Beijing detects traces of radiation in outdoor-grown spinach

14:49, April 07, 2011      

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An extremely low level of radioactive iodine-131 that emanated from Japan's crippled nuclear reactors has reached China and has been detected in spinach grown outdoors in China's Beijing, Tianjin and Henan province but poses no threat to public health, according to a report released by China's Ministry of Health on April 6.

According to the report, the ministry has detected traces of radioactive iodine-131 in outdoor spinach in several regions of Beijing, Tianjin and Henan province. However, because the radiation is less than 3 Becquerels per kilogram, which is considered to be a low level, it will not pose any threat to public health.

The report explains that outdoor vegetables with big leaves and fine fuzz on the surface easily adsorb radioactive materials in the air as shown by earlier nuclear contamination supervision. For this reason, the ministry chose spinach, a kind of plant with the aforementioned characteristics, as a subject for investigation.

Experience also shows that the radioactive materials can be reduced effectively by washing out the vegetables with water.

Actually, the radioactive materials in the air could eventually fall on the ground, but it may be a long-term phenomenon. Therefore, it will not be so easy to detect such materials on vegetables since the radiation stays at an extremely low level in the air above China.

However, it sprinkled a little in Beijing and Tianjin, and rain not only sped up the settlement of radioactive materials but also did not accelerate the removal of them from the surface of the spinach.

The report also reveals that radioactive materials in the air can pollute the ground environment and vegetables grown outdoors after it settles on earth, and both rain and snow can speed up the process.

With the possible increase in precipitation, the public may become concerned that the radiation in food and drinking water will become serious and ask what the public can do to prevent harm.

The report says that the situation will depend on the consistency of radiation in the air, which is decided by the quantity and duration of radiation emanating from Japan's nuclear reactors as well as weather conditions, including wind direction, wind speed and atmospheric circulation. The quantity and time of rainfall will directly influence the radiation level in vegetables.

However, since the radiation level detected in food is currently at an extremely low level, it will not pose any threat to public health, and the public does not need to adopt any preventative measures.

But, public should pay attention to the authoritative information released by the government and stay up to date as the situation changes.

Since the accidents happened in Japan's nuclear reactors on March 11, the ministry quickly deployed preparations for supervising food and water in China's northeastern and coastal areas, and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention compiled principles and prepared to train testing staff as soon as possible.

On March 26, the National Nuclear Emergency Committee announced radioactive iodine-131 was detected in the air above China. Then, the ministry immediately launched tests of food and drinking water in 14 domestic provinces and cities, including Liaoning province, Hebei province, Jiangsu province, Zhejiang province, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong province and Shandong province.

By Wang Hanlu, People's Daily Online

  Weekly review  


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