The rumor started spreading around Twitter early this morning: geiger counters are now sold out in Paris, it said. But is it true?
Yes, it is. According to one manufacturer based in the French capital, panic buying has swamped suppliers not just there, but worldwide, since the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear alert in Japan.
Olivier Martimort, general manager of Paris-based air analysis devices company NanoSense, told TechLand that when they opened for business last week, they sold more geiger counters by 10:30 a.m. than they had sold in the previous six years.
“We are now out of stock,” he said. “It’s not just us, and not just in Paris. Geiger counters are going out of stock worldwide right now.”
“We have had emails from Japan, Malaysia, China, all over Asia, asking for products. We have had people saying they want to buy everything we have.”
NanoSense’s products were never intended for personal use after a nuclear accident, he said, but the next batch of devices would include useful information for buyers in the instruction manual.
Asked if the panic buying was a sign of consumers over-reacting, Mr Martimort was blunt:
“In Europe, it makes no sense for people to be buying them for personal use here. It’s crazy.
“If you are importing goods from Japan and you are worried about them being radioactive, that’s understandable. Or if you know someone, or employ someone, who is in the area. Then it makes sense.”
Elsewhere, the RDTN website has been set up to aggregate radiation readings taken in Japan.
Cartoonist Randall Munroe, author of the geeky cartoon strip xkcd put together a chart comparing reported radiation from Fukushima with the normal amounts we’re all exposed to every day, which puts things into perspective.
Nonetheless, the situation at Fukushima remains serious, and Mr Martimort will probably be busy for weeks to come.
“We wanted out devices to be a tool for education,” he said. “The idea is that people should understand that radiation is natural, and it is never zero.”