Reuters reports airborne radioactive material from Japan’s nuclear plant poses a threat to dairy cows resulting in contaminated milk which increases radiation exposure to the country’s milk drinkers.

The radioactive material spreads through the air as minute moisture droplets. People and animals exposed to the radioactive material over a long period of time are at a higher risk for thyroid cancer, bone cancer and leukemia.

Once the droplets settle into the ground, they will affect Japan’s crops and grasses which are both used as feed for livestock. Japan’s milk supply is at risk if dairy cows graze grass exposed to radiation. According to an expert on radiation, cows can pick up radioactive iodine settling in pastures and pass it on to anyone drinking the milk.

Radiation has the ability to change or mutate DNA which could allow cancer to develop. Infants and children are at a higher risk because their cells divide at a faster rate than adults. Children in Japan also consume more milk than adults, potentially increasing their exposure to radiation.

Japan is taking action to prevent exposure to the radiation. Evacuations are conducted in areas at high risk and the country is stocking up on potassium iodide, an antidote to radiation.