Thyroid Cancer Rates 20 to 50 Times Higher Than Average in Area Surrounding Reactor Meltdowns
Excerpted from the Toronto Star, October 8, 2015
A new study says children living near the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer at a rate 20 to 50 times that of children elsewhere.
“This is more than expected and emerging faster than expected,” lead author Toshihide Tsuda told the Associated Press during a visit to Tokyo. “This is 20 times to 50 times what would be normally expected.”
Most of the 370,000 children in Fukushima prefecture (state) have been given ultrasound checkups since the March 2011 meltdowns at the tsunami-ravaged Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant. The most recent statistics, released in August, show that thyroid cancer is suspected or confirmed in 137 of those children, a number that rose by 25 from a year earlier. Elsewhere, the disease occurs in only about one or two of every million children per year by some estimates.
The study was released online this week and is being published in the November issue of Epidemiology, produced by the Herndon, Virginia-based International Society for Environmental Epidemiology.
Right after the disaster, the lead doctor brought in to Fukushima, Shunichi Yamashita, repeatedly ruled out the possibility of radiation-induced illnesses. The thyroid checks were ordered just to play it safe, according to the government.
But Tsuda, a professor at Okayama University, said the latest results from the ultrasound checkups, which continue to be conducted, raise doubts about the government’s view.
David J. Brenner, professor of radiation biophysics at Columbia University Medical Center, agreed. He said in a telephone interview that the higher thyroid cancer rate in Fukushima is “not due to screening. It’s real.”
Nearly 40 Percent of Fukushima Crisis Responders Received Over One Year’s Dose of Radiation
Some 38 percent of those involved in the emergency response operations at the Fukushima complex in March 2011 suffered radiation exposure exceeding the amount permitted to the public by the government, Japanese authorities in Tokyo announced October 28 after surveying nearly 3,000 workers.
The new government-run study revealed that 38 percent of the Self-Defense Forces, police officers and firefighters involved in the immediate operations following the triple reactor meltdowns in March 2011, were exposed to radiation levels higher than the annual public limit.
“The new survey comes as a surprise to the public as they were made to believe that the workers assisting in evacuation efforts suffered zero exposure as they were wearing full-body radiation suits and masks,” Tokyo’s daily Mainichi Shimbun/Reuters reported October 28.
Deadly Amount of Radiation Near Damaged “Containment”
Tokyo Electric Power Co. said October 29 that extremely high radioactivity levels—enough to kill a human being after 45 minutes of exposure—were present in a building connected by a pipe to the so-called containment vessel of reactor No. 2, the Japan Times reported October 30. The reactor was nearly demolished by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami-caused station black out. The loss of coolant caused the uranium fuel in three out of Fukushima’s six reactors to run out of control and melt down. Radiation levels inside the devastated reactors are too ferocious for monitoring even by remote controlled robots, which have repeatedly malfunctioned in the harsh radiation environment. The paper reported, “Extremely high radiation levels and the inability to grasp the details about melted nuclear fuel make it impossible for the utility to chart the course of its planned decommissioning of the reactors at the plant.”