Quantcast
Published On: Wed, Mar 23rd, 2011

Experts analyzing Japanese exports for radiation

Authorities across Asia stepped up checks this week on Japanese imports after radioactive contaminants showed up in food and water in quake-stricken Japan following blasts at a nuclear plant last week.

Reuters reports how experts are most worried about three radioactive substances: iodine-131, caesium-134 and caesium-137.

These harmful isotopes are all linked to causing various types of cancer years later.

“Caesium-137 can last for hundreds of years. If exposed, one can get spasms, involuntary muscular contractions and may lose the ability to walk. It also causes infertility. High doses will also damage a person’s DNA and cause cancer later,” said Lee Tin-lap, an associate professor at the Chinese University’s School of Biomedical Sciences in Hong Kong.

The data points to Caesium-137 half life, which is 30 years, and the harmful presence in the environment, potentially causing havoc for hundreds of years.

Some experts stressed there was no need for panic yet.

Levels of caesium-137 detected in spinach in Japan over the weekend stood at an average of 350 becquerels per kilogram, well below the European Union’s limit of 1,000 becquerels for dairy produce and 1,250 for all other food items.

“Becquerels are like atoms,” said Pradip Deb, senior lecturer in Medical Radiations at the School of Medical Sciences, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University.

“A liter of milk has billions and billions of atoms … and this is just 350.”

Caesium-134 has a half-life of 2 years, which will take about 20 years for it to become harmless.

The radioactive spill has prompted food checks in the Philippines, Hong Kong, South Korea, China, Singapore and Malaysia, with Taiwan’s government extending surveillance to include even electronics and tech items, chemicals and machinery.

In addition to iodine and caesium, Thailand is also looking out for Strontium 90.

Milk samples in Japan, however, have been found to contain an average of 1,210 becquerels of iodine-131 per kilogram, well over the limit of 500 becquerels imposed in the EU.

Japanese spinach has also been found with an average of 10,450 becquerels of iodine-131 per kilogram, more than 5 times the EU limit.

One mitigating factor though is that iodine-131 has a half life of 8 days, which means it will take 80 days to lose all its radioactivity — assuming there is no fresh radioactive spillage.

A radioactive sign hangs on barbed wire outside a café in Pripyat.
photo VOA Photo / D. Markosian

On the DISPATCH: Headlines  Local  Opinion

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter

* indicates required
/ ( mm / dd ) [ALL INFO CONFIDENTIAL]

About the Author

- Stories transferred over from The Desk of Brian where the original author was not determined and the content is still of interest of Dispatch readers.

Tags

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these html tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Sign up for our Weekly Newsletter



Categories

Archives

At the Movies

Pin It