The leakage of radiation at a factory that sterilizes various foods has not polluted the environment in Kaifeng, Henan province, nor does it threaten public health, according to local environmental protection authorities.
Officials are responding to widespread panic in the online community, who question the circumstances surrounding last month's leak of radioactive isotope cobalt-60 at the Limin Radiation Factory in Qi county of Kaifeng.
The radioactive leak, which occurred on June 7, caused a fire at the factory a week later because workers were unable to control the radiation source.
"The news of the harmful radiation leak, which caused panic among some residents, is a rumor and untrue," said an official of the Kaifeng Environmental Protection Bureau, who refused to be named.
"Even furniture gives out some level of radiation," he added.
The factory uses cobalt60 for the sterilization of pepper and the containers for the spice. The private-owned factory was built in 1997, and had been using cobalt60 with a permit to sterilize pepper, instant noodles, Chinese medicines and garlic.
The environment protection official said the average rate of radiation around the factory was actually lower than the average rate of radiation in Henan itself.
"The radiation source was placed indoors and no radiation leak has killed anyone and it has not polluted the surrounding environment," Li Feng'gang, the chief of the Kaifeng environmental protect Bureau, told reporters on Sunday.
Administrators at the factory, which has stopped production, recently handed an application to the Ministry of Environmental Protection to use a robot with the help of the Southwest University of Science and Technology to correct problems that caused the leak.
Wang Shiqiang, manager of the Limin radiation factory, said the machinery creating the radiation was under working order for the entire month of June.
"I vouch that it is safe, as I am sleeping in the factory," he said.
Zhang Yong'guang, a 26 years old Henan citizen, told China Daily that he was still worried about his parents' health yesterday.
"I want to know why the government kept silent for the whole month, if no one had died and there was no pollution from the accident," he said.
"We also didn't get any information about who should be responsible for the accident," he added.
People can get cancer when a small amount of Cobalt-60 is absorbed by the liver, kidney and bones with prolonged exposure to gamma radiation.
(China Daily July 16, 2009)