Radiation in Tokyo’s Water Heightens Fears of Contamination

BY News Desk  March 23, 2011 at 8:56 AM EDT

Japanese officials announced that they had detected radiation above legally allowed limits in water from a Tokyo purifying station, heightening fears of spreading contamination from the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility. The amount detected is twice what is considered safe for infants, but current levels are considered safe for adults. Tokyo has a population of around 39 million residents.

Crews are struggling to cool the reactors and halt the spread of radiation, but workers were evacuated again Wednesday when smoke rose from the site. Despite the installation of power lines by the Tokyo Electric Power Company, the plant’s cooling systems have not yet been restored.

Radiation has also been detected in vegetables and milk produced in the region, causing concern both within Japan and in nations that import foods. The United States has already announced a ban on some items from those prefectures.

The fears of radiation compound the damage already inflicted on Japan’s economy in the aftermath of a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami on March 11. The government has estimated the cost at $309 billion.

Almost two weeks after the disaster, hundreds of thousands remain in shelters as aid workers struggle to provide adequate food and medicine to evacuees. The official death toll stands at 9,400, but 14,700 remain missing.