Gov’t must step up radiation monitoring: experts

The China Post news staff

Some health experts yesterday urged the government to step up efforts monitoring radiation levels in the wake of the nuclear threat in Japan. The government has not been doing enough to provide sufficient information to allay the general public’s fears, and there are too few radiation detection stations in Taiwan, the experts said. A possible meltdown at the quake and tsunami-damaged Fukushima nuclear power has alarmed Japan’s neighbors about the possible spread of radiation. But government officials here have ruled out the possibility of the radiation reaching Taiwan, citing wind directions. Neither the public nor health experts have been convinced by the government claims, with reports saying people in Taiwan are scrambling to buy materials said to protect against radiation, such as iodide tablets. Chan Chang-chuan, an industrial health scholar from National Taiwan University, said it is too early to “guarantee” that winds will not carry radioa

ctive particles to Taiwan. Chang said that judging from past weather records, there is still a chance for Taiwan to experience northeast winds for one or two days in March — which could carry radiation from Japan. He urged the government to set up a Cabinet-level radiation emergency task force to coordinate medical resources, similar to those that have been created in the past to handle such epidemics as bird flu. Chang Wu-hsiu, a public health professor from Taipei Medical University, said the lack of information has resulted in people being fed after several days of “panic” without the government offering them “cures.” Currently there are only 30 radiation detection stations around Taiwan, but it would not be unreasonable to raise the number to 300, he said. The government should make readings from these stations available to the public on a daily basis so as to ease people’s fears, Chang said. But Cheng Ming-tien, chief forecaster at the Central Weather Bureau, dismissed the idea that northeast winds would necessarily bring radiation to Taiwan. He said there had been northeast winds over the past few days before the win directions changed to east and southeast yesterday. The northeast winds heading towards Taiwan usually come from Bohai in the Yellow Sea in northeast China, not from Japan, he said. It would take a strong high pressure system to push winds from Japan to Taiwan, and this is more possible in the winter when westerly winds are weak, Cheng said.