Japanese doctors warn of public health problems caused by Fukushima radiation.
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 diarrhoea, and flu-like symptoms in children,” Dr Yuko Yanagisawa, a physician at Funabashi Futawa Hospital in Chiba Prefecture, told Al Jazeera.
Yanagisawa’s hospital is located approximately 200km from Fukushima, so the health problems she is seeing that she attributes to radiation exposure causes her to be concerned by what she believes to be a grossly inadequate response from the government.
She attributes the symptoms to radiation exposure, and added: “We are encountering new situations we cannot explain with the body of knowledge we have relied upon up until now.” From her perspective, the only thing the government has done is to, on April 25, raise the acceptable radiation exposure limit for children from 1 mSv/year to 20 mSv/year.
“The Japanese government cannot simply increase safety limits for the sake of political convenience or to give the impression of normality.”
In early July, officials with 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.
“Now 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,” Yanagisawa said. “People’s lives are at stake, especially the lives of children, and it is obvious that the government is not placing top priority on the people’s lives in their measures.”
Dr Yanagisawa 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. Yanagisawa said it is “without doubt” 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 effected areas.
Dr Nanao Kamada, professor emeritus of radiation biology at Hiroshima University, has been to Fukushima prefecture twice in order to take internal radiation exposure readings and facilitated the study.
“The risk of internal radiation is more dangerous than external radiation,” Dr Kamada told Al Jazeera. “And internal radiation exposure does exist for Fukushima residents.”
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.
“How much radioactive materials have been released from the plant?” asked Dr Tatsuhiko Kodama, a professor at the Research Centre for Advanced Science and Technology and Director of the University of Tokyo‘s Radioisotope Centre, in a July 27 speech to the Committee of Health, Labour and Welfare at Japan’s House of Representatives. Kodama is an expert in internal exposure to radiation, and is concerned that the government has not implemented a strong response geared towards measuring radioactivity in food.
“Although three months have passed since the accident already, why have even such simple things have not been done yet?” he said. “I get very angry and fly into a rage.”
“We had rain in Tokyo on March 21 and radiation increased to .2 micosieverts/hour and, since then, the level has been continuously high,” said Kodama, who added that his reporting of radiation findings to the government has not been met an adequate reaction. “At that time, the chief cabinet secretary, Mr Edano, told the Japanese people that there would be no immediate harm to their health.”
“The government and TEPCO have not reported the total amount of the released radioactivity yet,” said Kodama, who believes things are far worse than even the recent detection of extremely high radiation levels at the plant.
Kodama, along with other scientists, is concerned about the ongoing crisis resulting from the Fukushima situation, as well as what he believes to be inadequate government reaction, and believes the government needs to begin a large-scale response in order to begin decontaminating affected areas.
Al Jazeera’s Aela Callan, reporting from Japan’s Ibaraki prefecture, said of the recently detected high radiation readings: “It is now looking more likely that this area has been this radioactive since the earthquake and tsunami, but no one realised until now.”
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