Contain radiation panic

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Contain radiation panic

Fallout from Japan’s tsunami-hit nuclear plant in Fukushima is causing anxiety among their geographically closest neighbors on the Korean Peninsula.

Authorities admitted that miniscule amounts of iodine and cesium isotopes have been detected in the air.

Korea’s coastal regions in particular are fearful of Japan dumping radioactive water into the sea near their shores.

Moreover, rainfall across the nation elevated alarm over radioactive raindrops. Concerns over the danger of radiation are somewhat understandable.

But overreaction and panic fueled by unscientific hearsay on the Internet and social networking sites can be more threatening and perilous than the contamination itself.

False reports from Norwegian and German weather agencies have been frantically disseminated online predicting the arrival of radiation on the Korean Peninsula this week. The agencies did in fact issue the reports but the rumors nevertheless spread like wildfire among Korean netizens.

Fear, once unleashed, can turn unruly. Consumers are already stocking up on seaweed, salt and other preserved food supplies due to anxiety over radiation contamination at sea.

We need to regain a clear perspective and calmness over the radiation from Japan. We must trust experts, the government and health authorities more than anonymous tweets and misinformed netizens.

A group of scientists - the Korea Academy of Science and Technology - issued a statement assuring people that the current concerns over radiation have been overstated.

The government’s role should be more active. It must reassure the public on safety and health risks.

In fact, the government has had a poor track record of late: its credibility has taken a hit because of its clumsy and slow response and understatements made during this crisis.

The authorities must closely track the radiation in the air and in the waters off our coast. It must be quick in announcing its findings to put the public at ease.

Private experts and civilian environmental groups should also be involved in the surveillance and screening activities to ensure their credibility.

The unnecessary and widespread panic can only be contained if the public trusts what the government is saying.
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