The type of tyvek suit workers use at Fukushima Daiichi is suddenly in short supply world wide. The same air tight disposable suit is being used by front line health care workers to deal with infected coronavirus patients. Japan obtains most of their disposable suits from China.
This APF article talks to a TEPCO representative who says they may resort to plastic rain coats as protection for workers as tyvek suits become impossible to obtain. This could also impact access to N95 masks. These are currently used in lower risk areas to prevent small particles of radioactive dust from being inhaled. The same masks are used to block coronavirus among the public and health care workers in lower risk situations.
Masks have been in short supply world wide causing long lines as consumers hope to secure a supply. Masks were recently stolen from a hospital in Kobe.
The AFP article mentions that the protective suits do not prevent radiation from going through the body. The actual purpose of wearing a tyvek suit is to prevent radioactive particles from clinging to clothing or skin. Beta radiation particles can cause skin damage, alpha radiation particles are an inhalation risk.
The lack of suits and masks may cause work delays. TEPCO’s alternative ideas such as using plastic rain gear may put workers at higher risk of exposure.
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