Much has been said about the cooperation and trust in government shown by the people of Japan in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami. Those were unstoppable natural disasters.
The man-made disaster at Fukushima is proving that parents everywhere are protective of their children..
A huge outcry is erupting in Fukushima over what parents say is a blatant government failure to protect their children from dangerous levels of radiation. The issue has prompted unusually direct confrontations in this conflict-averse society, and has quickly become a focal point for anger over Japan’s handling of the accident at the nearby Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, ravaged in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
At issue are updated government guidelines that allow schoolchildren to be exposed to radiation doses that are more than 20 times the previously permissible levels. That dose is equal to the international standard for adult nuclear power plant workers.
Toshiso Kosako, the expert adviser to the prime minister, resigned in tears over the relaxation of radiation standards for children.
The people of Fukushima will not suffer quietly any more.
It’s hard to find information about radiation and children, I believe that is because there is little economic interest in uncovering hazards past and present except among advocates for communities that have been affected. Much of what’s out there is partisan. I’m going to write more about the anti-nuclear position, but in this post all the following references are from .gov websites. Our government has mostly promoted nuclear power and downplayed the risks– which gives these examples even more weight.
A COMPARISON: A study from the National Cancer Institute at the National Institute of Health recommends limiting children’s exposure to radiation from diagnostic imaging tests…
Radiation exposure is a concern in both adults and children. However, there are three unique considerations in children.
Children are considerably more sensitive to radiation than adults, as demonstrated in epidemiologic studies of exposed populations.
Children also have a longer life expectancy than adults, resulting in a larger window of opportunity for expressing radiation damage.
Children receive a higher dose than necessary when adult CT settings are used for children.
As a result, the risk for developing a radiation-related cancer can be several times higher for a young child compared with an adult exposed to an identical CT scan.
EPIDEMIOLOGY: The American Journal of Public Health has an article, History of Uranium Mining and the Navajo People. (not free to copy, but you can read it in PDF format)
The article does not address effects on children in the vicinity, but does describe a spike in lung cancer cases in uranium miners that began about ten years after Navajo men began to work in the mines. Confounding the issue is the fact that statistically the cancer rate was lower than for whites, because Navajo men on average were light or infrequent smokers compared to the white men studied. The research findings eventually led to better ventilation in the mines, and a drop in new cases of lung cancer. This was not obtained quickly or without effort, it was the result of decades of fighting the denial, inertia and vested interests that allowed mine owners to expose workers to a toxin recognized since the 1930’s.
This is also a reminder that ‘natural background radiation’ is not harmless because it is natural. Workers who spent their days inhaling uranium dust died needlessly for lack of protection.
Other Americans call themselves ‘downwinders’ because they lived in the path of fallout from nuclear testing during the Cold War…
Relatively few Iron County residents were aware of or concerned about nuclear testing when the first mushroom-shaped cloud rose into the western skies and drifted to the northeast in 1951, but the cloud figuratively remains over southern Utah and Nevada to this day. Residents live with every day what the cloud left behind that the eye could not see. There are no southwestern Utah neighborhoods or communities that have not been touched by the tragedy of cancer or birth defects or lingering bitterness over human and financial losses.
The parents of Fukushima are right to mistrust authorities that worldwide have motivations to downplay problems. They are not alone, and they might surprise the world with their determination to seek justice and demand the truth.
The Hindu reports that the special adviser to the Japanese prime minister has resigned over new standards raising the allowable radiation exposure for schoolchildren in Fukushima.
The standard set for schoolchildren’s exposure to nuclear radiation in Japan’s Fukushima prefecture has caused a political furore. In prime focus is an expert’s disapproval of the “high” permissible limit set for annual exposure, at 20 millisieverts, for outdoor activities at school.
Citing this limit and the government’s alleged track record of ad hoc responses to the continuing nuclear radiation crisis, Toshiso Kosako, special adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, resigned on Friday night. However, the Japanese government on Saturday downplayed this development and said Prof. Kosako “misunderstands the situation.”
I think ‘ad hoc’ is Latin for duct tape. The Japanese government has raised the acceptable limit of exposure for workers in an emergency.
The Health Ministry recently raised the legal radiation limit that workers can be exposed to in an emergency from 100 to 250 millisieverts.
This is clearly not based on science, but necessity, and today’s news reports that 2 workers recorded exposures close to the new limit.
It’s very ’70’s and not politically correct to point out the dangers of radiation, especially to children, but this story is not going away. For the sake of the future, we must stop creating new nuclear hazards and safely deal with what we already have.
Common Dreams has the numbers and essentially, the Japanese authorities have declared it acceptable for children to be exposed to levels of radiation that would normally only be allowed for adult nuclear plant workers. This is why the arguments that there’s no danger to the public have to be challenged. The real harm may not be seen for decades, but the time to act is now.