Japan's spreading nuclear contamination has reached the water supply of the world's largest metropolis, prompting the Government to advise against giving tap water to babies.
Yesterday's warning by Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara sparked a run on bottled water in the stores and sent thousands of worried parents to the website of the capital's Bureau of Waterworks, briefly crashing the site.
“I bought a case of bottled water because I use it to wash dishes and boil rice,” said Tokyo mother Yuko Kobayashi, who has a one-year-old son. “We're just settling back to normal after th e earthquake and now we have to think about radiation. It's exhausting.”
Tokyo's move follows a series of indefinite bans this week on over a dozen food items produced in and around Fukushima Prefecture, home to a stricken six-reactor nuclear plant that has been leaking radiation for nearly two weeks after the massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11.
Yukio Edano, Japan's top government spokesman, called the contaminated water “unfortunate” and said rain yesterday meant the radiation could have “an impact on many areas”.
But he said the warning on
water was a precaution. “Even if consumed several times, it would have no harmful effects on human health, even in the future,” he said.
Some experts have also played down the impact of the radiation on the country's food supply.
“Perhaps if you were drinking 20 litres a day, in which case you'd die of water intoxication, it could be a problem,” said Robert Gale, a specialist in nuclear accidents
who is in Tokyo visiting the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
There are worries that public concern about the Fukushima crisis is distracting attention from the effort to help around 500,000 people left homeless by the earthquake and tsunami.
The disaster killed 9,500 people and another 15,600 are still missing. Hundreds of thousands of homes are still without water or electricity.