Japan planning breast milk radiation tests

A doctor checks the level of radiation on a woman at a treatment centre in Nihonmatsu city on March 13, 2011.

Story highlights

  • Mothers in the Fukushima area had expressed concerns about the possible effects of radiation
  • A government study found traces of radioactive cesium in the breast milk of 7 mothers
  • Experts say the small amount posed no health risks to babies

Some new mothers in Japan may soon be adding radiation testing of their breast milk to their list of health checkups.

Government officials say they are considering widespread testing of breast milk samples of new mothers in Fukushima Prefecture, home of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The details have yet to be finalized, according to a spokesman at the prefecture, who declined to give his name as is customary in Japan. But the spokesman said the prefecture is working out a plan to obtain samples of the breast milk from new mothers in the region.

Mothers in the prefecture have publicly held protests, expressing outrage over possible health effects of radiation from the plant affecting their newborns. About 18,000 babies are born each year in the prefecture. About half of those babies, according to the government, are breastfed.

A survey conducted in May and June by Japan's national government found traces of radioactive cesium in the breast milk of seven of 21 mothers in Fukushima. Experts say the minute amounts posed no health risks to babies.

The new plan is one of the many safety measures that have been considered after the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, 2011. The disaster killed more than 15,000 people in northeastern Japan and sent plumes of radioactive particles from the damaged nuclear power plant.

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