Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Japan's Children and the Fukushima Legacy

Evidence of the Fukushima children’s ongoing internal contamination is perhaps the greatest tragedy of this disaster. Activists had called for evacuations of children and pregnant women in the first months of the disaster because of their special susceptibilities.[i] Yet, evacuation orders were not timely and wide enough to prevent contamination. For this reason it was particularly concerning when allegations began surfacing in the fall of 2012 of manipulation of government tests results of thyroid nodule detections in Fukushima children.

An independent blogger and filmmaker, Ian Thomas Ash, began documenting Fukushima families’ experiences in November 2012 at his blog for his film “A2,” the title of which refers to a positive diagnosis for thyroid tumors.[ii] In a November 5 post at his blog titled, “The Mothers and Their Children,” Ash explains:

This morning I met Mrs. Shima.  She had invited several other mothers over to her home to share with me their situations and the thyroid test results for their children.  Mrs. Shima showed me the thyroid ultrasound for her daughter Shuri, 11.  The government-sponsored test revealed her daughter had NO thyroid cysts, but she went to a private hospital to seek a second opinion.  She was told her daughter in fact DOES have thyroid cysts.  In both tests, it was discovered that her son Kaito, 13, also has thyroid cysts.[iii]

Although authentication of this report is difficult, other observers have reported similarly. Steve Zeltzer, a videographer and journalist producer at KPFA Radio on the Pacifica Network, visited Fukushima in the fall of 2012 and found mothers who had been pressured by doctors to disregard troubling health symptoms in their children.[iv]  He found residents being pressured to return to their homes, even those who formerly lived as close as 4 miles.

            The broader effects on Japan’s children are unknown and will likely take generations to unfold. One study found evidence of increased infant mortality in Japan generally, and Fukushima specifically. Research published by Dr. Alfred Koerblein in 2013 reported a significant 3-fold increase of infant mortality in Fukushima prefecture in May 2011 (O=9, E=3.1, P=0.0014).[v] Pronounced peaks in infant mortality were also found in Fukushima for December of 2011. Koerblein noted significant reductions in the number of live births in December 2011 in Japan as a whole. He concluded that the falling birth rate could be caused by radiation-induced loss of zygotes shortly after fertilization. This study and Koerblein’s previous research on Chernobyl demonstrate the radiation susceptibility of developing beings, with the youngest most vulnerable.[vi]

[i] C. Busby (24 June 2011) ‘Statement of Chris Busby in Relation to Provisional Injunction Against Education Committee of Koryama City, Fukushima to Evacuate the Children for the Radioactively Contaminated Area Being filed on 24th June 2011’, http://1am.sakura.ne.jp/Nuclear/110623Statement-BusbyE.pdf, date accessed 30 June 2011.

[ii] Documenting Ian Blog http://ianthomasash.blogspot.jp/.

[iii] Ian Thomas Ash (5 November 2012) ‘The Mothers and Their Children’, Documenting Ian blog, http://ianthomasash.blogspot.jp/2012/11/the-mothers-and-their-children-part-2.html, date accessed 19 November 2012.

[iv] S. Zeltzer (11 November 2012) ‘One Day in Fukushima’, Counterpunch, http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/11/09/one-day-in-fukushima/, date accessed 12 November 2012.

[v] A. Koerblein (10 January 2013 ) ‘Infant Mortality in Japan after Fukushima’, Strahlentelex mit Elektrosmog Report, http://www.strahlentelex.de/Infant_mortality_in_Japan_after_Fukushima.pdf, date accessed 11 February 2013.

[vi] A. Körblein and H. Küchenhoff (1997) ‘Perinatal Mortality in Germany Following the Chernobyl Accident’, Radiat Environ Biophys, 36.1, 3-7, http://www.alfred-koerblein.de/chernobyl/downloads/KoKu1997.pdf.

‘45% of Kids in Fukushima Survey Had Thyroid Exposure to Radiation’ (5 July 2011), The Mainichi, http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20110705p2g00m0dm079000c.html, date accessed 6 July 2011.
S. Tokonami, M. Hosoda, S. Akiba, A. Sorimachi, I. Kashiwakura and M. Balonov (12 July 2012), ‘Thyroid Doses for Evacuees from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident,’ Scientific Reports, http://www.nature.com/srep/2012/120712/srep00507/pdf/srep00507.pdf.
'Thyroid Screenings Detect Relatively High Exposure’ (9 March 2012), NHK, http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/20120309_18.html, date accessed 9 March 2012.
J. Hongo (10 June 2011) ‘Widen Evacuation Zone for Children, Pregnant Women: Greenpeace Chief’, Japan Times, http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20110610a6.html, date accessed 11 June 2011.
'Fukushima Residents' Urine Now Radioactive,’ (27 June 2011), Japan Times, http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20110627a2.html, date accessed 27 June 2011.

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