Japanese officials Thursday sought to reassure the public about the safety of drinking water contaminated by fallout from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, dropping restrictions after radioactive iodine levels fell within acceptable limits.
The most recent readings at the Kanamichi Water Purification Plant, which provides water to Tokyo as well as five other cities, showed 79 becquerels of radioactive iodine per kilogram of water. The acceptable limit for infants one and younger is 100 becquerels, while for adults it is 300.
Earlier today the governor of Tokyo prefecture Shintaro Ishihara announced that all Tokyo water restrictions have lifted.
During a tour of the Kanamachi water treatment plant, Ishihara, who is up for re-election, drank a full glass of water taken from the plant.
Ishihara encouraged the population to remain calm, and when asked about Tokyo water, said "Tokyo water always tastes good."
The governor said he "does not drink bottled water."
But Japanese citizens are getting mixed signals as just yesterday tap water was deemed unsafe, and hours before the announcement bottled water was being handed out to Tokyo families and residents.
Meanwhile, three workers have been exposed to radioactive elements at Japan's Fukushima Dai-chi plant, with two sent to the hospital for treatment, according to officials.
The workers were injured while laying electrical cables on Thursday at Unit 3. The two workers sent to the hospital were exposed to radioactive elements on the skin of their feet.
According to Fumio Matsuda, a spokesman for the nuclear safety agency, the workers were exposed to radiation levels of up to 180 millisieverts, which is shy of the maximum 250 millisieverts that the government is allowing for workers.
Approximately two dozen people have been injured since the plant began leaking radiation after suffering tsunami damage March 11, with seven other employees having been exposed to levels over 100 millisieverts. Officials raised the casualty toll from the earthquake and tsunami to 9,737 people confirmed dead, and 16,423 missing.
High Anxiety Over Water in Tokyo
News about radiation levels in Tokyo's tap water brought a heightened level of anxiety in the city of 30 million this week, where a run on bottled water has left people, and especially mothers of infants, scared for their children and the immediate future.
Because of the reactor meltdown at the plant 140 miles north of the capital, tap water was considered a health hazard, officials announced Wednesday. Tokyo's water is tainted with a radioactive isotope called Iodine-131 which is known to cause thyroid cancer.
Tests at one of the main water treatment plants showed the level of Iodine-131 twice the acceptable level for babies, at a count of 210.
Workers doled out bottled water to Tokyo families and panic-stricken residents Thursday who found empty spots on grocery store shelves where the bottled water used to be, now replaced by signs reading "water all sold out because of news concerning radiation."
Speaking Tuesday, officials said that consuming the city's tap water is unsafe for infants.
"So we advise babies in Tokyo and surrounding areas not to drink the tap water," a water department official announced in a televised statement.
Households with infants will get three, half-liter bottles of water for each baby -- a total of 240,000 bottles.
Immediately, government officials began to beg citizens not to hoard bottled water.
"Please," the government's chief spokesman said, "don't buy more than you need."
Mothers across Japan are concerned over the affect that tap water may have on their young children.
"We can't see radiation," one Japanese mother said to ABC News. "And we won't know the effect on our children for years."
Government spokesman Yukio Edano tried to quell fears over the level of radioactivity in water.
"We ask people to respond calmly," he said at a briefing. "The Tokyo metropolitan government is doing its best."
Approximately 660,000 Japanese household still do not have water in Japan's northeast, the government said Wednesday. Electricity has not been restored to some 209,000 homes, according to the Tohoku Electric Power Co.
Scientists say one reason the levels of radioactive iodine in water have jumped so fast may have to do with rain, which brings the particles down.
Thursday the public got a first glimpse at the effort to prevent further contamination. Firefighters continue to pour water on the reactor units at to keep the reactors cool, exposing themselves to potentially lethal radiation.
Just 16 miles away sits Minamisoma, which sits inside the exclusion zone, and now looks like a ghost town.
The streets are empty. But the streetlights still work. Until 2 weeks ago, 71 thousand people lived here. Now only a few hundred remain.
"Our car only had room for 5," said one Japanese woman, sobbing. "So I put my kids in with my husband and I stayed behind."
The townspeople get little help from the outside world -- except what they can organize themselves. Many are refugees in their own homes ... doing their best to hide from an invisible threat.