nuclear-news

The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Discrimination against the victims of nuclear radiation

radiation-warningThe Radiation That Makes People Invisible: A Global Hibakusha Perspective Robert Jacobs The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 12, Issue 30, No. 1, August 3, 2014.

“…………Discrimination– People who may have been exposed to radiation often experience discrimination in their new homes and may become social pariahs. We first saw this dynamic with the hibakusha in Hiroshima and Nagasaki who found it very difficult to find marriage partners, since prospective spouses feared they would have malformed children, and found it difficult to find jobs since employers assumed that they would be chronically sick. Hibakusha children, moreover, often become the targets of bullying. It became very common to attempt to hide the fact that one’s family had been among those exposed to radiation.6

Many people are familiar with the story of Sadako who died at the age of twelve after being exposed to radiation from the nuclear attack on Hiroshima ten years earlier. Sasaki Sadako folded paper cranes in accordance with a Japanese tradition that someone who folds 1,000 paper cranes is granted a wish. Sadako’s story has become well known and children around the world fold paper cranes when they learn her story, many of which are sent to Hiroshima. While Sadako has become a symbol of the innocence of so many hibakusha, her father tried to hide this fact so that his family would not suffer discrimination and was upset that his daughter had become so famously afflicted.

Children whose families evacuated from Fukushima prefecture after the triple meltdowns at Tepco’s nuclear power plant frequently became victims of bullying at their new schools. Cars with Fukushima license plates were scratched when parked in other prefectures. Often this is the result of the natural fear of contamination that is associated with people exposed to a poison. In the Marshall Islands those who were evacuated from Rongelap and other atolls that became unlivable after being blanketed with radioactive fallout from the US Bravo test in 1954 have had to live as refugees on other atolls for several generations now, with no prospect of return home. The Marshall Islands have a very small amount of livable land and so being moved to atolls that traditionally belonged to others left them with no access to good soil and good locations for fishing and storing boats. They have had to live by the good graces of their new hosts, and endure being seen as interlopers.

Becoming medical subjects– Many people who have been exposed to radiation then become the subjects of medical studies, often with no information about the medical tests to which they are subjected, and frequently without provision of treatment by those conducting the tests. Hibakusha of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki became medical subjects of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission during the American occupation of Japan after World War Two. This study has continued to this day under the now jointly administered US-Japan Radiation Effects Research Foundation. In the early days of the study Japanese hibakusha had no choice about being subjected to the medical exams. An American military jeep would appear in front of their homes and they had to go in for an examination, whether it was a good time or not. Not only did they receive no information about the results of their tests but the US government provided no treatment.7 This has happened in many radiation-affected communities.

In 1966 a US nuclear bomber blew up in midair and the debris fell on the small village of Palomares, Spain. Four H-bombs fell from the plane, one into the sea, and three onto the small village. None exploded but two broke open and contaminated part of the town with plutonium and other radionuclides. To this day some of the residents of Palomares are taken to Madrid each year for a medical examination as the effects of exposure on their health is tracked. They have never been given any of the results of the tests nor informed if any illnesses they develop were related to their exposures. They are subjects, not participants in the gathering and assessing of the effects of radiation on their bodies. There is no doubt that such studies contribute data to scientific understanding of the health consequences of radiation exposures (the data itself is contentious for reasons cited below)8, however for those from whom the information is gathered, being studied but not informed reduces one’s sense of integrity and agency in one’s health maintenance. Many Pacific islanders exposed to radiation by the nuclear tests of the US, the UK and France had such experiences where they were examined and then sent off with no access to the results and no medical follow-up. Many report feeling as if the data had been harvested from them and at their expense.

Anxiety– Often those exposed to radiation are told that they have nothing to worry about. Their anxieties are belittled. Radiation is a very abstract and difficult thing to understand. It is imperceptible – tasteless, odorless, invisible – adding to uncertainty that people feel about whether they were exposed, how much they were exposed to, and whether they and their loved ones will suffer any health effects. The dismissal of their anxieties by medical and governmental authorities only compounds their anxiety. When other members of their community develop health problems, such as thyroid cancer and other illnesses years later it can cast a pall over their own sense of wellbeing for the rest of their lives.

Every time that they run a fever, every time that they experience stomach pains, nosebleeds, and other common ailments, this anxiety rears up and they think – this is it, it’s finally got me. These fears extend to their parents, their children and other loved ones. Every fever that a child runs triggers fears that one’s child will die. Sadako was healthy for nine years following her exposure to radiation when she was two years old in Hiroshima, then one day her neck suddenly began to swell and she was soon diagnosed with leukemia. This is the nightmare world that the parents of children exposed to radiation, or who even simply suspect radiation exposure, experience on a daily basis. Every ailment can rip them apart.

Radiophobia and blaming the victim– Since it is often the case that who is and isn’t exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, especially to internalized alpha emitting particles, is unknown, large numbers of people near a radiological incident of some kind worry about their health and the health of loved ones. Among this group, some have been exposed and some have not. The uncertainty is part of the trauma. Often, as is currently the case for the people of FukushimaNorthern Japan, all of these people are dismissed as having undue fear of radiation, and are often told that their health problems are simply the result of their own anxieties. In some cases that may be true, but it is beside the point.

For those who have experienced a nuclear catastrophe, who may have been removed from their homes and communities and lost those bonds and support systems, who are uncertain as to whether each flu or stomach ache is the harbinger of the end, and who cannot be certain that contamination from hard to find alpha emitting particles is still possible when their children play in the park, anxiety is the natural response. Regardless of whether it causes acute health problems, forces outside of their control have upended their lives. They now must live a life of uncertainty and often experience discrimination. Of course they are going to suffer from the anxiety that this situation produces. To blame them for this is to blame the victims and is a further form of traumatization.9……….http://japanfocus.org/-Robert-Jacobs/4157

 

About these ads

August 4, 2014 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, psychology - mental health, Reference, social effects

1 Comment »

  1. Given pollution of northern Japan by radiation from Fukushima, it’s criminal to bring athletes and their fans to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics. Please sign http://www.thepetitionsite.com/352/112/859/radioactive-tokyo-resign-as-host-of-2020-olympics/

    Comment by carol wolman | August 4, 2014 | Reply


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,122 other followers

%d bloggers like this: