Is Radiation A Concern For Japanese Cars Sent To The U.S.?

March 27, 2011

Will radiation from Japanese-built cars be a risk for U.S. buyers when post-tsunami vehicles begin to arrive from Japan?

The Fukushima nuclear power plant that was heavily damaged by the earthquake, aftershocks, and tsunamis is being held responsible for a growing list of concerns stemming from high radiation levels in Japan and now around the world:

  • Worrisome levels of radiation have been discovered in the Japanese food and water supply, including in the ocean near the power plant;
  • Low levels of radiation have been detected in Seattle and as far away as Sweden, although numerous health authorities have stressed there are no health risks;
  • Airline flights arriving from Japan with low levels of radiation detected in some planes are subject to heightened screening though, again, levels are not high enough to trigger health concerns; and
  • The U.S. military is considering evacuating thousands of U.S. troops and their families from Japan; some military-family evacuees have already arrived in the States.

What about Japanese vehicles?

Vehicles manufactured in Japan are shipped by sea in huge numbers to virtually every country in the world. To understand the context, since the 9.0 earthquake triggered the tsunamis March 11, lost production by Japanese automakers is now approaching half a million vehicles.

Yet, post-tsunami shipping of Japanese vehicles is beginning to resume. This means that at least a few carrier ships containing vehicles that may have been contaminated by radiation are leaving Japanese ports bound for U.S. locations

The next logical question is what will happen when the first of those ships arrive in the U.S.? Will American customs agents allow them into the country?

If flights from Japan are being screened for radiation, it only makes sense that both the ships and their automotive content will be screened by government officials here as well.

Honda, Toyota, and Nissan have all said that their cars are not affected by leaking radiation from the Fukushima power plant. However, I can only assume that U.S. customs agents will make their own determination on radiation levels, and the safety factor of all vehicles arriving in the U.S. that were shipped from Japan after March 11.

There is no initial word on when the first of those ships will arrive in U.S. ports. Rest assured that there will be more coverage of this issue as they do.

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