High levels of radioactive iodine were detected in Tokyo's tap water prompting government today to declare it unsafe for infants, as rising smoke from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant forced another evacuation of Japanese workers battling to restore its cooling functions.
Amid mounting concerns over food safety due to radiation leaks from the nuclear plant, Premier Naoto Kan warned people against consuming leafy vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and spinach harvested in Fukushima in Japan's northeast rocked by the March 11 magnitude-9 quake and tsunami that left over 24,000 people dead or unaccounted for.
His warning came a day after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that it would ban imports of dairy products and vegetables from areas near the crisis-hit Fukushima power plant, citing "radionuclide contamination."
The measure will cover milk, milk products, fresh vegetables and fruit from Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki and Tochigi prefectures, the FDA said, adding the US would not allow imports unless they are confirmed safe.
In Tokyo, the metropolitan government said radioactive iodine exceeding the limit for infants' intake was detected in water at a purification plant, apparently due to the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima plant after the March 11 quake that is estimated to cost up to USD 309 billion, in what is being seen as the most expensive natural disaster in the world.
It said said 210 becquerels of radioactive iodine were detected per litre of water against the limit of 100 becquerels at a water purification plant yesterday in the Kanamachi district of Katsushika Ward, Kyodo reported.
But the amount of the radioactive substance detected at the purification plant is lower than the 300-becquerel limit for people other than infants, it said.
In a survey of its three purification plants, the metropolitan government also detected 32 becquerels of the substance at a plant in Hamura in western Tokyo. However, the substance was not detected at another plant in Asaka, Saitama prefecture.
Tokyo authorities said infants in the central 23 wards, plus 5 adjacent cities, should refrain from drinking tap water, national broadcaster NHK reported.
In Fukushima, 240 kms from Tokyo, the work to restore power and key cooling functions at the nuclear plant was disrupted again today after rising black smoke forced workers to evacuate.
The plant's operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said it learnt at around 4:20 pm local time that black smoke was seen rising at the No. 3 reactor building, leading to evacuation of workers from the four troubled reactors, but said about an hour later that it was receding.
All six reactors of the plant were reconnected to external power last night and workers scrambled to check each piece of equipment like data measuring instruments and feed-water pumps, before transmitting power to them.