Tokyo officials issue warning on tap water

US Marines load bottles of water into a Chinook helicopter to distribute in remote areas effected by the March 11 tsunami and earthquake.

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Tokyo health officials said today radiation levels are higher in the water supply there. Those officials are recommending people not give tap water to infants. The water warning comes after some locally-grown foods turned up with higher levels of radiation. And people are starting to wonder if there's relief in sight.

Marketplace continues our coverage of the human and economic toll of the tragedy in Japan. Yumiko Ono is managing editor of the Wall Street Journal's Japanese website and she's with us now from Tokyo. Thanks for being with us.

YUMIKO ONO: Sure. Thanks for having me.

CHIOTAKIS: Now Tokyo authorities are saying that infants shouldn't drink the tap water. But you have a kid right?

ONO: Yeah, I have a four-year-old. Not exactly an infant, and no longer on formula of course. But none the less, it is of concern. You start asking a whole bunch of questions. What does it mean that infants can't drink the water, but it's safe for adults? What will happen if you drink the water accidentally? So, I won't be surprised if some people, just to be safe, even if they're adults, will go out and buy bottled water. The government is already asking people not to go rush to the stores and try to hoard bottled water, in case there's a shortage.

CHIOTAKIS: Has that happened? Is there bottled water readily available still?

ONO: I don't know for sure, but there are lot's of people on Twitter saying, 'Oh. I'm going to go get my water now.' 'Oh, we though the milk was back after you know, we couldn't get milk for a few days and now it's water. What should we do?'

CHIOTAKIS: Are you concerned it's going to get any worse?

ONO: You know, one thing I really want to know is the whole big picture. Right now, we're getting little bits of information everyday from the government. You know, then it's the vegetables. Now it's the water. You know, you sort of want to know, are things getting worse or better.

CHIOTAKIS: What's it like covering this story form Tokyo, at the same time that you live there in the city?

ONO: It's very stressful in many ways. Everything is adding to the stress. For a while, this radiation issue seemed like it was getting worse and worse, with white smoke and black smoke coming out, the cooling not happening, the spraying of the water. So every day we are braced for more bad news or some new bad news. And I can see how the stress is getting to people. It's not an easy time.

CHIOTAKIS: Yumiko Ono, managing editor of the Wall Street Journal's Japanese website. Thank you so much. Take care, stay safe, and keep those kids safe too.

ONO: Thank you.

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