Answer to Question #10387 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Nuclear Power, Devices, and Accidents — Nuclear Accidents

The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:


I would like to purchase a vehicle from Japan (Nissan) and am curious as to what I could use to check radiation exposure of the vehicle. Seats/carpets/plastics/air filters I would assume would be the most affected by exposure to the Fukushima accident. Any advice here would be appreciated also. Which type of instrument would be best to purchase that would be sensitive and specific enough for such monitoring, and not too terribly expensive? Also, please in your expert opinion give me guidance as to IF this is even necessary?


I do not believe you should have any serious concern about possible radioactive contamination of a new vehicle that might have been manufactured by a Japanese company. It is my understanding that all Nissan models that are sold in the United States are also manufactured in the United States. I do not know what parts might be imported from Japan. It is also my understanding that the Japan Automobile Manufacturers’ Association has taken action to ensure that automobiles and parts manufactured in Japan for export are measured to ensure no radioactive contamination exists.

The materials that are used in building new automobiles should not have been subject to contamination from the Fukushima events. More of a concern would apply to certain natural products, especially foods grown for human consumption, but these are closely monitored if they are being imported into the United States. If you were buying a used automobile from Japan, I would be more inclined to recommend some simple monitoring, but it is my personal belief that going to the expense and effort of monitoring a new vehicle is unnecessary.

If you remain anxious about this and feel a need to do some monitoring I would recommend purchasing a portable instrument that uses a Geiger-Mueller (GM) type detector that is equipped with a thin window to allow low penetrating radiation to enter. There are numerous manufacturers of such GM instruments. You would probably have to spend $400 or somewhat more for an acceptable new instrument. You can get an idea of what instruments are in common use by referring to some of the questions that have already been answered on the Health Physics Society Ask the Experts website. For example, see questions and answers for questions 9974, 9862, and 8910.

I hope you thoroughly enjoy your new vehicle.

George Chabot, PhD

Ask the Experts is posting answers using only SI (the International System of Units) in accordance with international practice. To convert these to traditional units we have prepared a conversion table. You can also view a diagram to help put the radiation information presented in this question and answer in perspective. Explanations of radiation terms can be found here.
Answer posted on 29 August 2012. The information posted on this web page is intended as general reference information only. Specific facts and circumstances may affect the applicability of concepts, materials, and information described herein. The information provided is not a substitute for professional advice and should not be relied upon in the absence of such professional advice. To the best of our knowledge, answers are correct at the time they are posted. Be advised that over time, requirements could change, new data could be made available, and Internet links could change, affecting the correctness of the answers. Answers are the professional opinions of the expert responding to each question; they do not necessarily represent the position of the Health Physics Society.