Fukushima to test milk from 10,000 mothers

Kyodo

The breast milk of about 10,000 mothers residing in Fukushima Prefecture, home to the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, will be tested for radioactive contamination, prefectural officials said Thursday.

Details of the test, which is available to any mother, have yet to worked out, including how and when it will be given. The cost, likely about ¥50,000 per person, is expected to be covered by a fund earmarked for managing Fukushima residents’ health amid the ongoing nuclear crisis.

The prefecture reportedly plans to secure a total of ¥560 million for the test project.

Many breast-feeding mothers have expressed concern that their milk is contaminated by radioactive materials released into the air and sea by the Tokyo Electric Power Co. plant since it was crippled by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

A month after the crisis started, a citizens’ group said radioactive iodine in small amounts was found in the breast milk of four women living east or northeast of Tokyo, 220 km from the plant.

About 18,000 babies are born each year in Fukushima Prefecture. Officials estimate about 10,000 mothers breast-feed their babies. It is not clear, however, how many mothers and babies fled Fukushima due to the crisis.

The prefecture will also begin sending questionnaires in mid-January to expecting and breast-feeding mothers to get a better grasp of their mental and physical health, the officials said.

In a survey conducted in May and June by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, traces of radioactive cesium were detected in the breast milk of seven of 21 women from Fukushima. Government officials and experts have said the minute amounts posed no health risks to babies.