Questions and Answers: Polonium
August 4, 2007; updated August 6, 2007
On 8/2/07, the FDA was informed that Polonium-210 (Po-210) was found in well water in Fallon, (Lahontan Valley) NV, by the US Geological Survey (USGS). Some of the wells are on dairy farms. FDA tested the milk from these farms. The results indicates that the potential risk from lifetime consumption of this milk is extremely low and poses no human health concern.
For background and information about the health effects related to Po-210, go to CDC's webpage (FAQs - Polonium, as PDF) or the state of Nevada's webpage (Polonium-210 information sheet, as PDF*)
Is milk from Fallon, NV safe to drink?
FDA's evaluation indicates that there is no human health concern. The amount of radiation that consumers might be exposed to from drinking this milk over a lifetime is extremely low. It would be about 100 X less than that from average exposures to radiation from common sources in the environment (soil, building materials, atmosphere, etc.).
For more information on radiation from common sources in the environment, go to the Department of Energy's web site.
What is the FDA doing?
FDA has collected and tested milk samples from the two dairy farms, and has found that the potential risk from lifetime consumption of this milk is extremely low and poses no human health concern. FDA continues to investigate and will keep you informed.
What should people who live in Fallon, NV, do?
People who live in the affected area should follow EPA's and local advice with regard to water consumption. For more information, go to USGS's webpage (USGS Finds Elevated Polonium-210 Levels in Wells Near Fallon, Nevada (8/3/2007)) or EPA's webpage (Water).
What are the next steps?
FDA and its federal, state and local partners are all working together to determine what, if any, other action is needed.
The public will be kept informed as more information is available.
*Previously available at http://health.nv.gov/docs/po210.pdf.