China Finds Traces of Radioactive Material in Atmosphere of Coastal Areas

China said radioactive material was found in the atmosphere of more provinces and cities including Guangdong and Shanghai, as the government took measures to allay health concerns after the nuclear accident in Japan.

Trace amounts of radioactive iodine-131, first detected in the atmosphere above northeastern China’s Heilongjiang province on March 27, were also detected yesterday over the provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, Guangdong and Guangxi and the city of Shanghai, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said on its website yesterday. Radiation in China’s atmosphere was within a natural range this morning, the ministry said today.

China has begun testing food and water in 14 provinces and cities and inspecting incoming ships and air passengers from Japan to ease concerns of contamination from substances leaked by the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant on Japan’s eastern seaboard. The People’s Daily newspaper, published by the Communist Party of China, today ran a half-page article listing the efforts of various government departments to ensure safety.

The nuclear accident in Japan hasn’t affected residents in China, the environmental ministry said today. The amount of radioactive particles found above Heilongjiang won’t jeopardize health or contaminate food and water, the Ministry of Health said March 27. Iodine-131 doesn’t exist naturally and is among substances leaked from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, according to the health ministry.

Earthquake, Tsunami

Japan’s March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which disabled backup cooling systems at the six-reactor Fukushima complex, has left more than 28,000 people dead or missing. Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the complex, said it has found plutonium in soil samples taken near the plant, where radiation levels that can prove fatal have been detected outside reactor buildings.

The article by the official Xinhua News Agency published in People’s Daily said that the environmental ministry, the State Oceanic Administration, the China Meteorological Administration, researchers at government institutes and academics at universities were cooperating to monitor and assess the spread of radiation within Chinese borders.

China has also banned imports of milk products, vegetables, fruit and seafood from regions of Japan near and including Fukushima, Xinhua said in the article. Inspections are also being conducted on food imports from other parts of Japan, according to the report. Tests of food and water are being carried out in 14 northeastern and coastal provinces and cities, including Beijing, the health ministry said March 27.

Buying Salt

Contamination concerns earlier this month prompted Chinese shoppers to clear shelves of salt as a perceived defense against radiation exposure. The National Development and Reform Commission pledged March 17 to crack down on hoarding and price rigging of salt, with the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and the China National Salt Industry Corp. saying March 17 and 18 that salt supplies are sufficient.

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