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Japan Radioactivity Could Enter Food Chain

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Radioactive materials spewed into the air by Japan's earthquake-crippled nuclear plant may contaminate food and water resources, with children and unborn babies most at risk of possibly developing cancer.

Experts said exposure to radioactive materials has the potential to cause various kinds of cancers and abnormalities to fetuses, with higher levels of radiation seen as more dangerous.

But they said they needed more accurate measurements for the level of radioactivity in Japan, and the region, to give a proper risk assessment.

"The explosions could expose the population to longer-term radiation, which can raise the risk of cancer. These are thyroid cancer, bone cancer and leukemia. Children and fetuses are especially vulnerable," said Lam Ching-wan, chemical pathologist at the University of Hong Kong.

"For some individuals even a small amount of radiation can raise the risk of cancer. The higher the radiation, the higher the risk of cancer," said Lam, who is also a member on the American Board of Toxicologists.

Radioactive material is carried by minute moisture droplets in the air. It can then be directly inhaled into the lungs, get washed down by rain into the sea and onto soil, and eventually contaminate crops, marine life and drinking water.


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