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EMF Studies

20 August 2011

"Fukushima Radiation Alarms Doctors - Japanese Doctors Warn of Public Health Problems Caused by Fukushima Radiation"

Al-Jazeera  has an excellent news service in English.  Common Dreams sometimes publishes their articles on health and the environment.  This one, written by  Dahr Jamail, was posted on Common Dreams on 18 August 2011.  A reporter from Al-Jazeera went to Japan to interview doctors there about the current situation regarding radiation from Fukushima.   Below is a near-verbatim, shortened summary of the article.  See the full article here. 

And please sign the petition by Green Action Japan for the children of Fukushima.

“Scientists and doctors are calling for a new national policy in Japan that mandates the testing of food, soil, water, and the air for radioactivity still being emitted from Fukushima's heavily damaged Daiichi nuclear power plant.”

UPDATE (12 November 2011): In early October 2011, Japanese doctors began examining 360,000 children in the Fukushima Prefecture for risk of thyroid cancer. These tests will be done every two years until the children reach the age of 20, after which tests will be done every 5 years. The testing was to have started in 2014, however, it has started earlier at the request of concerned parents.

Article by Al-Jazira:
"Independent monitoring of radiation levels is being conducted following concern about the lack of Japanese government monitoring.  The findings are alarming.  According to one physician, Dr Kodama, the total amount of radiation released over the period of five months from the start of the Fukushima nuclear disaster is equivalent to more than 29 "Hiroshima-type atomic bombs" and the amount of uranium released "is equivalent to 20" Hiroshima bombs.

Doctors measuring radiation levels in children

In late June, dosimeters were given to some 34,000 children aged between 4 and 15, living in Fukushima 45 miles from the plant, after abnormally high radiation levels were recorded in the area.

Doctors in Japan are already treating patients suffering health effects they attribute to radiation from the ongoing nuclear disaster. "We have begun to see increased nosebleeds, stubborn cases of diarrhea, and flu-like symptoms in children," said Dr. Yuko Yanagisawa, a physician at a hospital in Chiba Prefecture, located about 200km from Fukushima.  "Because the nuclear material has not yet been encapsulated, radiation continues to stream into the environment."  The government has raised the acceptable radiation exposure limit for children from 1 mSv/year to 20 mSv/year which amounts to raising the exposure levels for children to 20 times the maximum limit for adults.  "This has caused controversy, from the medical point of view.  This is … an issue that involves both personal internal exposures as well as low-dose exposures."

Dr. Yanagisawa goes on to say, "Humans are not yet capable of accurately measuring the low dose exposure or internal exposure.  Arguing 'it is safe because it is not yet scientifically proven [to be unsafe]' would be wrong.”   Her concern is that the new exposure standards by the Japanese government do not take into account differences between adults and children, since children's sensitivity to radiation exposure is several times higher than that of adults.

Another physician, Dr. Kondo, explains that the chances of children developing cancer from radiation exposure are much greater than that of adults.  "Children's bodies are underdeveloped and easily affected by radiation, which could cause cancer or slow body development. It can also affect their brain development," he said.

Authoritative current estimates of the health effects of low-dose ionizing radiation are published in the Biological Effects of Ionising Radiation VII (BEIR VII) report from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.  The report reflects the substantial weight of scientific evidence proving there is no risk-free level of exposure to ionizing radiation.  The BEIR VII report estimates that each 1 mSv of radiation is associated with an increased risk of all forms of cancer other than leukemia of about 1-in-10,000; an increased risk of leukemia of about 1-in-100,000; and a 1-in-17,500 increased risk of cancer death.

Dr. Helen Caldicott, the founding president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, is equally concerned about the health effects from Japan's nuclear disaster.  "Radioactive elements get into the testicles and ovaries, and these cause genetic disease like diabetes, cystic fibrosis, and mental retardation.  There are 2,600 of these diseases that get into our genes and are passed from generation to generation, forever.  No level of radiation is acceptable, for children or anyone else.  Children are ten to 20 times more sensitive than adults. They must not be exposed to radiation at any level."

In early July, officials at the Japanese Nuclear Safety Commission announced that approximately 45 per cent of children in the Fukushima region had experienced thyroid exposure to radiation, according to a survey carried out in late March. The commission has not carried out any surveys since then.

"The Japanese government is underestimating the effects of low dosage and/or internal exposures and not raising the evacuation level even to the same level adopted in Chernobyl," Dr. Yanagisawa said.  "Millions of people need to be evacuated from those high radiation zones, especially the children."  She is concerned about what she calls "late onset disorders" from radiation exposure resulting from the Fukushima disaster, as well as increasing cases of infertility and miscarriages.  "Incidence of cancer will undoubtedly increase," she said. "In the case of children, thyroid cancer and leukemia can start to appear after several years.  In the case of adults, the incidence of various types of cancer will increase over the course of several decades."  It is "without doubt", she said, that cancer rates among the Fukushima nuclear workers will increase, as will cases of lethargy, atherosclerosis, and other chronic diseases among the general population in the affected areas.

Dr. Kodama, an expert in internal radiation, is concerned that the government has not implemented a strong enough response for measuring radioactivity in food. He says that the major problem caused by internal radiation exposure is the generation of cancer cells as the radiation causes unnatural cellular mutation. "Radiation has a high risk to embryos in pregnant women, juveniles, and highly proliferative cells of people of growing ages.”

Internal radiation exposure, which is more dangerous than external, exists for Fukushima residents.  Distribution of several food products from Fukushima Prefecture remains restricted: raw milk, vegetables including spinach, kakina, and all other leafy vegetables, including cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and beef.   Radioactive cesium exceeding the government limit was detected in processed tea made in Tochigi City, about 160km from the Fukushima nuclear plant.  More than 11,000 tons of radioactive water has been released into the ocean from the stricken plant, affecting marine life."

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