April 08, 2011 10:32
Retailers are capitalizing on fears of radiation fallout from Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant, fueling tensions without scientific grounding.
Searches at online shopping malls such as Auction and Gmarket for the keyword "radiation" bring up results for over 100 products each, about a 10-fold increase from mid-March.
They include face masks, air purifiers, antibacterial soaps, anion bracelets and plastic covers for baby carriages, as well as foods such as seaweed noodles popular as diet food, red ginseng and vitamin C supplements good for boosting the immune system, and even wine that sold well in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster. But many of the products in fact have nothing to do with protection against radiation contamination.
A staffer with 3M, an industrial face mask maker, said that the company is receiving three times more inquires than usual, and they are not only about its products but also other anti-radiation products. On Wednesday and Thursday when radioactive rain was forecast, sales of umbrellas and raincoats shot up some 150 percent compared to March 24 when the nation saw similar levels of precipitation.
Experts dismiss the efficacy of such products. "Radiation cannot penetrate the human body through the skin or hair," said Prof. Suh Kune-yull of Seoul National University. "If you collected Thursday's rainwater and drank it every day for a year, you would still be exposed to less than 30 percent of the amount of radiation absorbed from one X-ray exam."
He added, "Buying masks and handwashing products may help people feel secure, but they don't offer any protection from radiation at all."
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