Testing Shows Fallon Milk Safe

U.S. Food and Drug Administration tests have shown that there are no health concerns for human consumption of milk from dairies in the Fallon area, Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons said Monday.

Earlier tests had shown that drinking water wells around Fallon, 60 miles east of Reno, contained radioactive polonium-25. That prompted two dairy farms to dump milk on Friday.

"I am glad that today's test results literally put them back into business as well as reassuring Nevadans that our milk has been safe all along," said Mendy Elliott, who as state Business and Industry Division chief oversees the state Dairy Commission.

Officials from Sorensen's Dairy and Oasis Dairy said last week that they were dumping milk and would stop sales pending outcome of the FDA tests.

The FDA testing followed Friday's release of a study by the U.S. Geological Survey that found the naturally occurring radioactive isotope in 24 private wells and one public well. Polonium-210 is known to cause cancer in humans.

All 23 dairies around Fallon sell their milk to the Dairy Farmers of America cooperative, which in turn markets the milk to Model Dairy in Reno and to plants in Northern California. No other dairies were part of the random testing of wells around Fallon.

Concentrations of polonium-210 found in the 25 wells ranged from less than 0.1 to 67.7 picocuries per liter. Thirteen of the wells had amounts greater than 15 pCi-L, which is the federal Environmental Protection Agency's maximum contaminant level for gross alpha radioactivity in public wells.

The EPA has no individual standard for polonium-210 levels in public water supplies and does not regulate private wells.

Officials said they think the elevated levels stem from natural causes, and there's no known health risk at this time. Research to determine whether there's a risk is being conducted by state and federal agencies.

Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian security agent, was killed in London last year with a dose of polonium-210. But officials said the amount that killed him was hundreds of millions greater than the level the public would be exposed to by drinking well water in Fallon.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)