Although Japanese Doctor Shuntaro Hida is retired now, at 95 years old, he still works diligently to share his experiences with symptoms stemming from radiation exposure.
Currently Hida is doing what he can at his elderly age to warn of possible health dangers stemming from internal exposure to radiation, by giving lectures to residents near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and being informative about the effects of inhaling, drinking or eating radioactive substances.
Hida is concerned he says, because he has received calls from residents around the Fukushima plant complaining of unexplained fatigue and diarrhea as well as hair loss. Due to his experience treating the victims of radiation exposure or internalization, he suspects these symptoms were caused by internal exposure to radiation.
A history of treating the Hibakusha
A native of Hiroshima, Dr Hida was serving as an army doctor there, when he also became an eyewitness to the dropping of the Little Boy Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima.
Around 2:00 a.m. on August 6th, 1945, he was called to the nearby village of Hesaka to treat a sick child.
It was from that nearby village (about four miles) , that he witnessed the explosion of the atomic bomb at 8:10 a.m., felt its heat and blast. Even at that distance out, he was struck with enough force to throw him back through the building.”The light was startling,” remembers Hida. “Even if you had your back turned to it, you felt the shock go through, right to the center of your brain. Such intense heat.”
He looked up and saw the Enola Gay, a Boeing B-29 Superfortress aircraft which he described as appearing like a ‘tiny silver drop’.
He then felt the heat and blast from the explosion and saw the ominous rising mushroom cloud looming over the city as it continued to grow and spread its deadly radioactive fallout.
He survived, and later dedicated himself to treating the survivors, and wrote about the effects of radiation on the human body.
During the occupation
During the American occupation, the Japanese people were forbidden to talk or ask about what happened. If they did so, they were arrested because the United States didn’t want the Soviet Union to get any information about the atomic bomb or its effects.
The amount of research into and public knowledge about internal exposure to radiation is still limited because the United States “concealed” information about the problem for a long time after it dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, Hida adds.
Dr. Hida was arrested four times, and said that freedom to talk about their experience didn’t come until ten years after the bombing.
Internalized radiation risks
Once radiation gets into the human body, it leads to long-term exposure to low-dose radiation, he warns.
The radiation from radioactive substances taken in the human body turns oxygen molecules in bodily fluid into activated oxygen, which in turn damages chromosomes in cells, resulting in diseases and subsequent death.
Neutrons released as radiation from the A-bomb turned the phosphorus in bones and the brain into radioactive phosphorus, which irradiated and damaged the body cells from within.
They could pose a greater risk to human health, such as developing cancer and damaging the immune system, than short-term exposure to a higher level of radiation.
He has spent much of his life researching the unexplained fatigue called Bura-Bura disease he believes is caused by radiation exposure. Patients became lethargic, easily fatigued, and impatient, even as they seemed clinically normal.
They easily caught colds and, once they did, they took a long time to recover. This condition made it difficult for them to continue working and degraded their already poor living condition.
Their conditions tend to suddenly deteriorate, leading to unexpected death in many cases. There were many cases in which patients caught a slight cold and then, quite suddenly developed a fatal case of tuberculosis.
The illness haunted thousands of atomic-bomb survivors, including those who escaped the direct blast but inhaled, drank or ate radioactive substances, he says.
Those who exhibited the symptoms felt too tired to work or even stand up, but doctors could not clearly establish they were ill. The patients lost trust in society as they were regarded by some as pretending to be sick or were just being lazy.
Source: The Japan Times