach said in the forward to the “must read” 2013 book “Nuclear Roulette” by Gar Smith:

    “The situation is so grave that we should ….be camped out night and day in front of the legislative and regulatory bodies demanding the permanent end to any and every expression of this continued nuclear menace”.

  16. I deeply appreciate the work that went into this informative report. I am grateful for the dedication of those who gathered the facts and I have shared the article as much as I can. While I live in Ontario, I have family in B.C. and I am concerned for all of us across the country and around the world. What a mess!

  17. Thank you! What a loss for all of us and all life forms on earth! And the strange thing is that none of this
    has to happen. We need nuclear like we need a hole in our head.

    Three reflections.

    1. Dr. Busby petition approach in Europe is an interesting way to have the governments there to look at the contanmination through a legal process. Can us Canadians do the same?

    http://nuclearjustice.org/?p=50

    2. Tony Merchant – lawyer – is representing former Chalk river workers in an class action lawsuit. Maybe he would be willing to take this on.

    3. My MLA needs to see these lab reports along with a letter demanding change.

    Please advise.

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