Gift Plant Detects Nuclear Radiation

A plant that can reportedly detect low levels of nuclear radiation is now available to the general public, a New York gift company announced yesterday.

Researchers have tested the small, potted plant for over a decade at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York under the guidance of Japanese genetic scientist Sadeo Ichikawa, Ramie Arian, a spokesman for the Creative Gifts Corporation said. "If nuclear radiation is in the air, the plant changes colors from its natural blue to pink. This discovery is a potential lifesaver," Arian added.

But a spokesman for the Brookhaven Laboratory said yesterday that the plant's change in color does not necessarily indicate the presence of nuclear radiation.

"The plant can also react to changes in light, temperature and humidity," without the presence of nuclear radiation. Ann Baittinger, the Brookhaven spokesman said.

"Another drawback with the plant is that reactions can be difficult to read for a layman. The changes are often very subtle," she added.

Arian agreed that the plant reacted to several stimuli, but said, "Short of keeping a geiger counter at home, it is the best way" of detecting nuclear radiation.

"While the reaction of the plant is not positive proof of radiation, it is enough to tell, you to call in an expert," he added.

Ichickawa, who was unavailable for comment yesterday, distributed several of the plants to anti-nuclear groups around the country, Arian said. The groups planted them near nuclear reactors to serve as "people's radiation monitors," he added.

The plant, a member of the spiderwort family, is "easy to grow and maintain," Frank Amodio, president of the Valley View Greenhouses in New York, said yesterday. Amadio assisted in testing the plant's ability to survive in various climates.

Physics and biology experts at Harvard expressed curiosity over the announcement but said they had no knowledge of the plant. "It sounds plausible to me, if a little easy," Andreas M. Koelher, a researcher in the Physics department's cyclotron laboratory, said yesterday.

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