Residents react to Japanese radiation found in Illinois

CARTERVILLE, IL (KFVS) - Radiation from the stricken nuclear plant in Japan has shown up in Illinois.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) detected radioactive iodine in grass clippings in northern Illinois and in an air sample collected at the radiochemistry lab in Springfield.

Emergency management officials tell me the levels are too low to pose health risks, but it still has some folks on edge.

"I sure wouldn't have thought it'd have gotten this far, but I guess it did," said Stephen Oakley of Johnston City.

"It's really scary," said amber Mitchell of Marion. "I have a little one and we like to play outside and I kind of wonder if it's safe or not."

That's apparently a common concern. The Natural Choice Health Store owner Cheryl Couch has gotten a lot of calls lately from people asking for potassium iodide. Potassium iodide is a supplement that helps protect the body from harmful radiation.

"It protects the thyroid from radiation, because that's what absorbs the radiation, your thyroid," said Couch.

Most of the calls started came in after news broke that a meltdown in Japan was essentially imminent.

"The demand has sharply diminished in the last few days. But I think it's going to increase with the latest news," said Couch.

An IEMA nuclear test team discovered iodine 131, the radioactive isotope emitted from the Fukushima Daiichi plant, in grass clippings collected outside the Dresden Nuclear Power Plant in Morris, Illinois during a safety drill.

"Normally because it's not a real accident, they are not finding any of these types of results," said IEMA spokeswoman Patti Thompson. "These samples point to be consistent with findings of other states and with the release from the troubled plant in Japan."

IEMA officials say the level of radiation found in Illinois was so small, it was barely detectable. Thompson says it was a smaller level of radiation than a person would get from eating a banana, and therefore poses no risk to human health.

Still, IEMA has stepped up its testing of radiation around the state.

"We certainly didn't intend on raising any concern, we actually hope this gives people a sense of comfort, knowing it has been detected, it's extremely low and poses no hazard and that somebody's out there watching to make sure these levels don't get higher," said Thompson.

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