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Milk (Iodine Content)

Volume 648: debated on Wednesday 8 November 1961

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will authorise the immediate distribution of dried milk for children since the concentration of iodine in milk in Scotland has now far exceeded an acceptable dose as defined by the Medical Research Council.

The recommended limit of 130 micro-microcuries per litre relates to the radiation dose that is acceptable in milk consumed over a period of a year. For shorter periods, I am advised by the Medical Research Council that proportionately higher doses are not dangerous, and that a situation giving rise to concern has not been approached anywhere in Scotland or anywhere else in the United Kingdom.

Is the Secretary of State aware that in the first report we were given here the dose was 190 in Scotland and in the second report, 178; and that the Medical Research Council has said that higher doses over a shorter period could cause damage? Can the right hon. Gentleman really assure us that these higher doses in Scotland, particularly for babies, are not already causing damage? Is he quite certain of that?

The figure of 178 micro-microcuries per litre of milk in Scot- land, to which the hon. Lady refers, referred to a period of only three weeks and therefore represents a radiation dose which is very much less than that given by a level of 130 micro-microcuries per litre over a whole year, and I am assured that no harm need be feared from present levels of contamination observed in Scotland.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that everything possible is being done to watch the level of iodine in milk, and to warn parents? Does not he agree that alarmist statements on this subject do very great harm to the entire Scottish dairy industry?

A very close watch is being kept on the position, and the Government will not hesitate to act if, on the advice of experts, any occasion for action should arise. I am glad of the chance to make the statement that at the moment I am advised that there is no danger.

What is the most northerly point at which testing for radiation is being carried out? A certain amount of anxiety has been caused by a statement that there has, for instance, been no testing in Shetland, which is believed to be an area in which comparatively high levels have been reached.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this high figure for Scotland is not very reassuring, bearing in mind that it is the average? Would it not be better and more realistic to break the figures down into the various regions? This would give a truer picture of the varying levels in Scotland.

I must be advised by scientific experts on the best way to make a technical presentation of information which is difficult to present technically and accurately. I am informed that the averages normally used make full allowance for the variations there can be in different areas.