China's authorities have jailed a man for spreading radiation rumors. Image: Flickr / danielleblue / CC-BY-SA

In China, authorities have jailed a man for spreading radiation rumors. The comments posted online warned readers to take action to protect themselves from radiation dangers following the nuclear problems in Japan. The young man has been sentenced to 10 days in jail and a $76.13 fine.


Radiation rumors in China

Though the radiation from Japan’s failing nuclear plants has not reached China in any detectable levels, worry about the radiation is running high. Many residents of China are beginning to stockpile salt, believing that the iodine in most salt will block radiation. Warnings against eating seafood are also running rampant in the country. Chinese and English language message boards are full of warnings of the dangers of radiation and listing the possible effects of radiation sickness.

Old Fisherman jailed for spreading rumors

Police officials in Zhejiang province have announced the arrest and conviction of a man who goes by the online handle “Old Fisherman.” After seeing warnings online, Mr. Chen forwarded the information to his friends and family. Authorities tracked down Mr. Chen and arrested him, charging the computer-company worker with “harm to society.” According to the state-run newspaper, Chen admitted a “deep awareness of his mistake…which was…illegal and harmful to society.” Mr. Chen will spend 10 days in Chinese prison and must pay a 500 yuan fine.

Worries about worldwide radiation

As the nuclear crisis in Japan continues into its second week, fears of radiation poising are getting ever more prevalent. Iodine pills, which help prevent thyroid cancer from radiation exposure, are selling out around the world. Fears of radiation sickness are becoming overblown, except for those actually in Japan. The dangers from nuclear meltdown will certainly affect Japan for years to come — but the likelihood that severe radiation poising is imminent are simply overstated. The radiation dose from spending 24 hours within 50 km of the Fukushima plants is still less than just one chest X-ray. In short, the radiation danger is very real — and for most people living outside Japan, very small.


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