As Japan has elevated the crisis rating of the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant to 7 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, putting it on a par with Chernobyl, farmers and fishermen have seen their markets evaporate. And they are not alone. Manufacturers in the region also fear that more overseas markets will want to keep their distance from Fukushima-made products, and this includes parts and components for medical devices.
As of 11 April, a total of 28 countries and regions suspended or tightened controls on the import of agricultural and dairy product as well as processed foods from Japan, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Moreover, harmful rumors have spread that Japanese automobiles are contaminated with radioactivity.
To dispel confusion and assuage concerns, the Fukushima Prefecture has started testing the radiation levels of industrial goods and issuing reports in Japanese or English, upon request. “It’s unlikely that products manufactured at factories are contaminated,” says a local government official. “I want everybody to make a cool-headed decision.”
Of the six prefectures in Japan’s northern Tohoku region, Fukushima Prefecture is the most industrialised. More than 40 medical device manufacturers operate in the area, which has a population of 2,055,496 on 13,782 square kilometres of land. Among these companies, Olympus Medical Systems Corp., a leading producer of medical endoscopes, surgical device components and products, manufactures about 70% of their products there.
Last year, the prefecture’s medical device output was valued at 187 billion yen, the largest in the country, and it was nationally ranked third in terms of production of parts and components for medical devices.Miki Anzai