Fukushima harms commerce as Russia rejects radioactive Japanese cars

Sunday, January 12, 2014 by: Thomas Henry
Tags: radioactive cars, Fukushima, international commerce

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(NaturalNews) While officials in the United States astoundingly continue to deny that radiation levels originating from Fukushima pose a significant threat to American lives, despite many troubling pieces of evidence, Russia has shown its willingness to refuse radiation-tainted goods by turning away 130 used cars originating from Japan.

Over the course of the past year, Russia's consumer protection agency, Rospotrebnadzor, blocked importation of the vehicles, as well as auto parts, after testing due to concerns that they were contaminated with radioactivity.

"In 2013, Russia has banned 165 batches of contaminated goods from entering the country. There were mainly used cars - 132, and spare parts for vehicles - 33," read a statement issued by Rospotrebnadzor.

Ongoing Issues with 'Glowing' Used Cars from Japan

This is not the first time that contaminated water from Fukushima has impacted global trade or imports into Russia.

Back in July 2012, Rospotrebnadzor stopped nearly 300 Japanese cars at the port of Vladivostok that it considered to be contaminated by radioactivity, according to Gennady Onishchenko, Russia's Chief Sanitary Inspector and head of Rospotrebnadzor, who expressed worries about "glowing" Japanese autos.

According to RIA Novosti reports, out tens of thousands of Japanese cars imported each year for Russia's significant second-hand market, dozens fail radiation inspections each month at Russian ports and are sent back. Some 112 batch lots were refused, including used cars, spare parts, watercraft and specialized equipment.

"Since the disaster at Fukushima, 697 such items have been detected, 591 were banned from entrance," a Russian customs official reportedly told RIA Novosti in August 2013.

Japan set a voluntary limit of 0.3 microsieverts on exported used cars, but Russia has established a stricter limit of 0.2 microsieverts. According to the Wall Street Journal, Japan has suggested that Russian officials may be "exaggerating" their claims as an impediment to trade.

Rospotrebnadzor, or the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare, was founded by presidential decree in 2004; it inspects and quarantines suspect items at hundreds of checkpoints across the country and assumes power over a wide range of goods and transport activities. The Russian watchdog agency indicated that it would continue "strict control" over all cargo throughout 2014, as it also monitors many foods including pasta, wheat, breads and, of course, fish.

Unsurprisingly, Russia has also been closely surveilling fish and seafood imports sourced from anywhere in the Pacific Ocean, especially those caught in Japan. It implements mandatory inspections for radioactive cesium levels on all Japanese food products.

A Rospotrebnadzor report stated, "Particular attention is paid to this issue in Russia's Far East, where radiation control of fish is being [widely] implemented, including the distribution chain."

Moreover, according to RT, fish from Japan is required to carry a special warning indicating that it meets safety standards for "the presence of radioactive substances" that have been established by the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

According to its website, Rospotrebnadzor even claims authority (in section 5.3.4 of its powers) to refuse, detain or quarantine "persons, who had suffered from radiation influence and subjected to radioactive irradiation in the result of Chernobyl and other radiation catastrophes and incidents." The Chernobyl nuclear accident, which happened in 1986 in then Soviet Union-controlled Ukraine, has widely been considered to be the worst nuclear disaster of all time, though many experts now say that Fukushima has outpaced it.

U.S. Radiation Monitoring Far Below Russian Standards

By contrast, U.S. regulatory agencies, including the FDA and EPA, have consistently played down worries about radiation - even stooping to raising its own official radiation limits in order to avoid sounding alarms with the public over contamination.

Though the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officially monitors all cargo vessels arriving from Japan, and the FDA claims that it routinely inspects Japanese fish, produce and dairy products, no incidence of contamination has ever been reported, casting doubt on regulatory vigilance.

There is little evidence that used cars are being screened for radiation, though Homeland Security officials told the New York Times back in April 2011 - shortly after the disaster - that it had "found no radioactively contaminated seafood, auto parts or electronics."

The Natural Resources Defense Council and other environment groups have charged that several EPA statements to the public were misleading, as the agency found elevated levels of radioactive cesium in milk and rainwater on the West Coast yet claimed that fallout on U.S. soil did not amount to "any level of concern."

Scandalously, the EPA National Air and Radiation Environmental Laboratory made reassuring claims at the time of the Fukushima disaster in March 2011 that it was actively monitoring real-time air quality and detected no elevated levels of radiation - but these were clearly unqualified statements. An internal audit made public in 2012 revealed that some 20% of its 124 "real time" monitors stationed around the country and across U.S. territories were broken, and - further - that many of its functioning monitors were incapable of taking accurate measurements, because the filters required by policy to be changed twice per week had gone anywhere from two to ten months without being changed out.

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