April 5th, 2011
05:18 AM GMT
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(CNN) – In times of crisis, fears run faster than facts.

That axiom has never been truer than the aftermath of the March 11 Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and the ongoing drama at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. And every new headline with the words "radioactive" only heighten those fears, like news that crews at the damaged plant are now dumping thousands of tons of radioactive water into the sea.

To be sure, the news is troubling and there are very real fears the nuclear fallout could get much worse. Yet as nuclear expert Michael Friedlander told CNN's Anderson Cooper, the offload into the Pacific Ocean will dilute the contaminated water below levels considered harmful. Still, he adds, "this isn't best practices" in the nuclear industry.

And it's hitting products from Japan. As CNN's Kyung Lah reports, Sven Kilian, who sells Japanese toys and gadgets on JapanTrendShop.com, runs a Geiger counter over toys before exporting - even though the toys have been no where near the Fukushima nuclear plant.

CNN's Martin Savidge talked to Japanese farmers who are facing ruin not because their produce has been contaminated, but because they carry the label, "Made in Fukushima." The situation is made worse for grower because a large number of countries - including the U.S., Australia, South Korea and Taiwan - have restricted Japanese imports as a cautionary measure.

Even things simply labeled "Japanese" are taking a hit abroad. A visit to local Japanese restaurant in Hong Kong found it nearly empty on a recent Saturday night - since the nuclear disaster, people have stayed away, even though the fish, vegetables, rice and noodles and most things on the menu weren't sourced from Japan.

"This is going to be a measurable impact," William Saito, an economic advisor to the Japanese government, told CNN. "And some industries and some companies will not survive."

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Filed under: Japan

soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Bankster McNugget

    "this isn't best practices"

    It isn't irrational to fear radioactive waste, Kevin.

    This is an unprecedented situation, and we should admit that. It's the largest nuclear facility in the world, and 4 reactors have core damage. Tepco has been fudging numbers, according to many.

    So what's irrational about a little radiation-fear?

    April 5, 2011 at 6:06 am |
  2. rahul

    This kind of response towards everything japanese will not and is not helping japan. I don't expect people to buy contaminated stuff. I am sure that there are checks and balances in place to keep contaminated things at bay. All countries which import goods from japan can afford to invest in putting some stricter checks at the ports of entry. Clearly this is the time for all countries to get together and accept goods.

    April 5, 2011 at 6:15 am |
  3. Simpelton

    Mildly Radioactive, sort of pregnant

    April 5, 2011 at 6:18 am |
  4. Frederica

    I thought this news was on Japanese comic books, games and animation works...

    April 5, 2011 at 6:23 am |
  5. Frederica

    If the leak continues, won't it eventually cover other Asian countries and Russia as well?

    April 5, 2011 at 6:25 am |
  6. Heather

    This article makes me furious, because I hold CNN largely at fault for stirring up panic (within the US, I mean). For a while they were literally broadcasting the news in front of a cartoon "radiation" symbol with the word MELTDOWN underneath. Now they publish an article like this feeling sorry for the farmers who can't sell their spinach?

    April 5, 2011 at 6:47 am |
  7. Corazon

    Can Japan just unilaterally decide to dump radioative contaminated water into the sea when they know that this will affect lives of those who depend on seafood for nutrition and for business?

    I highly recommend an international team of experts who will advise the Japanese government what to do for the sake of more lives to be saved now and in the future.

    April 5, 2011 at 7:07 am |
  8. Shaun

    Seeing this pop up on CNN is really funny. You guys were as bad as anyone was for trying to induce panic and fear in the face of facts and rationality. The amount of stress CNN and others in the Western media whipped up with extreme zest on families and friends of people in Japan, which then lead to increased stress on those of us here in Japan who frankly have enough to deal with at the moment, was absolutely disgusting.

    I used to hold CNN to a higher standard than outlets like FOX News, but your true colours have shown in this crisis. And now, after it's clear that you guys completely overshot the danger and contributed to hysteria, do you apologize? Do you have the integrity to say you were wrong? No, instead you're here pointing and shaking your head disapprovingly at the "irrationality" of others.

    I can't even imagine how you folks can look yourselves in the mirror at night, knowing that your livelihood is earned off of magnifying the troubles of others.

    April 5, 2011 at 7:42 am |
  9. Thomas

    After the meltdown, Tepco will follow in the American spirit and give all their top execs a huge bonus and salary increase.

    April 5, 2011 at 7:46 am |
  10. Ray

    @Heather - you're absolutely correct. CNN itself is sometimes contradictory with its reporting. It's like it has half its staff trying to scare us and another half with a more controlled response. Perhaps they think that such reporting is suppose to "balance things out", but given that there is science behind the radiation levels, one well-researched response seems all that is necessary.

    @Corazon From a few days after the incident started, IAEA has been involved and advising the Japanese. American and French experts (both with a heavy reliance on nuclear power) are giving advice. It is silly to think that Japan and Tepco is doing all of this alone without consultation with others. Take a look at the IAEA web page - their first update happened on March 11th, the day of the earthquake. And they've provided daily updates ever since.

    April 5, 2011 at 8:16 am |
  11. NewGBush

    That is not true. I don't fear all things Japanese. I still think the Japanese girls are cute and I still love them.

    April 5, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  12. Jeannet

    According to the news here in Europe, off which news I think they are much more reliable than CNN, TEPCO dumped already 17,5 million tons of radioactive water into the sea and it keeps going on. So Japan and all the media is quiet or lying about this hugh ecological disaster because nobody has an answer to solve this problem. (The same with the BP Oil disaster.) And it is not just the "poor" fisherman who are a victim, the whole ecological system all over the world will be contaminated, including ourselves. So please sent tankers, swimming pools or anything that can be seen as a bassin toward Japan to dump the radioactive water in, but not in the sea and the ocean!!!

    April 5, 2011 at 11:05 am |
  13. Joshua Friedman

    I agree with Heather. Perhaps the western media, including CNN, should take its part of the blame for scaring the bejeezus out of the English-speaking world?

    April 5, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  14. anonymouser

    What's irrational about being scared of contamination levels 7.5 million times the legal limits (this is an official figure, btw)? Your headline is irrational.

    @Heather: You shouldn't be so furious. Just like at TMI, there certainly has been some fuel meltdown in at least one if not all three of the reactors involved – the tops of the fuel rods in all three have been out of the water for two weeks now, it's impossible for them to have maintained integrity. That's called a "meltdown". Yep. Big scary word, for a big scary concept. Here's another one to keep you up at night, although you won't see it on CNN for a good long while yet: recriticality.

    April 5, 2011 at 11:46 am |
  15. James

    It might be unacceptable to some that no one wants to buy Japanese products but please don't tell me it is irrational either. The Japanese themselves don't want anything from that area of the country.. and dumping radioactive waste water into the ocean doesn't exactly inspire the world's confidence that we aren't getting harmful products

    April 5, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  16. Greg Grant

    There are incredibly better articles on the situation on the site counterpunch (dot com). The corporate view of the world that corporate news like CNN spoon feed us is always hugely biased. The corporate view of the world is not relevant to most of us, but we seem to get most of our information from those sources. That's part of the problem with this country...

    April 5, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
  17. frank araneta

    made in japan is a brand and sign of quality. japanes sales might be effected due to radiation fears, however, will strongly rebound once this crisis has passed.

    i believe the global community is wise enough to know that japanes production did not cause the March 11 catastrophies.

    April 5, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  18. morris wise

    Terminally ill cancer patients might be helped if they used the area around the Dai-ichi plant as a swimming pool and sauna, the ill can hope that it will slow down the speed of their cancer cells. Fukushima Spa would attract millions for its health benefits and solve the problem of the Japanese debt.

    April 5, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  19. 犬上小太郎 (Inugami Kotarou)

    Look, it's okay to be worried about products from the prefectures nearest to Fukushima, but to be worried about products from Tokyo, 200 km from Fukushima, or even Kyoto, 500 km from Fukushima, is ridiculous. Western media has been doing well with bringing these fears. If they want to prove they want to help Japan, how about showing a map of Japan; showing how far Fukushima is from everywhere else. The distance between Chernobyl and the Ukrainian capital of Kiev is shorter than the distance between Fukushima and Tokyo. I'm surprised that CNN is writing something about this. Because of this one event, I've mostly ignored western media.
    You see, I'm not afraid of getting things from Japan. I will continue to buy things from there and in fact, this summer, I plan to travel to the land that people are afraid of. I want everyone to see that other then the 30-50km surrounding Fukushima Daiichi is safe and that you'll not get hurt by going there.
    Sure donating to the Red Cross and other organizations will help Japan, but at the same time, if people are staying away from Japanese goods, they are just doing a disservice to Japan. You want to Japan to get back in their feet? Stop fearing and stop spreading fear!

    April 5, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  20. Andre

    Japan is reaping a little bit of what it sowed during the 1930s and 1940s. They also didn't seem to care too much when they wiped out huge numbers of jobs overseas through dumping and protectionism in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

    April 5, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
  21. Guilherme

    Funny, everyone is blaming Japan for "contaminating" the entire oceans, but does anyone remember how many nuclear tests america did all over the World? In the ground, the sea, the air and even at space? "Oh, we didn't know the risks" or "geh, you are a moron, those tests were not harmful". Then why later of, those tests were conducted over the Pacific, Indian and the South Atlantic oceans? If there were any risks with the levels at fukushima, we would have already died in the 70s with all the radioactive particles in the air from 3 decades of USA – URSS atomic tests.

    And Andre, you are a moron, "dumping and protectionism"? Name a country that didn't do that! What do you want? A colony to only buy your products? Like Europe did with the rest of the World before the WWII?

    April 6, 2011 at 2:01 am |
  22. Tol Trunks

    The Japanese used ClNaP (Bleach) to clean their water. Look for Clorox to make an annoucement of this product and others they have the formula to.

    April 17, 2011 at 4:04 am |
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