Did Fukushima Daiichi Cause Cancer in Children and Plant Workers?
Here is the latest update on news about Fukushima children’s thyroid cancer rate and cancer among workers at the plant:
10 more thyroid cancer cases diagnosed in Fukushima. The Mainichi, December 28, 2016 (Mainichi Japan) http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161228/p2a/00m/0na/008000c
FUKUSHIMA — Ten more people were diagnosed with thyroid cancer as of late September this year in the second round of a health survey of Fukushima Prefecture residents, which began in April 2014, a committee overseeing the survey disclosed on Dec. 27. The number of people confirmed to have cancer during the second round of the survey stands at 44, while the overall figure including cases detected in the first round stands at 145.
… Some have pointed to the danger of “excessive diagnoses” during health checks in which doctors find cases of cancer that do not require surgery, which could place a physical and mental burden on patients. There have accordingly been calls for the Fukushima Prefectural Government to scale down the scope of its health survey.
Plant worker’s thyroid cancer certified as linked to nuclear disaster. The Mainchi, December 17, 2016 (Mainichi Japan) http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161217/p2g/00m/0dm/025000c
TOKYO (Kyodo) — A worker exposed to radiation when disaster struck the Fukushima nuclear plant has been found to have developed thyroid cancer caused by an industrial accident, the labor ministry said Friday.
The employee of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, is the third person determined to be entitled to benefits due to illness caused by exposure to radiation released when three reactors melted down in the days after a massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami in March 2011.
The man is the first to be certified for developing thyroid cancer because of the nuclear disaster. The first two persons suffer from leukemia.
Here is some BACKGROUND ON THE DEBATES ABOUT FUKUSHIMA EFFECTS ON CHILDREN IN JAPAN excerpted from my book, Crisis Communication, Liberal Democracy and Ecological Sustainability
…Children are likely at greatest risk for health consequences from exposure because they are biologically more vulnerable to radiation since their cells are dividing faster. The thyroid is particularly susceptible to radiation-induced damage because it bioaccumulates radioactive iodine. People with thyroid conditions have an increased risk of dying because of damage that occurs prior to treatment.[i]
Potassium iodide helps block absorption of radioactive iodine but as mentioned earlier in the chapter, distribution was delayed. Consequently, many children in Japan became internally contaminated with radioiodine, in addition to whatever other radionuclides internalized through inhalation and ingestion.
July 6, 2011 the Japanese press Kyodo reported that in a March 2011 survey of 1,080 children aged 0 to 15 in Iwaki, Kawamata, and Iitate 45 percent of kids in Fukushima survey had thyroid exposure to radiation.[ii]
A separate study measuring thyroid exposure to Iodine-131 conducted between April 12, 2011 and April 16, 2011 and published in Research Reports found “extensive measurements of the exposure to I-131 revealing I-131 activity in the thyroid of 46 out of the 62 residents and evacuees measured”[iii]
In August of 2011, NHK reported that Japan’s nuclear commission had erased children’s exposure data derived from a test of 1,000 children aged 15 or younger who had been screened for radiation affecting their thyroid.[iv] By February of 2014, there were 75 confirmed or suspected thyroid cancer cases among 270,000 Fukushima Prefecture individuals screened, who were 18 or under at the time of the disaster.[v]
The screening committee claimed the Fukushima disaster was an unlikely cause.[vi] However, the observed frequency of thyroid cancer and nodules exceeds established incident rates. For example, the prevalence of thyroid nodules in children typically ranges from 0.2-5.0 percent,[vii] while in Fukushima, 42 percent of 133,000 children were found to have thyroid nodules and cysts two years after the disaster.[viii]
In 2015 two research articles were published arguing that the rate of thyroid cancer among Fukushima children was excessive.
The first study noted that the surge of thyroid cancers detected among 370,000 Fukushima residents aged 18 or younger was “unlikely to be explained by a screening surge” given the incident rate was found to be 20 to 50 times the national average at the close of 2014.[ix]
The second study observed that the rate of thyroid cancer being detected in Fukushima’s children exceeded the rate found after Chernobyl.[x] However, Shoichiro Tsugane, Director of the Research Center for Cancer Prevention and Screening, asserted that “Unless radiation exposure data are checked, any specific relationship between a cancer incidence and radiation cannot be identified,” and noted there exists a “global trend of over-diagnosis of thyroid cancer….”[xi]
Fukushima Prefecture residents’ concerns about living in a radiation-contaminated zone are too often trivialized by government officials. In 2015, evacuees from Naraha located in Fukushima Prefecture challenged a government official who described their concerns about drinking water contamination as a “psychological issue” after the Ministry of Education reported up to 18,7000 Becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram of soil taken from the bottom of a reservoir at Kido Dam which serves as the community’s drinking water source.[xii]
Dr. Shunichi Yamashita of Japan’s Atomic Bomb Research Institute produced widespread outrage for claiming that radiation does not harm people who are happy and that there is little risk from annual exposure levels below under 100 millisieverts.[xiii]
[i] Anne Laulund, Mads Nybo, Thomas Brix, Bo Abrahamsen, Henrik Løvendahl Jørgensen, Laszlo Hegedüs, “Duration of Thyroid Dysfunction Correlates with All-Cause Mortality. The OPENTHYRO Register Cohort,” PLOS, 9.10(2014): 1-8, e110437-110 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0110437.
[ii] “45% of kids in Fukushima survey had thyroid exposure to radiation,” The Mainichi (July 5, 2011): http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20110705p2g00m0dm079000c.html.
[iii] Shinji Tokonami, Masahiro Hosoda, Suminori Akiba, Atsuyuk Sorimachi, Ikuo Kashiwakura, and Mikhail Balonov “Thyroid doses for evacuees from the Fukushima nuclear accident.” Scientific Reports, 2(507)(2012): 1. doi:10.1038/srep00507.
[iv] “Nuclear Commission erases children’s exposure data,” NHK (August 11, 2011). http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/11_14.html.
[v] Nose, T., & Oiwa, Y. (2014, February 8). Thyroid cancer cases increase among young people in Fukushima. The Asahi Shimbun. Available: http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201402080047
[vi] “Eight more Fukushima kids found with thyroid cancer; disaster link denied,” The Japan Times (February 7, 2014): http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/02/07/national/eight-more-fukushima-kids-found-with-thyroid-cancer-disaster-link-denied/#.U2Zvr61dVXo
[vii] Gerber, M. E., Reilly, B. K., Bhayani, M. K., Faust, R. A., Talavera, F., Sadeghi, N. & Meyers, A. D. “Pediatric thyroid cancer,” Emedicine. (2013): http://emedicine.medscape.com.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/article/853737-overview.
[viii] Haworth, A. (2013, February 23). After Fukushima: Families on edge of meltdown. The Guardian. Available http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/feb/24/divorce-after-fukushima-nuclear-disaster.
[ix] Toshihide Tsuda, Akiko Tokinobu, Eiji Yamamoto and Etsuji Suzuki, “Thyroid Cancer Detection by Ultrasound Among Residents Ages 18 Years and Younger in Fukushima Japan: 2011 to 2014,” Epidemiology (2015), 1-7.
[x] Shigenobu Nagataki and Takamura, Noboru, “A review of the Fukushima nuclear reactor accident: radiation effects on the thyroid and strategies for prevention. Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes & Obesity, 21.5 (October 2014): 384–393. doi: 10.1097/MED.0000000000000098, available http://journals.lww.com/co-endocrinology/pages/articleviewer.aspx?year=2014&issue=10000&article=00012&type=abstract.
[xi] “New Report Links Thyroid Cancer Rise to Fukushima Nuclear Crisis,” The Japan Times, Oct 7, 2015, accessed October 8, 2015, available http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/10/07/national/science-health/new-report-links-thyroid-cancer-rise-fukushima-nuclear-crisis/#.VhU3aCtBmFt
[xii] “Fukushima town residents protest official’s comment about radiation safety,” The Mainichi (July 7 2015). Date accessed July 8, 2015. Available: http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150707p2a00m0na019000c.htm.
[xiii] ‘Studying the Fukushima Aftermath: “People Are Suffering from Radiophobia”’ (19 August 2011), Der Spiegel, http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,780810,00.html, date accessed 4 September 2011.
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