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Friday, September 16, 2011

Why milk in a radiation scare?

A really good question was asked over at the Straight Dope:

We keep hearing in the news about radiation levels in milk and whether they're high enough to be a concern. Your recent column about the safety of nuclear power also mentioned contaminated milk. But nobody explains why contamination is a big issue with milk but not with potatoes, chicken, or water. I always thought radiation was an equal-opportunity contaminant that lands on whatever's in its way. So what's the deal with milk?


Cecil has a lot of good answers here: milk is consumed quickly (so radioactive iodine is still active), it’s largely consumed by children, etc.   For more info, I recommend the article.

He might have missed one.  There’s a whole infrastructure to test milk on an ordinary basis, so we’re set up to do mass tracking and testing of milk in a way that we aren’t set up to do mass testing of, say, potatoes. Thus, milk is well positioned to serve as the mining canary of foods.