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Official Medicine: The (Il)logic of Radiation Dosimetry – disguising the true health effects of Fukushima radiation

it is not surprising that the overwhelming emphasis in scientific studies and public reports has been placed on psychological impacts rather than disease and deaths

Informal Labour, Local Citizens and the Tokyo Electric Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Crisis: Responses to Neoliberal Disaster Management, Adam Broinowski , ANU 7 Nov 17 

“….Official Medicine: The (Il)logic of Radiation Dosimetry

On what basis have these policies on radiation from Fukushima Daiichi been made? Instead of containing contamination, the authorities have mounted a concerted campaign to convince the public that it is safe to live with radiation in areas that should be considered uninhabitable and unusable according to internationally accepted standards. To do so, they have concealed from public knowledge the material conditions of radiation contamination so as to facilitate the return of the evacuee population to ‘normalcy’, or life as it was before 3.11. This position has been further supported by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which stated annual doses of up to 20 mSv/y are safe for the total population including women and children.43 The World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Scientific Commission on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) also asserted that there were no ‘immediate’ radiation related illnesses or deaths (genpatsu kanren shi 原発関連死) and declared the major health impact to be psychological.

While the central and prefectural governments have repeatedly reassured the public since the beginning of the disaster that there is no immediate health risk, in May 2011 access to official statistics for cancer-related illnesses (including leukaemia) in Fukushima and southern Miyagi prefectures was shut down. On 6 December 2013, the Special Secrets Protection Law (Tokutei Himitsu Hogo Hō 特定秘密保護法) aimed at restricting government employees and experts from giving journalists access to information deemed sensitive to national security was passed (effective December 2014). Passed at the same time was the Cancer Registration Law (Gan Tōroku Hō 癌登録法), which made it illegal to share medical data or information on radiation-related issues including evaluation of medical data obtained through screenings, and denied public access to certain medical records, with violations punishable with a 2 million yen fine or 5–10 years’ imprisonment. In January 2014, the IAEA, UNSCEAR and Fukushima Prefecture and Fukushima Medical University (FMU) signed a confidentiality agreement to control medical data on radiation. All medical personnel (hospitals) must submit data (mortality, morbidity, general illnesses from radiation exposures) to a central repository run by the FMU and IAEA.44 It is likely this data has been collected in the large Fukushima Centre for Environmental Creation, which opened in Minami-Sōma in late 2015 to communicate ‘accurate information on radiation to the public and dispel anxiety’.

This official position contrasts with the results of the first round of the Fukushima Health Management Survey (October 2011 – April 2015) of 370,000 young people (under 18 at the time of the disaster) in Fukushima prefecture since 3.11, as mandated in the Children and Disaster Victims Support Act (June 2012).45 The survey report admitted that paediatric thyroid cancers were ‘several tens of times larger’ (suitei sareru yūbyōsū ni kurabete sūjūbai no ōdā de ōi 推定される有病数に比べて数十倍のオーダーで多い) than the amount estimated.46 By 30 September 2015, as part of the second-round screening (April 2014–March 2016) to be conducted once every two years until the age of 20 and once every five years after 20, there were 15 additional confirmed thyroid cancers coming to a total of 152 malignant or suspected paediatric thyroid cancer cases with 115 surgically confirmed and 37 awaiting surgical confirmation. Almost all have been papillary thyroid cancer with only three as poorly differentiated thyroid cancer (these are no less dangerous). By June 2016, this had increased to 173 confirmed (131) or suspected (42) paediatric thyroid cancer cases.47

The National Cancer Research Center also estimated an increase of childhood thyroid cancer by 61 times, from the 2010 national average of 1–3 per million to 1 in 3,000 children. Other estimates of exposure to radiation, obtained from direct thyroid measurements in Namie town in April 2011, although discontinued under government pressure, also returned much higher results than official estimates (i.e. 80 per cent positive, 1 at 89 mSv, 5 over 50 mSv, 10 at 10mSv or under).48 In April 2014, Dr Tsuda Toshihide, an epidemiologist at Okayama University, declared this a ‘thyroid cancer epidemic’ (kōjōsen densenbyō 甲状腺伝染病), and predicted multiple illnesses from long-term internal radiation below 100 mSv/y and advocated for a program of outbreak (emergency or rapid) epidemiology in and outside Fukushima.49Similarly, a Tokyo-based physician, Dr Mita Shigeru, circulated a public statement notifying his colleagues of his intention to relocate his practice to Okayama due to overwhelming evidence of unusual symptoms in his patients (roughly 2,000). Given that soil in Tokyo post-Fukushima returned between 1,000 and 4,000 Bq/kg, as compared to an average of 500 Bq/kg (Cs 137 only) in Kiev soil, Mita pointed to a correlation between these symptoms and the significant radiation contamination in Tōhoku and metropolitan Tokyo.50

While results from the Fukushima Health Survey demonstrate flaws in the official dosimetry model and public safety campaign, the survey itself also has clear limitations. It is limited to subjects in a specific age bracket in one prefecture and one non-fatal illness (thyroid cancer, which can be treated with surgery but has lifelong side effects) from the ingestion of one radionuclide (Iodine 131) with a relatively short half-life (eight days) that comprised only 9.1 per cent of the total releases. Its dosimetry is based on the National Institute of Radiological Sciences (NIRS) model,51 which is for external exposure only, does not account for exposures in the initial days of the disaster and uses Japanese Government data that has been criticised for underestimating releases and exposures.52 Further, the survey ignores the damage from the bulk of the total inventory including longer-lived radionuclides (such as Plutonium 239, Caesium 137, Strontium 90, Americium 241, among others), some of which are more difficult to measure on ordinary and less sensitive Geiger counters and which have been distributed and continue to circulate across a wide area. It also ignores other organ diseases, unusual chronic illnesses and premature births and stillbirths, voluntary terminations and birth deformities occurring in and beyond Fukushima prefecture.

In addition to the control of relevant data, the government has used other methods to encourage residents to stay in radiation-contaminated areas. In May 2011, Dr Yamashita Shunichi, then co-director of Fukushima Medical University and the Fukushima Health Management Survey and a specialist from Nagasaki on radiation illness in Chernobyl, declared there was a 1 in 1 million chance of children getting any kind of cancer from radiation and there would be negligible health damage from radiation below 100 microSv/h, and prescribed smiling as an aid to living with radiation to a public audience in Fukushima.53

Dr Yamashita is only one among a host of politicians, bureaucrats, experts and advertising and media consultants who support the post-3.11 safety mantra of anshin (secure 安心), anzen (safe 安全), fukkō (recovery 復興). Through public meetings, media channels, education manuals and workshops,54 local citizens in Fukushima Prefecture were inundated with optimistic and reassuring messages, also known as ‘risk communication discourse’, and central and prefectural government-sponsored ‘health seminars’ encouraging a ‘practical radiation protection culture’ in which they have been urged to take responsibility (jiko sekinin 自己責任) for their own health (e.g. wearing glass badges, self-monitoring, avoiding hotspots), form bonds of solidarity (kizuna 絆) with their community and participate in the great reconstruction (fukkatsu 復活) for the revitalisation of a resilient nation (kyōjinka kokka 強靭化国家) as a whole. To counteract baseless rumours (ryūgen higo 流言蜚語) and the negative impact of gossip (fūhyō higai 風評被害) of radiation in contaminated Fukushima produce, citizens in and beyond Fukushima Prefecture, and even non-citizens, have been encouraged to buy and consume Fukushima produce as an expression of moral and economic support (through slogans such as ‘Ganbare Fukushima!’ がんばれ福島!). At the same time, to reduce ‘radiophobia’ and anxiety, while focusing on the psychological impact from stress, health risks from radiation exposures have been trivialised and/or normalised for the general public.55

This approach is backed up by international nuclear-related agencies. As stipulated on 28 May 1959 in the ‘WHA12-40’ agreement, the WHO is mandated to report all data on health effects from radiation exposures to the IAEA, which controls publication. On no other medical health issue is the WHO required to defer publication responsibilities to another institution. Scientific expertise at the IAEA primarily lies in nuclear physics (radiology and dosimetry) as opposed to epidemiology and medical expertise on radiation effects to living tissue. The IAEA and its related UN bodies are informed by the International Commission of Radiation Protection (ICRP) recommendations on radiation dose assessments derived from the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission/Radiation Exposure Research Foundation (ABCC/RERF) lifetime studies of hibakusha (被爆者) in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This dosimetry is primarily based on an average exposure of a 20–30-year-old ‘reference man’ (originally modelled on a US Army soldier) mainly to short-term one-off acute gamma radiation exposure. While it recommends caution, the ICRP continues to maintain that anything below 100 mSv/y is a ‘low dose’ and that the risk of ‘stochastic effects’ are yet to be scientifically proven beyond doubt. Within this framework, it would seem reasonable to raise the level from 1 to 20 mSv/y.

The ABCC/RERF studies ignored, however, biological contingencies of sex, age, constitution, other health conditions and the variegated effects (including complicating chemical and metabolic dynamics) from both internal and external exposures to different radionuclides of all types (‘low level’ internal radiation is at least 20 times greater). After Chernobyl, the WHO and IAEA used the ICRP dose model to conclude that there were up to 56 deaths of ‘liquidators’ (clean-up workers) from acute radiation sickness and 4,000 additional cancers;56 and that environmental effects such as lifestyle (i.e. parental alcoholism, smoking) and ‘radiophobia’ (stress and depression) contributed to excess illnesses in 80 per cent of adult cases. It also concluded that no harm would be received by the 2 million farmers and more than 500,000 children who continued living in radioactive areas in Belarus.

Nevertheless, it is no longer possible to ignore a significant body of research, including 20 years of scientific studies compiled in Belarus and Ukraine that show serious depopulation, ongoing illnesses and state decline.57 These studies have found genetic effects within a radius of 250–300 km from Chernobyl, while children’s health in Belarus has declined from a situation where 80 per cent of the child population was healthy prior to the Chernobyl disaster to a situation post-Chernobyl where only 20 per cent are healthy.58 In 1995, Professor Nechaev from the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry (Moscow) stated that 2.5 million people were irradiated from Chernobyl in the Russian Federation, the Ukrainian Prime Minister Marchuk stated that 3.1 million had been exposed to Chernobyl radiation and Professor Okeanov from Belarus observed a spike in leukaemia and cancers among liquidators in Gomel relative to duration of exposure.59 By 2001, of 800,000 healthy Russian and Ukrainian liquidators (with an average age of 33 years) sent to decontaminate, isolate and stabilise the reactor, 10 per cent had died and 30 per cent were disabled. By 2009, 120,000 liquidators had died, and an epidemic of chronic illness and genetic and perigenetic damage in nuclear workers’ descendants appeared (this is predicted to increase over subsequent generations).60 The full extent of the damage will not be understood until the fifth generation of descendants. By the mid-2000s, 985,000 additional deaths between 1986 and 2004 across Europe were estimated as a direct result from radiation exposure from Chernobyl.61

Given this background of regulatory capture and radical discrepancies in methods and estimates prior to the Fukushima disaster, it is less surprising that there may be a process of regulatory capture and cover up underway in response to Fukushima Daiichi. In December 2011, a Cabinet Office Working Group chaired by RERF chairman Nagataki Shigenobu consisted of 18 Japanese ICRP members (including Niwa Otsura and Yamashita Shunichi). The experts invited Mr Jacques Lochard to provide external expertise. Lochard is an economist, ICRP member, Director of the Center of Studies on the Evaluation of Protection in the Nuclear Field (CEPN) (funded by Electricité de France EDF), and co-director of the CORE-ETHOS Programme in Chernobyl (1996–1998).

The CORE (Cooperation and Rehabilitation in the Belarusian territories contaminated by Chernobyl) Programme organised a takeover of radioprotection health centres in Ukraine and Belarus, and delayed a health audit beyond five years while it produced the ETHOS report outlining a ‘sustainable system of post-radiological accident management for France and the European Union’.62 While local scientists (led by Yuri Bandazhevsky and Vassili Nesterenko) recommended whole body counts (WBC) for each child (in which 50,000 children would be tested with spectrometers), food measurement, dietary radioprotection (prophylaxis through adsorbents) and resettlement of those exposed to radiation over 1 mSv/y,63 the ETHOS manual concluded that in a similar radiological event in western Europe, resettlement would be restricted to those exposed to more than 100 mSv/y. By factoring in ‘social, economic and political’ costs, ETHOS proposed ways for populations to live with radiation, and identified psychosomatic illnesses derived from ‘stress’ based on unfounded fears (i.e. ‘radiophobia’) of radiation as the greatest health risk. After a prolonged delay, in 1996 the IAEA and WHO finally settled on 5 mSv/y as the mandatory evacuation limit in a compromise between the Soviet (1 mSv/y) and western European (100 mSv/y) recommendations after Chernobyl.64These agencies targeted ‘alarmist’ reports (including social protests) as encouraging ‘radiophobia’, stressing the psychological impacts of radiological events.

In post-3.11 Japan, the Japanese Cabinet Office Working Group65 reinforced the IAEA dosimetry regime by reiterating that cancers only emerge four to five years after exposure, that increases in cancers within this period could not be attributable to the accident,66 and that illnesses in people exposed to radiation below 100 mSv/y could be concealed by other carcinogenic effects and other factors (rendering them statistically negligible), and thus could not be proven to be radiation related. In fact, in July 2014, Nagataki Shigenobu declared that it would be ‘disastrous to conclude [from the survey findings] an increase in thyroid cancer’ was due to radiation exposure.67 Consequently, privileging a government study of the thyroid glands of 1,080 children in late March 2011 (a very small sample), Nagataki claimed that almost none had exceeded 50 mSv for internal exposure and that 99.8 per cent of the population in Fukushima Prefecture could be estimated to have received an external dose below 5 mSv. Nagataki dismissed the need for further medical screenings, regular check-ups or internal radiation tests (whole body counter, urine and blood tests) at hospitals and clinics in Fukushima Prefecture or elsewhere.

Instead, the government appears to have adopted the ETHOS model: ‘improving’ community life in radiation-contaminated areas through local education and support groups; encouraging proactive self-responsibility (i.e. self-monitoring with government monitors) for children and parents (including pregnant women); stamping out ‘stigma’ attached to ‘Fukushima’ residents, the area and its produce while stigmatising ‘radiophobia’; and encouraging evacuees’ return after and even prior to ‘decontamination’.68

By September 2015, an officially estimated 3,407 people (up from 3,194 the previous year) had died from ‘effects related to the great east Japan earthquake’ (Daishinsai kanren shi 大震災関連死).69 In March 2015, about 1,870 deaths of those who had evacuated due to the overall disaster were deemed to have been from ill-health and suicide. By March 2016, this had increased to 2,208 deaths, while 1,386 deaths were estimated to have been caused by effects related specifically to the nuclear disaster (genpatsu kanren shi).70 Further, a statistically significant 15 per cent drop in live births in Fukushima Prefecture in December 2011, and a 20 per cent spike in infant mortality were found to have been caused mainly by internal radiation from the consumption of contaminated food.71 Nor do statistics on abortions seem to have been factored into official accounts. As the statistics are so temporally specific, anxiety (disruption, evacuation) is unlikely to have been the major factor as the spikes would be more prolonged. It has also been extrapolated from the conservative UNSCEAR 2013 estimate of a 48,000 person Sv collective dose, that another 5,000 are expected to die from future cancers in Japan (and larger numbers to become ill).72 Using the Tondel model, however, the European Commission on Radiation Risk (ECRR), in contrast to the ICRP dose model, which estimates 2,838 excess cancers within 100 km radius over 50 years excluding internal radiation, estimated that 103,000 excess cancers within 100 km would be diagnosed within 10 years and 200,000 in the next 50 years.73

As with informal and formal nuclear workers, if these deaths were officially recognised as being tied to radiation from Fukushima Daiichi, then the family of the deceased as main income earner would be eligible for a 5 million yen ‘consolation’ payment (half for others). Further, it would also imply the need for stricter radiological protection standards and a greater number of permanent evacuations and official health treatment program that would effectively limit the so-called ‘benefits’ associated with nuclear power generation.74 In short, it is not surprising that the overwhelming emphasis in scientific studies and public reports has been placed on psychological impacts rather than disease and deaths (particularly but not limited to nuclear workers and children) and the argumentation over the significance of thyroid cancers. The same pattern occurred after Chernobyl and Three Mile Island……http://press-files.anu.edu.au/downloads/press/n2335/html/ch06.xhtml?referer=2335&page=11

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November 11, 2017 - Posted by | health, Japan, Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties

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