Not all but enough Japan imports screened: AEC

The China Post news staff and agencies

The China Post news staff and agencies — Not all imported Japanese goods, but only those categorized as needed to be tested for consumer safety are screened for radiation, local media reported yesterday as the Bureau of Standards, Metrology and Inspection began to join in the inspection of radiation levels on imports traditionally conducted by customs. The United Evening News (UEN) criticized the Atomic Energy Council, the nation’s top nuclear watchdog that commissioned the BSMI screening, for not reacting quickly enough to the radiation pollution worries in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear plant crisis in Japan.

Routine compulsory examinations are currently required for a total of 658 items including motorcycle helmets, sunglasses and household electronic appliances, etc. for user safety reasons. Products that are not among the 658, such as textile products, caps, and goggles, are exempt from BSMI checkups. The list of products needed to be tested is updated annually. However, since radiation pollution is indiscriminate, the authorities should not only be screening the 658 items on the list, the UEN quoted a BSMI official as suggesting.

In response, the AEC stressed that the current list of items to be screened is enough but promised to review and improve its practices if the public remains worried that the screenings are not comprehensive enough.

Food will be the first item to be tested among imported Japanese goods because the intake of contaminated food posses a direct threat to health, AEC Deputy Minister Shieh Der-jhy (謝得志) pointed out. Items other than food can be made safe after proper cleaning even if they are contaminated, he added. Other nations in the world, including the U.S., do not demand radiation screening for all imported Japanese goods, Taiwan should follow suit, he said. The BSMI said it will impound any screened product with radiation levels above 0.2 microsieverts and notify the AEC, which will send licensed vendors to conduct radiation cleaning measures on the items in concern. The product will be released if radiation drops below the standard level after cleaning or will be turned back if it does not, the BSMI pointed out. Officials from both the BSMI and customs scrambled to handle the substantial increase of checkups in the first day of the extended screening measures yesterday. The UEN reported that, with the exception of Kaohsiung port, customs offices at the nation’s major ports of Taichung and Keelung were underequipped with radiation detectors. The BSMI also had to borrow gear from Taiwan Power Corp. The Kaohsiung Harbor Bureau said Tuesday it is enhancing the screening process for imported goods from Japan. Incoming ships from Japan will be marked with star signs on monitor boards at the port’s control center to remind port officials of their special status, the bureau said in a statement. The port has also activated a total of 38 radiation portal monitors to determine whether radiation levels of imported goods are above the normal range. In addition, port officials are also equipped with hand-held devices to check for radioactive contamination on ships, crewmembers and cargos. Carriers or shipping agencies should immediately report to the AEC if their crewmembers or travelers coming from Japan experience discomfort or may have been exposed to any radioactive contamination, the statement said. Fishery Bureau said fishing boats returning from seas near Japan will have their catches inspected for radiation. Bureau official Tsai Ji-yao said fishermen have already been told to stay away from Japanese waters and the inspections will insure that any possible loopholes are closed.