Health Minister Dr. Perry Gomez yesterday pointed the finger right back at his predecessor in response to claims that the government has done nothing to quell concerns that Japanese imported vehicles have not been exposed to elevated levels of radiation.
Tackling the issue early on in his contribution to the 2013/2014 mid-year budget debate in the House of Assembly yesterday, Dr. Gomez said only a day before former Health Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis went public with his claims, Dr. Charles Massey, nuclear security officer with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) met with officials to discuss the issue.
“A plan to detect and manage radio-nuclear events is in development with the assistance of both the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the IAEA,” he said.
Talk of possible elevated levels of radiation in Japanese imported vehicles to The Bahamas follow reports that a shipload of cars contaminated with radioactive elements were brought into Jamaica.
The cars were reportedly among a batch of 165 contaminated goods, including motor vehicle parts that were not allowed to enter the island.
While Dr. Minnis served as the health minister in 2011 when a tsunami and earthquake triggered the failure of a Japanese nuclear power plant, according to Dr. Gomez, the former health minister did nothing to check cars coming into The Bahamas from Japan.
“I don’t see any record of them [the Free National Movement] trying to join the IAEA, so it’s clear who did nothing,” he scolded. “Not us.”
Minister Gomez added that in an effort to resolve the issue at ports of entry and from other imports, the Health and Environment ministries and the Department of Customs will request import certificates from importing operatives that document the levels of radiation – if any – of imported goods.
“Additionally, the ministries will order portable equipment to detect levels of radiation emissions from a number of imports. This process will benefit from technical support from IAEA,” he said.
“There is ongoing monitoring of radiation levels at the container ports in Grand Bahama and that’s been going on for some time…Imported products that are at greatest risk from elevated levels of radiation emission will be identified and items found emitting radiation will be return to the primary source where the imported product originated.”
Reports indicate that high levels of radiation exposure will essentially fry human cells and kill them, usually affecting the soft organs first such as the skin and internal organs.