Although excessive levels of radiation have been recorded at two nuclear plants in Japan that were damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, experts say the health risk is low. Moreover, they do not expect the contamination to threaten other nations.
There are very few dangers that tend to freak out people more than radioactivity, especially after the two devastating nuclear accidents in recent history -- Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986. Amidst officials' desperate attempts to cool down the damaged nuclear reactors, the Japanese public is terrified of exposure to radiation (which can cause cancer), and even the surrounding nations are concerned as well.
Health experts are convinced that at this point at least, it's not a serious public health risk. But reports are starting to come in that people are being tested for high radiation levels: One report stated that 1,000 people have been tested so far; 1 in 5 of these people are being referred to a hospital for further testing.
Still, Japanese officials are urging people to stay calm and say they have the situation under control. Around 140,000 people from the area near the Fukushima nuclear plant have been evacuated as a safety precaution.
And as far as the contamination blowing abroad to other countries? International officials, including Lennart Carlsson, director of Nuclear Power Plant Safety in Sweden, remain hopeful that this is not a threat:
The wind direction is right for people in Japan. It's blowing out to the Pacific ... I don't think this will be any problem to other countries.
It will be interesting to see whether these statements do anything to allay people's fears.
Do you think Japan is downplaying the seriousness of this nuclear crisis?