Milk from grass-fed cows

Milk from grass-fed cows is often among the first foods to show radiation contamination. Even when no radiation can be detected with tainted grass, the milk of animals that graze upon it show alarmingly high levels within days. The New York Times reports that radioiodine-131 contaminated grass will re-concentrate in milk by a factor of 1,000.

Are There Harmful Levels of Radiation in Milk?

There are some reports buzzing around the Web that radiation levels in Hawaiian milk have been detected at levels 600-2,000 percent above U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limits, but I have not been able to confirm these reports.

So far, it appears the latest round of EPA milk sampling, which was conducted in April 2011, found only very low radiation levels in Washington State milk — levels 5,000 times below the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) intervention level. California milk samples obtained from an organic dairy by the University of California, Berkeley also found only very low levels of radiation, and a results summary noted that:

” … one would have to consume at least 1,900 liters of milk to receive the same radiation dose as a cross-country airplane trip.”

Now, here’s where things get murky.

According to an article published on, CRIIRAD, a French research body on radioactivity, published this paper stating risks associated with iodine-131 contamination in Europe are no longer “negligible.” They reportedly have warned children and pregnant and breastfeeding women to avoid eating vegetables with large leaves and creamy cheese, as well as drinking fresh milk, due to radiation contamination risks.

And it was reported that:

“Data for the west coast of the United States, which received the Fukushima radioactive fallout 6-10 days before France, reveals that levels of radioactive iodine-131 concentration are 8-10 times higher there, the institute says.”

Meanwhile, a letter posted by organic dairy farmers in Hawaii, posted on, states milk from two large dairies has shown “elevated levels of radiation, from 400 to 2,400 times the recognized safe levels.” As a result, the farmers are taking matters into their own hands and using a natural mineral, boron, to help reduce any related risks.

How Does Boron Fight Radiation?

Boron (sodium borate) is the mineral in the popular natural multipurpose cleaner Borax (Borax is about 11 percent boron). Some organic dairies in Hawaii are now adding this mineral to cow and goat feed and water, as well as applying it directly to pastures and neighboring pastures, because it acts as a non-toxic radiation absorber.

According to the farmers:

“Boron is the only mineral capable of accepting ionizing radiation that never changes the innards or the nucleus of the cell. Spoken simply, boron can take radiation and release it without upsetting its own very delicate balance.

Boron is used extensively in the nuclear industry. Sodium borate is regularly used for standby liquid control systems, in case of emergencies. It was used in Cheronbyl in 1986 mixed with sand to prevent further radiation leakage. It was also used in 1999 in Tokaimura, Japan, to absorb the massive amounts of radiation after an accident at a plant. Currently it is being dumped on fuel rods and in surrounding waters of the Fukushima plant.

Boron is widely recognized as extremely safe and can be used to capture radioactivity on our soils, gardens, orchards, etc. It also can be safely ingested by humans and animals. Boron will accept radiation and ionize it within our bodies, after which our bodies will safely excrement the boron and radioactivity.”

Once radioactive components have contaminated farmland and crops, there is not much you can do about it. But using boron may be one simple way to actually help clean up some of this radioactive mess.

As an aside, though I do not believe the risks at this time have proven to be significant except to those in the general vicinity of Japan’s damaged Fukushima plant, boron can also be taken in supplement form; you can read more about its uses as a supplement here. Boron is also found in varying levels in certain foods, such as coffee, avocadoes, nuts, red grapes, apples and pears.

Optimizing Your Levels of This Vitamin May Also Help Protect You from Radiation

If you’re looking for strategies to help prevent damage caused by radioactive fallout from the recent nuclear disaster in Japan, researchers noted in the International Journal of Low Radiation that the most active molecular form of vitamin D — D3 (also known as calcitriol) — may offer protection against a variety of radiation-induced damages, including those caused by background radiation or a low-level nuclear incident, through the following mechanisms:

Cell cycle regulation and proliferation
Cellular differentiation and communication
Programmed Cell Death (PCD)
Anti-angiogenesis (a process that stops tumors from making new blood vessels, which means they stop growing)
The protective mechanisms are so strong that researchers suggested vitamin D3 should be considered among the prime (if not the primary) non-pharmacological agents to protect against sub-lethal low radiation damage and, particularly, radiation-induced cancer.

Vitamin D

Researchers have found that daily intakes of vitamin D by adults in the range of 4,000-8,000 IU so your blood levels are in therapeutic range are needed to maintain blood levels of vitamin D metabolites in the range needed to reduce the risk of breast and colon cancers by about half. You can find out more about how to use vitamin D therapeutically to reduce radiation damage here.

Should You be Concerned About Radiation from Japan?

Discussing radioactive fallout can be frightening, especially if it is threatening to put your food supply at risk. But I want to stress that at this time it appears radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant is NOT a serious threat to your health unless you are close to the reactor.

It helps to put it into perspective by remembering that nearly everything in life has a risk. Let’s take driving a car. No one would deny that every time you get in your car you could be killed by a drunk or texting driver. Yet we all are willing to take that risk because we believe the benefits we receive from traveling outweigh the relatively minor risk of an accident.

Likewise, according to John Boice Jr., a radiation expert at the International Epidemiology Unit in Rockville, MD, you are exposed to a number of other more potent carcinogens than nuclear radiation on any given day (barring direct exposure within the area of the nuclear reactor or atomic blast, of course).

“The average amount of radiation that victims in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were exposed to would increase the risk of dying from lung cancer by about 40 percent. Smoking a pack of cigarettes a day increases the risk of dying of lung cancer by about 400 percent,” Boice is quoted as saying.

These statistics are not very reassuring to a lot of people though, especially anyone in Japan or on the West coast of the United States.

Is There Anything Else You Can Do?

As I wrote earlier this month, there is no “magic pill” that will protect you from all of radiation’s potential risks … but there are some natural strategies — like boron use in farming and optimizing your vitamin D levels — that may help. Other practical options include:

Potassium Iodide

If you’re exposed to radioactive iodine, your thyroid, which uptakes iodine from your blood to make thyroid hormones, will actively take in this substance. This is why thyroid cancer is one of the greatest risks following exposure to this type of radiation.

Potassium iodide (a stable form of iodine) works by essentially “flooding” your system with iodine so your thyroid has no need to take in the radioactive form. The American Thyroid Association recommends that anyone living within 50 miles of a nuclear plant have potassium iodide in their household at all times in the event of a radiation emergency, and advises the supplement be made available to those living within 200 miles of a plant.

However, you should only take potassium iodide if you are near active radiation fallout. This is NOT a strategy that should be used as a long-term preventive because it only protects your thyroid for one to three days, no longer, and taking it when not absolutely necessary could result in thyrotoxicosis.

In this regard, vitamin D may be far superior because it can be taken before, during and after a radiation incident with only positive ramifications, assuming you monitor your blood levels to keep them in the optimal range.

Remember, it’s only if you are deficient in iodine that if a radioactive cloud passes by, your body will tend to suck that radioactive iodine into your thyroid gland to fill up its iodine stores. In an ideal situation you will have been taking adequate amounts of iodine from safe sources, which will protect you from radioactive iodine naturally. In reality, however, many are likely iodine deficient.

I recently conducted an interview with Dr. David Brownstein, who has compiled a tremendous amount of clinical data on this topic and can be considered an expert in this area. Dr. Brownstein has been working with iodine for the last 20 years. He has tested over 5,000 patients in his clinic and found over 95% of them to be iodine deficient. This is an incredible result as it puts iodine deficiency on par with the percentage of people that are deficient in vitamin D.


Spirulina — a blue-green algae — might be another useful alternative to protect against the effects of radiation, and there is in fact research backing this up. Spirulina was actually used to treat children exposed to chronic low levels of radiation after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

According to a scientific review of spirulina’s benefits:

“Up to very recently, the interest in Spirulina was mainly in its nutritive value. Currently, however, numerous people are looking into the possible therapeutic effects of Spirulina.

Many pre-clinical studies and a few clinical studies suggest several therapeutic effects ranging from reduction of cholesterol and cancer to enhancing the immune system, increasing intestinal lactobacilli, reducing nephrotoxicity by heavy metals and drugs and radiation protection.”

But what is it about this blue-green algae that gives it this radiation-protective capacity?

Spirulina has a 16 percent phycocyanin content—a blue pigment that is attached to its photosynthetic membranes. Phycocyanin is also a nitrogen storage molecule. The nitrogen atoms can form a complex with heavy metals such as radioactive cesium and stronium, hence “cleansing” these radioactive metals from your body.


Turmeric contains a broad spectrum of water, fat and alcohol-soluble components, all of which may contribute to reducing damage associated with both external radiation and internalized radioisotope exposures. It accomplishes this primarily through reducing oxidative stress to cellular structures, particularly DNA.

Research found in the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s database demonstrates that it has significant radioprotective properties, with 23 studies indexed on thus far.

Of particular importance in selecting a turmeric product is that it be certified organic to ensure it has not been gamma irradiated (ironic?) with radioactive cobalt-60 in the USDA-approved process known as “cold pasteurization.” Conventional spices are commonly exposed to as high as 30 Kilograys of gamma radiation, or the equivalent of 990 million chest x-rays worth of radiation.

The irradiation of herbs produces formic acid, formaldehyde and unique radiolytic byproducts with carcinogenic properties.

Sweet Whey

I interviewed Ori Hofmekler for an alternative viewpoint with regard to how you can decrease the risk to your health from radiation. Ori makes some compelling arguments for the use of a high quality whey protein concentrate to help protect against absorbing radioactive minerals.

One of the reasons for using sweet whey in a situation like this is because whey protein contains all the precursors that help your body produce glutathione, which is one of the best ways to detoxify these toxins.

The other reason is it’s the highest source of all minerals and trace minerals that exist in nature. It has every possible mineral and trace elements — including organic sodium — that your body needs in the most bioactive form.

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