Radiation From Japan Detected At O’Hare Airport

Updated 03/17/11 -10:00 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Trace amounts of radiation from Japan have been detected in Chicago, but federal officials said there is no potential danger.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Mike Krauser reports, travelers coming in from Japan triggered radiation detectors at O’Hare as they passed through customs. Only very small amounts of radiation were detected.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Mike Krauser reports

Mayor Richard M. Daley and other city officials wouldn’t provide any additional details, saying federal authorities were handling the situation.

“Of course the protection of the person coming off the plane is important in regards to any radiation and especially within their families,” Daley said at an unrelated event.

The Association of Flight Attendants has been in close contact with federal safety officials and members from some 22 airlines. The organization says it has learned the radiation at O’Hare was an amount one would find during normal daily operations.

“There were actually radio isotopes from medical equipment that were actually stored in the plane or the belly or the cargo-hold,” Jeffrey Heisey told CBS 2’s Pamela Jones.

President Obama says he’s confident dangerous levels of radiation will not reach American shores.

“We do not expect harmful levels of radiation to reach the United States,” he said Thursday.

Obama’s homeland security chief said federal officials are monitoring incoming flights from Japan for even trace amounts of radiation and that none was detected on passengers or luggage.

As CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, the mayor said the city has no local policy when it comes to detecting radiation at the airports.

“That would be up to the federal government. Every city can’t have a policy. One says yes, one says no, you can’t do that. You have to have a federal policy dealing with anyone entering the country in regards to the situations like that,” Daley said. “And they handle it very professionally and it will be up to Homeland Security. We’ve been working with them. They have the primary responsibility.”

Chicago Aviation Department Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino confirmed that at least two planes tested positive for elevated radiation levels.

“Yes, we are aware that occurred yesterday. We are working with (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) on this issue,” Andolino said.

Neither Andolino nor federal officials would give any specifics as of Thursday afternoon, although Homeland Security officials said they would hold a press conference at some point.

Federal agents at O’Hare’s International Terminal have been testing arriving planes passengers and their luggage using personal radiation detectors.

The devices detect the presence of radiological materials. Agents also have been using more sensitive Radiation Isotope Identification Devices to determine both the presence and type of radiation encountered.

Most passengers and airline crew members coming to O’Hare from Japan on Thursday said that it appeared the amount of radiation the radiation they’d absorbed was not dangerous.

“Not surprising, not concerning,” one passenger said.

“I think it’s perfectly safe from what I’ve heard,” Flight attendant Ben Johnson said, adding that he wasn’t concerned.

Sarah Gregg, who hadn’t heard about the radiation detected on some passengers and luggage from Japan said “that is a little concerning, sure it is.”

But her husband, Shad Gregg, said, “I would go the other way. I’m not that concerned. I think it’s going to be minor, if anything, at this point.”

Customs officials said that no aircraft entering the U.S. has tested positive for harmful levels of radiation. Travelers who show signs of radiation sickness are being referred to health authorities for proper treatment.

Daley declined to speculate about what kind of radiation levels might prompt a plane and its passengers to be turned away from O’Hare.

“I cant say yes or say no and pick one or the other,” Daley said. “That will be up to the health and safety of everybody on the plane and those that have been detected in regards to their family and their situations.”

United Airlines is the largest U.S. carrier to Asia. The airline said it isn’t cutting flights to Asia, but is monitoring the situation in Japan. United uses Tokyo’s Narita airport as a hub for flights further into Asia.

Representatives for the United Airlines Pilots’ Association said, “Our focus right now is the safety of our pilots. And we are working with (United) to make sure that happens. Making sure the crews are re-located to safe hotels outside the 50-mile radiation zone at Narita Airport. And that there are enough replacement crews. Because the crews that are laid over aren’t getting the proper rest.”

  • Mark Hugo

    Off course, we don’t know the levels.

    Remember, in the 1980’s the “local radiation alarms” went off at Peach Bottom, Nuclear….because of a Chinese bomb test. Levels were MINOR but detectable.

    • Odumba

      Don’t forget that radiation alarms go off all the time now in Bavaria when hunters bring back wild pigs. Fallout from Chernobyl has now made it to truffle level, the wild pigs’ favorite diet.

    • gina

      Interesting, Mark. Thanks for sharing.

    • Tom D

      I was the Shift Superintendent at Peach Bottom Nuclear Plant. I was on day shift that day and when I relieved the night Shift Super he and his crew had been working through the night to find the source of the contamination. It was sometime during the day that the US Government told us that it was a Chinese Bomb. No other source had discovered the contamination other than Peach Bottom.

  • Mark Hugo

    Fast typing, that should be “of course”.

  • Jack

    Oh, my, the sky if falling the sky it falling!

    • Bob Jones

      Yes, and now that will be used as an excuse to raise gas prices.

  • FR

    Check all imported consumer goods for radiation.

  • Matthew

    So, does “Travelers who show signs of radiation sickness are being referred to health authorities for proper treatment.” mean that some passengers are showing symptoms?

    Also, just what does “harmful” mean? Obviously the government doesn’t want to cause panic but this could mean pretty much anything and as stated is meaningless.

    • Kenny

      yeah, I wish these “news” reporters would just find out what the readings were and report those. Numbers actually mean something, everything they say is subjective and is interpreted in ten different ways by know-it-all pundits. Media these days is totally worthless.

  • http://www.datelinezero.com/2011/03/17/thur-websites-allow-you-to-monitor-radiation-levels-across-us-mannings-supporters-plan-demonstrations-march-19-and-20-more/ Thur: Websites allow you to monitor radiation levels across US, Manning’s supporters plan demonstrations March 19 and 20, more… - Dateline Zero

    […] Found At DFW, O’Hare Airports… Brought over by airline passengers… Detectors installed at LAX… Radiation Spurs Fears Around […]

  • http://www.datelinezero.com/2011/03/11/8-9-mag-hits-japan-tsunami-waves-move-across-pacific/ 9.1 Mag Hits Japan, Tsunami Follows… [w/ updates] - Dateline Zero

    […] Found At DFW, O’Hare Airports… Brought over by airline passengers… Detectors installed at LAX… Radiation Spurs Fears Around Food… DESPAIR TURNING TO […]

  • Tom

    Does this mean that the TSA can no longer rely on its monitors to detect dirty bombs that terrorists might smuggle into the US? How can the TSA tell the difference between an Asian contaminated in Japan and a terrorist?

    • TIMMY!

      The terrorist is carrying a bomb and did come from Japan. That on way you can tell the difference.

    • J

      TSA has nothing to do with people or things that enter the country. This would be CBP. And, radiation contamination and being a terrorist have no correlation.

    • Junior

      Do you think the radiation from Japan increase daily in chicago?Please i’m going insane right now.

  • Thomas

    Tom, the TSA couldn’t catch a dirty bomb coming into the country if it was tied to a person’s head.

    • J

      Well that’s becuase it’s not TSA’s responsibility. That is CBP. TSA is responsible for screening checked and carry on luggage of passengers embarking on a flight at a U.S. airport.

      • Junior

        That is true but,TSA should monitor,check,every airplane with all people in it before they even come into the airport

  • Jim

    Doomsday Island.

  • Jim

    Wonder if the TSA guys are being a little more cautious about groping passengers coming in from Japan…

    • J

      TSA is responsible for screening checked and carry on luggage of passengers embarking on a flight at a U.S. airport. No relationship to travelers arriving in the U.S. from a foreign country.

      • Jim

        You’d think so, wouldn’t you? And to be truthful, my comment was meant humorously; however, I have read of cases involving both train and air travel where TSA attempted to “screen” passengers after travel.

  • Yirmin Snipe

    Time to ban all planes originating from Japan. The jet stream will bring in more than enough toxic waste we don’t need planes bring it in too.

    • M

      The radiation level in tokyo is still lower than some other counties like China, Africa, Brazil, and even Roma, italy. we have gotten the radiation everyday.

    • not chicken little

      Hope you don’t have any relatives/ friends business associates stranded in Japan. what we are supposed to tell all of our citizens that are anywhere in Japan that they cannont ever come back?

  • FunGuy

    Maybe these passengers had radiant personalities.

  • http://elu24.com/?p=27985 Japan radiation sets off O’Hare airport alarms | ELU 24

    […] Trace amounts of radiation from Japan have been detected in Chicago, CBS News station WBBM-TV reports. […]

  • Blackhole Sun

    It’s so reassuring that we have a decision maker in the White House. He’ll wait until we’re all glowing in the dark before something is done. He’s finally addressing the Japanese situation today, a week after it happened. Too little too late. BTW – passengers at DFW are testing positive for radiation also.

  • James

    Why were the passengers allowed on the plane in the first place. Aren’t there detectors at the originating airports?

  • http://www.frumforum.com/japan-radiation-sets-off-u-s-airport-alarm Radiation Sets Off U.S. Airport Alarm | FrumForum

    […] CBS News reports: Trace amounts of radiation from Japan have been detected in Chicago, CBS News station WBBM-TV reports. […]

  • MikeL

    People are such mindless Lemmings. We ALL get more radiation anually from Radon gas and coal burning plants…about 1000X as much in fact..then what we will see in trace amounts from these flights or the dissipated ‘radiation cloud’ drifting toward California.

    Yet my fellow Californians are panicked about the ‘radiation cloud’…which will deliver a trace amount of radiation less than ONE ONE THOUSANDTH as much as they recieve from their moronic Yuppie Granite Counter Tops they insisted on upgrading their kitchens with.

    • Junior

      Woow this is becoming insane.The radiation in California can build up quickly…hopefully they wont come any further to the west,especially these airports.

  • Lester

    So, the same folks who monitor our border and can’t stop illegal entry are going to look for things you can’t see… This should work well.

  • http://velopost.com/japan-radiation-sets-off-ohare-airport-alarms/2011031823083.html Japan radiation sets off O’Hare airport alarms | Velo Post

    […] Trace amounts of radiation from Japan have been detected in Chicago, CBS News station WBBM-TV reports. […]

  • Colossal Man

    Is it just me, I have grown four inches in height since I returned from Japan. Do you think I should notify the authorities or wait until I out grow my home?.

    • Jim

      Depends…if it’s been 8 – 10 years you could be OK.

  • Fanny Forbe Franklen

    “The law does not pretend to punish everything that is dishonest. That would seriously interfere with business.” ~ Clarence Darrow

    —— http://911essentials.com

  • ernieernie

    Yes they have ideas and monitors etc. They don’t know about the risidual radiation.
    What if this stuff travels in the air, accross the ocean and gets into our lettuce and produce on the west coasts and we eat it.
    OK Scientistm, time to chime in now!

    • rusureuwant2know

      Denver gets 3 time the amount of radiation than cities at sea level experience. Should the residents be scared?
      Reality check:
      Levels of Radiation:
      Gastrointestinal series (upper & lower): 1400 millirem
      CT Scan (head & body): 1100 millirem
      Radon in average household: 200 millirem/year
      Plutonium-powered pacemaker: 100 millirem/year
      Natural radioactivity in your body: 40 millirem/year
      Cosmic radiation: 31 millirem/year
      Mammogram: 30 millirem
      Smoking Cigarettes (1 pack/day): 15-20 millirem/year
      Consumer products: 11 millirem/year
      Chest X-ray: 10 millirem
      Dental X-ray: 10 millirem
      Using natural gas in the home: 9 millirem/year
      Road construction material: 4 millirem/year
      Living near a nuclear power station: 1 millirem/year
      Air travel (every 2006 miles): 1 millirem

      • Erik

        thank you, i was about to post some of these numbers but you have done the work for me, eating a banana or sitting on your toilet or for you animal rights activists: kitty litter is radioactive as well just to name a few more

  • AD

    Those airplanes need to be decontaminated.

    And what type of radiation was found on the luggage and on the passengers… ???

    Was is Plutonium, the most dangerous element on the planet; or Strontium which has a half life of 27 years and causes bone cancer; or Cesium, which is just as dangerous ?

    As usual, we’re given half-truths and muddled answers.

    If the radiation was high enough to set off the sensors at the airport, does that mean it’s high enough to be a danger?

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