Thursday, March 17, 2011

Japan nuclear fears prompt panic-buying around world

As nuclear panic began to spread around the world, supermarkets and pharmacies thousands of miles from Japan ran out of anything and everything rumoured to prevent radiation poisoning.

Russia saw a run on red wine and seaweed; in China people were buying massive amounts of salt, and chemists as far away as Bulgaria reported shortages of iodine tablets.

No matter how many scientists were wheeled out to reassure people that radiation levels outside Japan would not pose a threat to health, widespread distrust of official advice meant thousands placed more faith in rumours and old wives’ tales.

In China, the government called for calm after shoppers bought up huge quantities of salt in the mistaken belief that it contains enough iodine to block radiation.

Potassium iodide tablets, which prevent the body from absorbing radiation, have been handed out in Japan to those living near the stricken Fukushima power plant, and in China iodine is added to salt to help prevent iodine deficiency disorders. (read more)

The mere mention of the word iodine was enough to prompt panic-buying of salt amid fears that a change in the wind direction could blow a radioactive cloud across China from its near neighbour.