A new angle on Japanese current affairs

Testing the water

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Shipments of spinach and other leafy vegetables grown near the site of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have been stopped indefinitely after radiation levels in these greens were found to exceed legal radiation limits.

While this has alarmed shoppers (despite health problems only being likely if people eat masses of the stuff over a long period), consumers were more concerned with reports that levels of radioactive iodine in Tokyo’s drinking water were above the permissible level for infants.

Although these levels fell below the safe mark on Thursday, parents are still worried about the possible health effects and are naturally reluctant to make up  their wee ones’ milk formula with tap water, especially as it doesn’t make any difference if the water is boiled.

When my wife went out Wednesday to pick up water supplies, she visited four stores and only came back with three 500 ml bottles of water.

Store shelves are bare with people hoarding large volumes of mineral water, the Tokyo water board’s website crashed, ward governments are handing out ‘safe’ water to parents, and mineral water makers have cranked up production. Stores are also now rightly starting to ration purchases.

Radioactive iodine levels can be  removed through primitive distilling processes that involve gas rings, tubes, Pyrex containers, plastic bottles and tubing. But this is quite laborious.

Many  supermarkets and large pharmacies in Japan have tanks of water that customers can use to fill up carry-home containers. Such water is often imported, and seems to be a better alternative to queuing up for bottles of Evian. It’s often free as well.

With other food and drink scares likely to emerge over the coming days, people should be exercising restraint from making excessive purchases that leave others short.


Written by Andy Sharp

March 25, 2011 at 9:57 am

Posted in Disaster

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