Chinese fear radiation from Japan, buying iodine pills

Last Updated: Thu, Mar 17, 2011 08:20 hrs

Beijing, March 17 (IANS) Many Chinese, fearing radiation poisoning from the earthquake-ravaged nuclear plant in neighbouring Japan that just lies across the sea, are buying iodine pills to protect themselves.

The escalating crisis due to leakage of radioactive materials from Japan's Fukushima power plant has raised health concerns among some Chinese, increasing sales of iodine tablets, the China Daily reported Thursday.

Authorities in China are conducting more inspections at nuclear projects to persuade the public to remain calm amid growing concerns over radiation leaks.

Radiation levels in Japan have reached alarming level, following a series of explosions in the nuclear reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi plant in the aftermath of the magnitude-9 earthquake that rocked Japan's northeast coast Friday.

Many Chinese are worried that the radiation can reach China and they are buying iodine pills, which help prevent the human body from absorbing radioactive materials.

'We sold out of cydiodine tablets last weekend - more than 20 packs in all,' an employee surnamed Liu at the Zhongyang pharmacy in Beijing's Chaoyang district was quoted as saying. 'Before the earthquake struck Japan, we had barely sold any.'

Liu said most people who ask for the tablets have relatives or friends living in eastern coastal cities, which are closer to Japan.

Liang Ping, a 56-year-old retired doctor in Shanghai, said she found the cydiodine tablets out of stocks in at least 10 medical stores.

'I don't know what exactly happened out there,' she said. 'I only want to have something to protect myself.'

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday that taking iodine pills can help prevent the human body from absorbing radioactive iodine but the pills should be taken after the government's appraisal of the situation.

'There is no need to panic now,' said Wang Zhongwen, a researcher of the radiation safety department of the China Institute of Atomic Energy.

'It's still very low levels of radiation, not enough to have an effect on human health.'

There is no evidence showing that radiation leaked from the Japanese nuclear plant has spread to other countries or that the health dangers have increased for those living outside the 30-km range of the damaged Japanese plant, Michael O'Leary, the World Health Organisation's representative in China, said in a statement Wednesday.

China's environment ministry also said that China had not been affected by the radiation leaks in Japan so far.

Since March 12, a day after the earthquake rattled Japan, the Chinses nuclear safety management department has been updating radiation figures on its website twice a day for 42 Chinese cities, as well as for areas surrounding the country's nuclear power plants.

According to Shanghai enviornment monitoring agency, no radioactive materials have been detected so far in the city.

Northeast China's Heilongjiang province has also set up four mobile emergency stations along its eastern regions bordering Russia to monitor radiation.



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