Tackling the Nuclear Problem with a Grain of Salt – News Story of the Week

My friend happened to be in a supermarket when panic struck here. She was buying her lunch when three loud, pushy women shoved their way to the front of the line, each buying two bags of salt. She thought it was a bit strange, but it is China, and she has seen far stranger. Within the next few minutes the entire store was full of customers grabbing up bags of salt like it was the most precious commodity on Earth. The store opened up 3 more cash registers and the manager declared that there would be no limit on how many bags a person could buy at a time.

Finally my friend asked what all the commotion was about. Why did everyone suddenly need pounds of salt? The clerk calmly explained that the salt would protect them from Japan’s radiation. “Ooooh,” my friend said, as if this explanation had answered more questions than it had raised.

There were a few different write ups of the salt panic this week but the Wall Street Journal’s headline captured it best, “Fearing radiation from Japan, Chinese Rush to Buy…Table Salt?” This one is too good to pass up for story of the week.

In China this week Iodide tablets sold out quickly from most pharmacies leaving the rest of China to get a bit more creative in how it would dose itself if the winds brought Japan’s radiation to the mainland. They settled on the cheapest, and what might seem to be the most practical source, iodized table salt.

It turns out though that the amount of iodide you would need to consume to be even remotely protected from radiation is considerably more than you should get from salt. To be exact, an adult would need to consume 2 liters of iodized salt to be protected for just one day.

I have warned the cardiology department, and we are bracing for a rash of heart attacks over the next week as people try to save themselves from the possibility of a little radiation.

This picture and more about the salt panic on ChinaSMACK.com

About T

I have been working in China for nearly five years now. I have traveled to more than 30 cities and towns, and have lived in 3 provinces. I am interested in issues concerning development in China and the rest of the world. I hope to provide a balanced look at some of the issues facing China as it continues its rise to power.
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7 Responses to Tackling the Nuclear Problem with a Grain of Salt – News Story of the Week

  1. Vicky says:

    wow. I’m starting to wonder if Japan is the only country not panicking ;P

  2. Pingback: Tackling the Nuclear Problem with a Grain of Salt – News Story of the Week :: Seeing Red in China

  3. Pingback: Tackling the Nuclear Problem with a Grain of Salt – News Story of the Week | thewikipress.com

  4. Chopstik says:

    Ah, so that was the reason for the sudden rush on salt. I only heard that no salt was to be found – and this was especially true for places near the east coast – and there were requests for some to be sent. Then, just as suddenly, more became available and the point became moot. But I had wondered what was behind it. The sad part is, this same sort of reaction would be found in any country and is not just limited to China…

    • Tom says:

      Every country ends up with some kind of hysteria during disasters, this one just happened to stand out a bit more. I heard there were also salt rushes in the Philippines.

  5. Meryl Mackay aka 马美丽 says:

    And Saturday’s Guardian newspaper (British) reported that Americans were panic buying potassium iodide tablets, although they have side effects and are of limited use in treating radiation sickness!

    • Tom says:

      As far as I know though, the tablets at least have a little effect, vs. no effect with table salt. Also I heard stories that people were literally fighting over bags of salt here, not sure if the same thing happened in the states or not.

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