Edmunds Answers



  • zaken1 08/06/11 9:21 pm PST

    In order for an object to become dangerously radioactive; it would need to be exposed to radiation at much higher levels than anything that has been measured in Japan (outside of the nuclear power plants themselves).

    Having worked on nuclear radiation and safety issues for several years; I am very careful about radiation exposure; but I have no concern about Japanese cars being radioactive. This is because of two reasons: 1> The strength of radiation from a source drops off rapidly the further you get from that object. People are still working and going about their daily activities even a few miles from the disaster site. 2> Think about how hot a heater must get in order to warm a building: If we go right up to it and touch the heater; it will burn us; but when we even stand 10 feet away from it, the heat is not enough to make our skin hot, and if we go into another room, the heat from the heater cannot even be felt.

    In the same way; it takes far more radiation to make something radioactive than it does to be measured with sensitive equipment. In order for a car to become radioactive; it would have to be exposed to radiation that is strong enough to kill humans within hours. The levels in Japan are much lower than what would be required to make cars significantly radioactive. If the radiation in Japan ever reached the levels which would make cars dangerously radioactive; it would have killed ALL the people in that country long before that point. This is why experts are not concerned about inspecting Japanese cars for radiation. The radiation in Japan would have to become thousands of times stronger than it now is; before we'd have to start inspecting imported cars.

    Here's something else to think about. You are being exposed to radiation at home and in your community every day. It comes from the radioactive material in the smoke detectors in your home, from the luminous dial on that wristwatch; from cosmic rays that come from the sun, from radon gas in old construction materials, from radioactive material in the soil, from nuclear power plants in your state, from X-ray machines at your hospital and in your dentists office, from X-rays used in industrial plants; and on and on... There is no place on earth where we are not exposed to some amount of radiation; but the LEVELS of the background radiation we receive are so low as to not be dangerous.

    The disaster in Japan might escalate to such a point; if all the worst possible things happen; but it is nowhere near that level at this time. And if it ever does reach such a point; I would be far more concerned about the radiation blowing directly here in the wind; than that which remains in a new car that was on the windy deck of a ship for many weeks while crossing the ocean.

  • texases 08/07/11 11:04 am PST

    I would have no worry about that, they are inspecting everything very carefully. Japan cannot afford the slightest problem with any cars.

  • Stever@Edmunds 08/07/11 12:42 pm PST

    I'm not as trusting I guess - TEPCO and the Japanese government have been lying since the earthquake about the extent of the damage and radiation releases at Fukushima.

    But you're more likely to have problems with out-gassing from the plastics, adhesives, carpets and fabrics used in the interior than anything else though. New car smell can make you sick.


  • texases 08/07/11 3:34 pm PST

    True, but Japan cannot risk destroying their export business if even just one contaminated car is exported. It would be an economic disaster greater than the earthquake.

  • zaken1 08/19/11 3:16 pm PST

    In contrast to my original reassuring answer; you might be interested in the article in this link: (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/20/world
    ). This situation is not over yet, and is escalating.

  • mark287 09/01/11 5:20 pm PST

    Yes, there is reason to be concerned. First here are the statements made by Toyota and JAMA:

    Toyota Motor Corporation — for the safety and peace of mind of its customers and other concerned parties — has started measuring the radiation levels of its export vehicles, parts for overseas assembly and service parts," said Toyota in a statement. "As a result, it has found that such radiation levels are no different than that of the surrounding air, meaning there is no danger to human health."

    The announcement was made in tandem with the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA), which announced it "has initiated its own procedures to test the radiation levels of vehicles produced in Japan." JAMA said it has "enlisted the expertise of an external authority specializing in the field." JAMA said the new tests "are conducted directly on various designated areas of the surface of vehicles." Thus far, the "results fall within the range designated by the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan as being unthreatening to human health," said JAMA in a statement signed by its chairman, Toshiyuki Shiga, on Monday

    First, Toyota never stated what the radiation level was in the surronding air. So you don't really know how bad the surronding air was when the readings were taken. So the radiation in the new vehicles could have in fact been pretty bad.

    JAMA is clearly stating in their statement that radiation does exist on these vehicles but it falls within a safe range. But the medical community for years has stated there is no safe level of radiation.

    Something that no one has considered are the "hot particles" that are not easily detected with Geiger Counters (the devices used to test these cars). Hot particles are very very dangersous when inhaled or digested.

    The only way to check these cars are by testing the air filters and really taking samples from the surface of the interior and exterior of these cars. That isn't being done.

    So at the end of the day, there are limitations to radiation detection instruments. You can't just use one instrument and assume you are safeguarding yourself or customers .

    At the end of the day, these cars from Japan have radiation. According to Toyota and JAMA there are only low level radiation.
    But at the end of the day, I would rather have a car with NO radiation vs. LOW radiation.

    Its just an unnecessary risk! I hope NO ONE purchased a car built in Japan since March 11, 2011. It is too risky! Why take that risk?

  • texases 09/01/11 5:36 pm PST

    Farm products, yes, I'd be concerned. Relatively easy for radioactivity to be absorbed by growing plants, cows, etc. But not by engine blocks, sheet metal, and tires.

  • lykourinou 09/07/11 7:43 pm PST

    I too am very concerned about Japanese cars and radiation. What my family and I are accustomed to is the quality, dependability, and technology of Japanese cars. From what I have been seeing on the net and on yotube the situation is getting worse. Including a coverup by Tepco. The firing of the Prime minister and 2 others involved in the handling of the situation. My wife has had her eye on a 2011 QX56 and we will be ready to purchase a 2013 model when the time comes. Everyday I'm checking the internet and watching overseas news stations broadcast updates on the situation. But alas the American news media is not saying a word. If worse comes to worse my wife and I will be forced to buy an Escalade instead, which we both feel is overpriced and very inferior to the QX. Time will tell what happens.

  • texases 09/07/11 10:02 pm PST

    Folks are free to worry all they want, and make whatever decision they feel comfortable with. However, folks who state that 'no level of radiation is safe' are just flat, outright wrong. We recieve radiation on a daily basis just by living, from the ground, from space, from multiple natural and some manmade sources. The net result? Zero. So to claim that a car with naturally-occuring levels of radiation is dangerous, or to be avoided, is pure fearmongering. I'll repeat, if a new Japanese car with unusual levels of radiation were discovered in the US the financial impact to Japanese exports, the lifeblood of their economy, would be staggering. I cannot imagine that this would be allowed to happen.

  • lykourinou 09/07/11 10:30 pm PST

    This should clear up any misconceptions and bring awareness to this truly serious problem.


  • zaken1 09/07/11 10:53 pm PST

    "We recieve radiation on a daily basis just by living, from the ground, from space, from multiple natural and some manmade sources. The net result? Zero."

    I think Texases is probably old enough to remember the X-ray machines which used to be found in shoe stores in the early 1950s. These neat devices allowed people to look at the bones in their feet, and see whether they were being pressed on by the shoes. But all these devices were suddenly removed at one point; along with the fluoroscopes which used to be so common in doctor's offices. Did the government set radiation exposure standards because there was ZERO effect from these machines; or was it the result of a Communist Conspiracy to limit our personal freedom to exposing ourselves to as many x-rays as we really wanted?

    The x-ray machines in dentists offices; which all used to have tapered cones on the end; were also removed and replaced with machines that had straight tubes as waveguides; because the tapered cones were found to produce scattered radiation that hit the patient's body way beyond the areas where it had been focussed. More Communists, probably?

    I am one of the thousands of people each year who developed cancer (malignant melanoma) as a result of exposure to natural radiation from the sun, and also from similar UV radiation that came from a fluorescent light that was mounted on a low ceiling a foot or so above my head for two years directly prior to my coming down with that terrible disease. I almost died from the ZERO effects of this natural and man made radiation.

    If Texases insists on spreading false rumors about natural, everyday radiation having ZERO effects; I would be happy to set up a full spectrum fluorescent light directly above his head; so he can personally experience what he believes to be harmless. It is unfortunate and potentially harmful to others when people speak as if they know things which they are dangerously ignorant about.

  • Stever@Edmunds 09/07/11 10:57 pm PST

    People in the Rockies get more "natural" radiation than those in the Gulf states. And yet the cancer rates are higher in the Gulf.

    In any event, it seems less is more.

  • texases 09/07/11 11:08 pm PST

    Of course UV causes cancer, and excess xrays cause cancer. That is NOT what we're discussing. I have not said that any amount of any kind of radiation is ok. I do state that to say that ANY radiation of any kind is dangerous is equally wrong. No Xrays, no UV light (not what folks are worried about with these cars) has any chance of being a problem in this situation, and there is no reason to bring it up. I have relatives dealing with UV-induced cancer, so I fully understand your concern. But it's not the problem here.

    As for that youtube link, I watched it all, and there is not a single fact in it related to any radiation in any Japanese cars. Just more fearmongering and unsubstantiated rumors.

  • zaken1 09/08/11 12:11 am PST

    In response to Steve's "less is more" post; it is not just sun exposure we are dealing with here. After I recovered from the melanoma surgery, I found out about a study which was published on the British medical journal "The Lancet," which was performed in Australia (Australia has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world). Two groups of workers were studied over a period of time: One group was office workers who worked under fluorescent light. The other group was workers who worked outdoors; in the searing hot Australian sun. The office workers developed TWICE as much melanoma as the workers who worked outdoors in the sun.

    Affluent, industrialized California, and the Gulf Coast states have far more people who work under fluorescent light than homespun Colorado. And during the past decade; green spirited people everywhere have been heavily lobbied to throw out their incandescent light bulbs, and replace them with energy conserving compact fluorescents. The Australian study is largely unknown in this country; due to the prevailing political pressures and lobbying by the electrical industry. So ignorance is being promoted here; at the expense of our health.

  • Stever@Edmunds 09/08/11 9:51 pm PST

    Interesting stuff. Makes you wonder if all those office workers are getting affected more by the lights or the building materials that they are living with for 8 hours a day.

    Perhaps "radiation absorption" by rubber materials and textiles is also a factor? Which would bring us back to the "are Japanese manufactured cars safe" question.

  • lykourinou 09/09/11 6:16 pm PST

    Hi Steve, this is in response to your last post on "rubber absorption." I'm not saying it's you or pointing fingers I'm just talking. The question has gotten off track with other types of radiation. Nuclear radiation is what the concern is with Japanese cars and Fukashima as you well know. Radiation from Cesium which is has pretty much blanketed Japan is a highly reactive and very unstable isotope that will penetrate everything except lead. It contaminates any material it comes into contact with. It is really damaging because it reacts with human DNA to alter the genetic info when DNA transcribes to RNA then to mRNA to make DNA in which we build new cells, etc; All that can be disrupted silently which leads to cancer. I understand that we are blanketed every single day by radiation. But isotopes as unstable as Cesium are not a commonality. This type of radiation can contaminate metal and even if you melt down the metal it will still retain it's radioactive properties. That's why I could not understand when a Nissan spokesperson said that they were going to wash all the cars thoroughly and wrap them in plastic in order to pervent contamination.

  • texases 09/09/11 6:24 pm PST

    "Radiation from Cesium which is has pretty much blanketed Japan"

    Do you have a source for this? This seems like a major exaggeration.

  • lykourinou 09/10/11 1:29 pm PST

    Texases, this is kind of news. Fukashima is still leaking, 4 of the 6 reactors are spewing radiation into the atmosphere. Japan officials are currently building 4 tents over the reactors. I was going to links everday checking the status. I even had one that gave a world map view in real time of the radiation leakage as luck would have it I cannot find the link now.
    As far as it blanketing Japan, I'm not a nuclear scientist, and I am not a know it all. But I have a degree in Biological and Medical Science. All Cesium needs in CO2 or H2O to react with. Oxygen is highly electronegative meaning it wants to give off it's proton so it can take an electron from a less electronegative atom. Cesium is an alkali earth metal and is more than happy to provide it's slectrons. So that is all you need. Here is a link of when the disaster first started and traces of iodine were found in the U.S. from Fukashima.


    You can check this one. As of August, 12 days ago one reactor is leaking at 10 milliserverts per hour. You are only supposed to get exposed to 200 millserverts per year.


  • zaken1 09/10/11 3:00 pm PST

    On the note about radiation "blanketing" Japan; it was mentioned some weeks ago that the U.S. Navy relief ship, which was originally stationed 50 miles off the Japanese coast, had been ordered to move 50 miles further away; because "radiation levels were exceeding the safe limits at the 50 mile distance." If radiation levels (by U.S. Government standards) are unsafe at 50 miles out to sea; they will very likely be unsafe over most, if not all of Japan.

  • MrShift@Edmunds 09/10/11 3:22 pm PST

    Atually all steel produced after 1945 is radioactive --since Hiroshima and nuclear testing--but you'd need very very sensitive instruments to read this microscopically low level.

  • texases 09/10/11 9:08 pm PST

    It's one thing for radiation to have spread more than 50 miles, it's entirely another for it to 'blanket Japan'. Japan is over 1,000 miles long. Radiation has definitely not 'blaketed Japan.' Here's a map showing the survey of radiation in the Fukushima area:

    Note the maximum ring is 80 km, or about 50 miles.
    Here's a recent (Aug. 29) article, with a newer map, similar distribution:

    The fact that cesium is reactive has nothing to do with where it has spread to, those are two entirely different issues. Please let facts, not your fears, guide you.

  • zaken1 09/10/11 10:20 pm PST

    It is well known that governments and corporations routinely censor information and lie to the public about events which are potentially embarrassing or which could lead to public panic. The U.S. government censored photographs and banned reporters from visiting Hiroshima and Nagasaki for a long time after we A-bombed them; because the truth of what happened there was so horrifying that people might be led to believe it was the wrong thing for us to have done to the Japanese.

    According to our own Steve; TEPCO has been lying about the current situation in Japan since it began.

    In this situation; I would consider it naive and foolish to not be fearful about what is really going on there.

  • texases 09/10/11 11:52 pm PST

    Sure, I don't believe TEPCO either. There are hundreds of other individual and agencies that have no vested interest in protecting them. Rather, they would rather gain fame by exposing and describing the problems they created. I'm open to any and all facts about the problem.

  • tjblacken 10/07/11 12:57 am PST

    Having worked in the nuclear industy for 30 years, I can tell you this...

    radioactive contamination can very difficult to detect on/in complex pieces of equipment. Anything more complex than a wrench is usually placed in a "deep well" to detect any levels of radiation presant over a period of time.

    What are the odds of a radioactive particle being present on/in a vehicle imported from the scene of a nuclear mishap? Unknown by me, but I would assume precautions such a random radioactive surveys are conducted nearby, and downwind of any nuclear incident.

  • MrShift@Edmunds 10/07/11 10:39 am PST

    I personally wouldn't give this a second thought if I were buying a new Japanese car. Even if by some remote chance there was some extremely low level of radioactivity detected at the loading docks in the USA, the first car wash would take care of that.

    I think Americans should be more afraid of their cell phones.

  • lykourinou 10/10/11 1:26 pm PST

    Wow, water does not get rid of nuclear radiation. The reason your car hood feels hot for instance while sitting in the sun. Is because the heat excites electrons in the metal and they leave the nucleus when they get excited and enter into a high energy state. The metal in a car is just like any transition metal, transition metals are used to form ligands or bonds. The car itself will absorb the radiation. The only thing that the radiation cannot penetrate is lead. Hot particles can become lodged in small parts, those cannot be easily picked up by a geiger counter. Those particles can cause cancer.
    Just suppose that water was a solution that took care of radiation. If there were particles on the roof and they got washed down the windshield and into the air dam and did not flush to the ground but instead got lodged in the air cabin air filter. It will be in your lung upon subsequent uses of the air conditioner. This is what makes radiation and hot particles so dangerous. The majority of samples for radiation exposure in japan have been coming from tests done on car incabin air filters and on air plane filters.

  • tjblacken 10/10/11 2:55 pm PST

    Mostly correct...water will not remove "radiation". It will however remove radioative contamination ("hot particles") from easily cleaned surfaces.
    Our navy's aircraft carriers are equipped with CMWDS to do exactly that.
    If you look at page 61 of this link you will see the biggest sprinkler system
    you probably ever saw in action on Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) .


    Kind of like a big car wash then.

    Source: http://www.navsea.navy.mil/nswc/dahlgre

  • MrShift@Edmunds 10/10/11 3:53 pm PST

    Well you're going to drive your car, not eat it, so I would think a good wash in any Japanese port should minimize any potential risks, if there even are any potential risks to begin with.

  • lykourinou 10/13/11 3:36 pm PST

    Well, I guess it's just human nature. After all cigarettes have warnings on them telling them that the product causes cancer and yet people still buy them. Sometimes, it's disease, war, or famine that brings us to our demise.. Other times it's the ill decisions that we make.

  • nh_dealer 11/07/11 4:04 pm PST

    Check the foreign parts content of the vehicle that you are purchasing. Nissan has manufacturing plants in Tennessee, Toyota in Kentucky, and Honda over there somewhere, too. Some Nissan sedans have up to 45% North American parts content, and the converse applies to "non-Japanese" vehicles, especially Chevrolet, meaning that avoiding Japanese part in your car is rather difficult. Many vehicles sold in the US (most famously the VW beetle) are manufarctured, at least partially, in Mexico, which is a little famous for exporting contaminated steel. Our ports of entry here in the US conduct extensive radiation screening of incoming containers and such, to the point that shipments of bananas have to be hand-checked due to the potassium in them making the sensors a little wild. Of course radiation is a concern, but radiation levels have been steadily increasing world-wide since the nuclear age was ushered in (after your death, the time in which you lived can be determined by the radiation levels in your teeth). What this means is that though environmental factors (naturally occurring sources of radiation) are an issue, they become a non-factor in that there is nothing that you can do about them.

  • MrShift@Edmunds 11/08/11 10:43 am PST

    That Lancet article concludes with the warning that while the dangers of UV radiation from bulbs is "plausible", it should be taken 'with caution" until further information is available. This article was written in 1982, and not much new information seems to have been presented to back this up.

    Like so many single-point studies, there are so many variables to consider that one would really need lots more evidence. Many a scientists has been fooled by not using enough data.

  • nh_dealer 11/08/11 12:51 pm PST

    Mr_Shiftright is absolutely correct. In any research study, to have a value for "n" (that is, the number of samples/ subjects) that is too low means that any data collected is statistically insignificant. For example, taking 15 coins and flipping them 20 times each could cause one to reach the conclusion that, say, quarters made in 1989 have a bias towards "heads". But without a sample size that represents a significant portion of the total amout of quarters made in 1989 would render any conclusions invalid.

  • markjett 11/12/11 6:07 pm PST

    i would not worry the plants that make the cars are not in the same part of the country. they are nice cars but be ready to spend alot.

    even us made cars like chevy get some parts from japan, canada and all over the world. i lived in japan while in the navy and worked on nuclear bombs yes i lied if the japanese workers asked me what i did. i was a cook.


  • earthdude 02/03/12 2:57 pm PST

    Radiation is Cumlative, no level of radiation is safe.

  • pat85 03/15/12 2:27 pm PST

    Radiation is not cumulative. I have worked with radiactive material and with Xiray machines. There are limiis o what exposure is accaptfor humans. It is 1/4 of a of a REM each quarter of a year. If you get 5 REM at one exposure,, you can not be exposed to radiation for a year( A Rem is a radiation Equivalent Man). There are alpha, beta and gamma radition. Alpha is most likely what is inn your watch. Alpfa can be se stopped by a sheet of paper. Beta can be stopped by 10 piescs of paper. Gamma rays are very penetrating. Shielding of reinforced concrete and depth of vwater are used for shielding in reactors. Shielding and distance are used to minimize gamma absortion. in reactors. I wore film badges to momitor my exposure. Each of my readings was rated as "insignificant" exposure.
    Even if a car part were radited, it would not become radiactive. Some welds are X rayed to insure they will hold. Some welds in Nuclear reactors are X rayed on completiion to insure they are good welds,
    I would not worry about radiation of car parts. I doubt it could even be measred..

  • alexmontreal 09/21/12 12:56 pm PST

    Hi I too feel the need to be concerned. I recently signed a lease for a Toyota vehicle. It was built in Japan in February 2012 and I delayed the pickup date. I ordered a radiation detector and will carefully test the interior and exterior of the vehicle including the air filter and cabin filter before I take delivery. I'll report back on my findings,


  • testtag22 10/27/12 4:14 pm PST

    i just did a test of my new infiniti 2013, and found that there were some hotspots with 25 to 30 urems i think. would this be safe over a lease period?
    the background is 10 to 12 from what we measured and checked into.

  • flippo1 01/30/13 12:57 am PST

    Really guys?? Reading this forum it is clear that there simply is NOT enough radiation in cars to concern anyone. Yet, clearly no amount of scientific fact will appease those who want to be scared. This says much about the human psyche. There is radiation all around us, it is part of our environment. Everyone was warning us about microwave ovens a generation ago but that threat was of course completely false. Now it's a "japanese Government cover-up" assisted by foreign governments protecting their Japanese business interests. Is the truth too simple and boring- there is no danger. Alexmontreal was going to check his car and report back - has he been liquidated by the CIA perhaps to keep him quiet? LOL


Top Automotive News Experts View More

Rank Leader Points
1. MrShift@Edmunds 1825
2. Stever@Edmunds 1665
3. karjunkie 985
4. texases 650
5. tony78 255
6. morin2 245
7. knowledgepower 230