Forecast in St. Paul: Radioactive rain

Maybe Blinky makes a guest appearance in the Mississippi this summer?
Maybe Blinky makes a guest appearance in the Mississippi this summer?

Officials at the Environmental Protection Agency say it's raining radiation in St. Paul as a result of the damaged nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan.

The readings show elevated levels of radioactive iodine-131 in rainwater -- the same stuff that's been detected in Japanese spinach and tap water, and falling in the rainstorms on California's coast.

Since the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that slammed Japan, workers have been feverishly trying to prevent the Fukushima-Dai-ichi nuclear power plant from melting down. The damage allowed the release of a cloud of radioactive iodine-131. Open-air atom bomb testing in the 1950s was tied to thyroid cancer in children who drank milk contaminated with iodine-131.

Since the earthquake, 30 monitoring stations like the ones in St. Paul and Duluth have stepped up their testing as the cloud is wafting its way around the world. The latest results in St. Paul show 32.3 picocuries of iodine-131 per liter of rainwater.

But hold on to your fall-out shelters -- that's definitely on the low end of things, according to the EPA. Tests in California show three times that much iodine and officials still say everything is cool.

"The levels detected were far below levels of public health concern," says EPA spokeswoman Phillippa Cannon.

Commensurate levels of iodine have been found in air sampling according to Doug Schultz with the Minnesota Department of Health. He says on March 22, 1/4000th of a millirem of iodine-131 was detected in St. Paul air and by comparison, in one day most people are exposed to about 1 millirem of background radiation.

Thing is, we're not supposed to be seeing iodine-131 in our background radiation. But Schultz still says there's nothing to worry about.

"Over a matter of several weeks, it'll be down to nothing," he says.

So, sorry, weaklings, doesn't sound like you'll be mutating into a superhuman crime fighter if you sit outside eating what's left of the snow. Still, folks who are concerned can check daily updates on the EPA's website.

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