The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP) is monitoring planes and ships coming from Japan for radiation, officials said Friday after reports surfaced that passengers flying into Chicago’s O’Hare airport triggered radiation detection alarms at the airport.
The customs agency said that no planes coming into the U.S. have tested positive for harmful levels of radiation, and the small number of passengers who have are being properly treated.
Officials at O’Hare said Friday they were adding screenings after passengers triggered detectors with small amounts of radiation.
"We are aware of the radiation," Chicago Aviation Department spokeswoman Karen Pride said in a report from CBS News.
The concern is in response to several explosions at nuclear reactors in Japan following last week’s massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami.
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection is monitoring developments in Japan carefully and is specifically assessing the potential for radiological contamination associated with the ongoing impact of the earthquake and tsunami to Japan’s nuclear facilities,” Friel said.
“Out of an abundance of caution, CBP has issued field guidance reiterating its operational protocols and directing field personnel to specifically monitor maritime and air traffic from Japan.”
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley said that while protecting the population at large was important – and a federal responsibility – it was also important to treat travelers testing positive for radiation.
"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, according to reports.
The customs agency said it handles about 500,000 radiation cases annually in the course of normal business, most of those involving small, non-harmful doses.