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Fukushima child evacuees get comedy classes to loosen up & combat trauma

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Over six years after the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima power plant, school administrators have decided to offer lessons in traditional Japanese stand-up comedy to relieve stress and anxiety among evacuee children, who have still not returned to their homes.
“Many children feel exhausted at home,” Toshihide Takeuchi, head of the education board of Okuma, an evacuated town 5km from the decimated plant, told Asahi Shimbun. “They appreciate what adults are doing to help them, but they also are evacuees. These children work very hard, trying to live up to adults’ expectations.”
The town’s education board, which has been temporarily relocated to Aizu-Wakamatsu, 120km west of the site of the tsunami and earthquake, agreed last month to approve eight-hour courses in manzai, a traditional Japanese mix of stand-up, stage sketch show and clowning.
“Principals should make people laugh at least once a day. Teachers who cannot make students smile in classes will be arrested,” Takeuchi joked to his audience during the meeting.
Professional performers – manzai troupes usually consist of a straight man and a funny man – will come into class and entertain children, before teaching them how to perform themselves. Educators and psychologists complain that Japanese schoolchildren are too uptight – and polite – to express themselves freely to adults, and the course should open up communication channels.
Manzai programs have already been tested by two education boards responsible for evacuee children, and Asahi Shimbun reports that they have proven effective, and were warmly received by the educators.
The inventive measures are born out of necessity: 160,000 moved away from Fukushima in the wake of the March 2011 disaster, just over half of them compulsorily, and about 80,000 have still been unable to return.
While those whose cities have still not been cleared as safe to return receive generous government payments, the so-called voluntary evacuees, many of whom say that they are still too afraid to return, have seen their benefits slashed over the past months, as the government attempts to regain control over the spiraling cost of the accident, currently estimated at just under $200 billion.
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May 29, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

In Fukushima, children are being taught to laugh out loud

In a lecture held on 21 March 2011 in Fukushima City, professor Shunichi Yamashita of Nagasaki University said that radiation did not affect people who were smiling. He would certainly be happy to know that comedy education is now being offered at schools in Fukushima schools as ways to make children laugh spontaneously.

 

gfhghjkjlk.jpgA member of the Penguin Nuts comic duo advises students who attend the Aizu-Wakamatsu city-run Daini Junior High School on how to write scripts for “manzai” stand-up comedy in November 2016.

AIZU-WAKAMATSU, Fukushima Prefecture–Comedy education is being offered at schools in this part of Japan that is still getting over the 2011 nuclear disaster, and that’s no joke.

The Okuma board of education in the prefecture has been giving serious attention to ways of making the children of evacuees laugh spontaneously to help them improve their communications skills and self-expression.

The special classes are now under way at three town-run elementary and junior high schools temporarily set up in Aizu-Wakamatsu, which is situated a safe distance from the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

An evacuation order remains in effect for all the residents of Okuma.

Okuma’s board of education set up a panel for comedy-based education for schools on April 28 as all the town’s children are still living as evacuees more than six years after the nuclear crisis triggered by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster that ravaged northeastern Japan.

Working with Osaka-based Yoshimoto Kogyo Co., which represents artists and has many famous comedians on its books, the education board stated that it was committed to bringing “smiles” to the faces of more children uprooted from their homes.

The focus of the classes is on Japan’s “manzai” traditional style of stand-up comedy.

The children are taught by agency entertainers how to develop manzai scripts and perform by themselves in front of others.

The course runs for a total of eight hours.

A meeting of the panel held April 28 at the temporary branch office of the Okuma town government in Aizu-Wakamatsu was attended by school principals, parents and their children.

Principals should make people laugh at least once a day,” said Toshihide Takeuchi, head of the education board.

Teachers who cannot make students smile in classes will be arrested,” he deadpanned to laughter from the audience.

A key objective is to ease children’s anxieties.

Many children feel exhausted at home,” Takeuchi said. “They appreciate what adults are doing to help them, but they also are evacuees. These children work very hard, trying to live up to adults’ expectations.”

Takeuchi expressed his hope that the comedy program will help children to laugh and relax.

The education board said it wanted children to realize that making a fool of others or running down someone perceived to have some sort of defect does not constitute “enjoyable laughing.”

Similar efforts are being made elsewhere in Fukushima Prefecture.

Elementary schools in the village of Iitate began offering special classes combining manzai with education during the last fiscal year.

Sixth-graders at three village-run elementary schools learned how to play the fool in manzai from performers of entertainer agency Shochiku Geino Co., also based in Osaka, last fall at temporary buildings in Kawamata, where many evacuees now reside.

Last year, the city-run Daini Junior High School and Kawahigashi Junior High School in Aizu-Wakamatsu also offered manzai classes based on a nine-hour education plan developed by a city-based nonprofit group called Aizu Engine that focuses on social education.

Penguin Nuts, a comic duo that works primarily in the prefecture, served as teachers along with others during the special classes. Students formed comic duos themselves and competed with each other to make people laugh.

The two schools said the “effects” of the comedy-based education are already apparent as more children feel able to express their opinions directly to teachers and classmates.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201705240001.html

May 25, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

3 Schools Return From Nuclear Exile

Two generations of Fukushima children sacrificed in the name of political expediency…

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Students from two elementary schools and a junior high school attend the joint opening ceremony for a new school building in the town of Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture, on Thursday. The schools moved to makeshift venues in 2011 to escape radioactive fallout during the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Naraha sees three schools return from nuclear exile in Fukushima

FUKUSHIMA – Two elementary schools and a junior high school returned to their hometown in Fukushima Prefecture on Thursday six years after being forced to flee radiation spewed by the March 2011 nuclear disaster.

Around 90 students attended the joint opening ceremony at the new building housing the junior high school in Naraha, most of which is within a 20-km hot zone centered on the heavily damaged Fukushima No. 1 plant. The evacuation order for Naraha was lifted in September 2015.

Our school life in Naraha, which we have long awaited, begins today. One day, I want to do something for my town,” 11-year-old Hina Moue of Naraha Minami Elementary School said at the ceremony.

The two elementary schools will hold their classes in the junior high school building for the time being.

Since January 2013, the students had been studying at a makeshift facility further south in a university in Iwaki.

The junior high school building was under construction when the 2011 mega-quake and tsunami triggered the man-made nuclear crisis.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/04/06/national/naraha-sees-three-schools-return-nuclear-exile-fukushima/

 

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Children are seen getting on a school bus at JR Hirono Station in Fukushima Prefecture on April 6, 2017, to attend classes in the town of Naraha.

Fukushima schools reopen for 1st time in 6 years after nuclear evacuation order lifted

NARAHA, Fukushima — All of the three public elementary and junior high schools here resumed classes on April 6 for the first time in six years since the Fukushima nuclear disaster broke out.

The whole town of Naraha was subject to an evacuation order in the wake of the disaster at the Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant. While the order was lifted in September 2015, only about 10 percent of local residents have returned to the town.

This is the first time schools reopened in a municipality that was subject to evacuation orders in its entirety.

Students of the two municipal elementary schools and one junior high school had been studying at a makeshift school in the Fukushima Prefecture city of Iwaki, where many Naraha townspeople evacuated. They will now attend classes held at the Naraha Junior High School building. In the meantime, only 105 students, or 20-plus percent of those who would be able to enroll in these three schools, will be going to school there.

There are a total of 22 children who are commuting from Iwaki, approximately 30 kilometers away from the town. On the day that Naraha schools reopened, some of these children took a 25-minute train ride from JR Joban Line’s Iwaki Station and got on a school bus at a station in the neighboring town of Hirono. Since Naraha remains fairly empty even after the evacuation order was lifted, almost all the 105 students will take school buses between the train station and their school out of safety concerns.

Mineo Yokota, 52, who owns a restaurant in Naraha and commutes to his workplace from Iwaki by car, decided he would send his eldest daughter, a second-year junior high school student, to the school in his family’s hometown. She had transferred school three times since the nuclear disaster, due to evacuation.

“I had planned to drive her to school, but my daughter decided on her own to commute by train after talking to some of the upperclassmen. I’m relieved to learn that the kids have made their own community,” Yokota said.

Naraha Mayor Yukiei Matsumoto said at the opening ceremony that the municipal government had prepared for this day “with the determination that ‘there is no future for a town without children'” even though reopening schools in Naraha “seemed impossible at one point.”

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170406/p2a/00m/0na/015000c

 

April 8, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

The island of the post-Fukushima children

Translated by Hervé Courtois

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In Kumejima, Mayumi and her two children are recovering their health away from the radioactivity of Fukushima.

 

Six years ago, Japan experienced the worst nuclear disaster in its history. Since then, the young inhabitants of the contaminated areas are welcomed on a preserved archipelago where they can recover their health.

Green shorts and long-sleeved T-shirt, Tatsuyoshi, 4, runs to the sea, stops halfway. For fear of the sand, he refused to bathe barefoot. “It’s like that, the first few days. Then he gets used to it, “says his mother, Mayumi Moriai, handing him his sandals. The young woman has already come three times to the small Japanese island of Kumejima, located 2200 kilometers south of Tokyo, in the Okinawa archipelago, to allow her two children to reconnect with nature. “We live in Koriyama, in Fukushima Prefecture, 70 kilometers from the nuclear power plant ravaged by the March 2011 tsunami. There the beach runs alongside the forbidden zone,” she said, clasping Masaki, her 10-month-old baby . Koriyama, a city of more than 300,000 inhabitants, recorded very high levels of radioactivity in 2011: more than 8 microsieverts (the unit measuring the effects of radiation on humans) per hour, 13 times more than in areas evacuated after the 1986 explosion of the Chernobyl power plant. However, its inhabitants have not been evacuated.

Strengthening children’s immunity

Beside Mayumi, other mothers accompany their toddlers to swim in the Pacific Ocean. All are hosted in the Kuminosato center, created in 2012 by Ryuichi Hirokawa, editor of the Days Japan magazine. Its purpose: to house, every month, about thirty children living year-round in the contaminated areas of Fukushima. A free detox treatment funded through donations from around the world. The idea of creating a refuge as far away as possible from the disaster area is based on the example of sanatoriums built in Belarus after the Chernobyl disaster. At that time, specialists had proved that a temporary stay outside contaminated areas could lower radioactive particles accumulated in children’s bodies and enhance the immunity of particularly vulnerable young organisms.

“The accident at the nuclear power plant has increased the risk of thyroid cancer, especially in children,” says Ryuichi Hirokawa. As of June 30, 2016, according to the medical university of Fukushima, 174 cases of thyroid cancer were suspected among young people of the region, of which 135 were confirmed after surgery. A survey conducted by the Fukushima Prefecture in September 2016 revealed that 79.5% of mothers fear for the health of their sons and daughters.

“We have been able to accommodate 2,200 children and 550 adults since 2012, but this is not enough,” Ryuichi Hirokawa said. He plans to open another center in Hokkaido, in the far north of Japan, while the government has begun recalling residents in villages initially classified as a forbidden zone (a 30-kilometer perimeter around the plant).

 

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The independent laboratory Tarachine monitors the health of children in Fukushima.

An independent control center

In the center’s large dining room, Mayumi Moriai and her children have their breakfast. Here, no need to worry about food: rice, fish, seaweed, vegetables come from southern Japan. “In Koriyama, at home, I avoid buying tubers and mushrooms. But it is impossible to limit oneself all the time. Here, all products that are eaten are controlled and guaranteed without radioactive cesium, “says Mayumi. “Analyzes of fungi brought by farmers in Fukushima reveal levels of radioactivity about 20,000 times higher than normal. Unfortunately, Japanese people love mushrooms, “says Kaori Suzuki, director of Tarachine, an independent radioactivity measurement center where Kuminosato can offer its residents free thyroid exams.

“We have no other place to go”

At the same table as the Moriai, Naoko Shimoyamada. She also lived in the Fukushima region, before moving to Yamagata, the neighboring prefecture, with her three daughters. Like many mothers, she had to fight with her entourage, and even with her husband, to be able to come to the Kuminosato center. In Japan, talking about radioactivity is taboo. “My friends think this is a brainwashing center!” Mayumi regrets. Unlike many of her fellow citizens, the young mother dares to evoke her anguish when she thinks about the accident. “I was cycling in the rain while the reactors were exploding. We had no information for weeks. “

If Mayumi fears for the health of her children, she does not plan to leave her city. “That’s where we were born, and we have no other place to go,” says her husband Ryuichi, who stayed at the family home. The return to normal praised by the authorities pushed the majority of families to stay. Even if the Geiger counter planted between the swing and the sandbox of the kindergarten in front of the Moriai’s house expresses everything except the normality.  The father of the family pointed to a square of earth turned over. “Workers dug a pit in every kindergarten in the city. Then they were seen burying in large black bags. Everyone knows that it is contaminated land, “says Ryuichi.

Back to Kuminosato. On the beach, little Tatsuyoshi runs in the waves. After three days, he forgot his fears. “All I want is for him to grow up healthy,” his mother hopes.

 

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Gardening workshop in the Kuminosato center: the residents reconnect with a protected nature.

A region still affected

Six years after the earthquake and tsunami of 11 March 2011, which caused the worst nuclear accident of the 21st century, 10,000 workers are still mobilized to decommission the Fukushima Daiichi plant since the disaster. The year 2017 will also be marked by the end of the allowances granted by the government for aid to voluntary evacuees, which opponents equate to a forced return for the 26,000 people who evacuated “on their own initiative”, according to the vocabulary official. Japan, which was 30% dependent on nuclear power before the accident, built 54 reactors at the seaside, and only two of them were restarted since the accident. According to a report published last year by two associations of American doctors, the Fukushima accident could cause 10,000 more cancers among the Japanese population due to radiation.

http://www.leparisien.fr/magazine/grand-angle/le-parisien-magazine-l-ile-aux-enfants-de-l-apres-fukushima-03-03-2017-6724407.php#xtor=AD-1481423551

March 5, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Did Fukushima Daiichi Cause Cancer in Children and Plant Workers?

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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.

http://majiasblog.blogspot.fr/2017/01/did-fukushima-daiichi-cause-cancer-in.html

 

 

January 23, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Bioaccessibility of Fukushima-Accident-Derived Cs in Soils and the Contribution of Soil Ingestion to Radiation Doses in Children

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Abstract

Ingestion of contaminated soil is one potential internal exposure pathway in areas contaminated by the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident.

Doses from this pathway can be overestimated if the availability of radioactive nuclides in soils for the gastrointestinal tract is not considered.

The concept of bioaccessibility has been adopted to evaluate this availability based on in vitro tests.

This study evaluated the bioaccessibility of radioactive cesium from soils via the physiologically-based extraction test (PBET) and the extractability of those via an extraction test with 1 mol/L of hydrochloric acid (HCl).

The bioaccessibility obtained in the PBET was 5.3% ± 1%, and the extractability in the tests with HCl was 16% ± 3%. The bioaccessibility was strongly correlated with the extractability. This result indicates the possibility that the extractability in HCl can be used as a good predictor of the bioaccessibility with PBET.

In addition, we assessed the doses to children from the ingestion of soil via hand-to-mouth activity based on our PBET results using a probabilistic approach considering the spatial distribution of radioactive cesium in Date City in Fukushima Prefecture and the interindividual differences in the surveyed amounts of soil ingestion in Japan.

The results of this assessment indicate that even if children were to routinely ingest a large amount of soil with relatively high contamination, the radiation doses from this pathway are negligible compared with doses from external exposure owing to deposited radionuclides in Fukushima Prefecture.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/risa.12694/full

October 2, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Only 28% of Fukushima children returning to former schools

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Only 28 percent of children are returning to their public elementary and junior high schools in five towns and villages in Fukushima Prefecture following the lifting of evacuation orders imposed after the 2011 nuclear disaster, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned. The majority of schoolboys and girls are opting to stay out of their hometowns due to anxiety over radiation exposure and resettlement at evacuation sites.

The trend raises concerns that the number of young people in these towns and villages will dwindle and the survival of the municipalities is at stake.

The five municipalities are the towns of Hirono and Naraha and the villages of Iitate, Kawauchi and Katsurao. They set up temporary elementary and junior high schools at evacuation sites after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster triggered the multiple core meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. Hirono and Kawauchi reopened their public schools in 2012 and Naraha and Katsurao will follow suit in April 2017. Iitate plans to reopen its schools in April 2018, one year after the evacuation order is lifted.

Once these public schools have reopened, the temporary schools at evacuation sites are shut down, prompting children from the five affected municipalities to choose one of three options — return to their hometowns, commute to their former schools by school bus or other means, or attend schools at evacuation sites.

According to the Mainichi study, 55 percent of 259 pupils and students from Hirono and Kawauchi have returned to their former elementary and junior high schools because the evacuation orders were relatively short. But only 139 students or 15 percent of students from Naraha, Katsurao and Iitate responded to a survey in 2015-2016 that they would return to their original schools. Only three students, or 4 percent, of 74 students from Katsurao said they would return to their hometown schools.

As for students from Naraha, 17 percent of students replied that they would attend their hometown schools but half of them hoped to commute to their hometown schools from outside the town. If young evacuees in Iwaki, a major evacuation destination, try to commute by train and bus, a one-way trip takes one hour. An official of the Naraha board of education expressed concerns that these students are really serious about commuting to their hometowns. A Kawauchi village official says that the returns of child-rearing generations are the village’s lifeline. These municipalities operate school buses to encourage the evacuees to return to their hometowns as a stopgap measure rather than as a permanent solution.

Yusuke Yamashita, an associate professor of urban and rural sociology at Tokyo Metropolitan University, says, ”There are some parents who send their children to temporary schools before eventually returning to their hometowns. If these municipalities reopen their schools hastily, some families may abandon plans to return home (out of safety fears). It is important for the communities to offer as many options as possible by keeping temporary schools.”

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160910/p2a/00m/0na/001000c

September 11, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Children Suffer Nuclear Impact Worldwide

Do children suffer worldwide from atomic power? Absolutely. CCTV host Margaret Harrington anchored a panel with Maggie Gundersen, Caroline Phillips, and Chiho Kaneko from Fairewinds Energy Education to discuss the health risks to children around the world from operating nuclear power reactors and their burgeoning waste. In the aftermath of the nuclear meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi, mothers in Japan especially bear the responsibility to protect their children. As a result, they experience greater hardships in an environment where just expressing one’s legitimate concerns about radiation contamination is seen as a treasonous act. Meanwhile in Ukraine, 30-years following the atomic disaster at Chernobyl, the repercussions of massive radioactive contamination and government zoning continue to severely impact children living within 50 miles of Chernobyl’s epicenter. The United States is not immune to these worries and contentions as Tritium, Strontium-90, and Cesium 137 are radioactive releases that threaten the health of children living nearby leaky atomic power reactors and nuclear waste dumps. Learn more by watching this episode of Nuclear Free Future as the women of Fairewinds lend their voices to protect the children.

http://www.fairewinds.org/nuclear-energy-education//cctv

May 6, 2016 Posted by | Nuclear, World Nuclear | , | 1 Comment

Japan: Amid Population Collapse, Fukushima Families Falling Apart

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Given the option of leaving their hometowns or risking radiation poisoning five years ago, families living near the Fukushima radiation disaster are falling apart, facing divorce, suicide, and cancer. The breakdown of Fukushima families comes as Japan faces a dwindling population it continues to struggle to replenish.

Mothers desperate to save their children from cancer or other side effects of radiation poisoning have been forced to choose between their husbands and their children, an in-depth report in Japan’s Asahi Shimbun notes. Many men stayed in the radiation-affected areas, unable to find jobs elsewhere. The mothers who moved as far from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant as they could afford say they made the decision to save their children from radiation, but have lost their husbands and families.

One woman tells the Asahi Shimbun that her husband mailed her divorce papers in 2014 after she fled the area in 2011. “I cannot send money to my family whom I cannot see,” he said in a letter. She has not told her two children their parents are divorced. She made the choice to risk her marriage, she said, because she “could not trust the data released by the central government.” She laments, “My family has collapsed.”

Residents of Fukushima were forced to evacuate the area after a March 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami caused a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The plant’s operators expect it to take up to 40 years for the site to be fully safe and usable again.

The new Asahi profile of Fukushima mothers reflects similar fears the Japan Times found in speaking to others who had fled and refuse to trust the government’s assurances that their hometowns are safe. In September 2015, the newspaper spoke to mothers who said on the condition of anonymity that their families – especially their husbands’ families – were pressuring them to risk exposing their children to radiation to keep families together. “Consciously or subconsciously, women are aware of the role we are expected to play in a family. After the earthquake and nuclear disaster, however, everything changed. … I can’t live up to those expectations any more, and society judges me,” a woman identified with the pseudonym Yukiko said. “Some were accused of abandoning or running away from their families, particularly those they married into. Relatives labeled the wives disloyal and overly sensitive,” The Japan Times noted of others who fled. Those judged harshest are the ones fleeing areas for which the government issued only a voluntary evacuation order.

Those who stayed face the opposite fear. “Sometimes when I’m alone in the house, I start to cry, imagining the future of my children,” a woman identified as Hiroko said. “I fear my children may become sick, and the ones who I love most will hold a grudge against me for failing to protect them. That is my biggest fear.”

Those who fled to neighboring towns fear radiation so much they refuse to allow their children to eat food they know has been produced in any part of Fukushima prefecture. The Asahi report highlights one mother who sends her 11-year-old to school with a specially made bento box, refusing to allow the school to feed her Fukushima-produced rice and vegetables. The girl has been bullied as a result, her mother mocked for being “neurotic.” A school official noted that other mothers make their children “wear surgical masks when they participate in footraces during outdoor school athletic meets.”

Asahi estimates that 70,000 people remain prohibited from returning home due to the Fukushima disaster, and another 18,000 have voluntarily chosen not to return.

Those who stay must live with the fear of radiation and the absence of those who do not return. Officials have marked a surge in suicides directly tied to the Fukushima disaster. Asahi reported in December 2015 that police confirmed 19 suicides in 2015 related to the disaster, up from 15 in 2014. A total of 154 people are believed to have resorted to suicide as a result of the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster.

Masaharu Maeda, a professor of disaster psychiatry at Fukushima Medical University, says torn families can account for many of these suicides and a significant rise in depression and other psychological problems in these communities. “The elderly may return to their homes, but the generation who are still raising children do not return, meaning families are torn apart,” he noted.

In one of the most prominent suicide cases related to Fukushima, a 102-year-old man hung himself after being told he would have to evacuate his home in 2011. The family sued the Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), which runs the plant, for 60 million yen ($485,000).

Mothers who fear radiation poisoning have been vindicated by a number of tragedies following the 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor. Doctors in the region have found that children living in the area are 20 to 50 times more likely to develop thyroid cancer. The government confirmed the first cancer case related to the plant’s collapse in October 2015, a former nuclear plant worker who was diagnosed with leukemia.

The combination of family collapse and surging cancer cases is threatening an already dwindling Japanese population. Japanese officials have estimated that the population will diminish from 100 million to 80 million by 2065, leaving the nation without a reliable workforce. While some legislators have suggested making immigration to Japan easier, most appear reluctant to take that avenue. Raising the native birth rate would require significant cultural changes, many speculate, because of a Japanese work culture that pushes women to forego family life if they intend to keep their careers. Twenty percent of young mothers report experiencing harassment in the workplace, and many who wish to be mothers are encouraged to avoid pregnancy or abort.

http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2016/02/24/five-years-after-fukushima-families-remain-torn-apart-by-evacuation/

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

For some Fukushima mothers, protecting children from radiation comes at heavy price

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Residents who were evacuated from Okuma and three other towns in Fukushima Prefecture attend an event at a public housing facility in Iwaki to help them assimilate into the community on Feb. 19.

 

Three-and-a-half years after fleeing to central Japan, a mother received a package from her husband who had opted to remain at their home in Fukushima Prefecture despite the nuclear disaster.
From Tamura, about 35 kilometers west of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, the father sent snacks for the couple’s two children. The cardboard box also contained divorce papers.
“I cannot send money to my family whom I cannot see,” the husband told his wife.
She still refused to return home.
Thanks to decontamination work, radiation levels have fallen around the nuclear plant since the triple meltdown caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. And families are returning to their hometowns, trying to resume normal lives.
But many mothers, distrustful of the government’s safety assurances, still harbor fears that radiation will affect the health of their children. As a result of these concerns, families are being torn apart, friendships have ended, and a social divide remains wide in Fukushima communities.
Around 70,000 people are still not allowed to return to their homes located in evacuation zones designated by the central government. And an estimated 18,000 people from Fukushima Prefecture whose homes were outside those zones remain living in evacuation.
The government is pushing for Fukushima residents to return home and trying to counter false rumors about the nuclear disaster.
More families in Fukushima Prefecture are willing to buy food produced in the prefecture–but not all.
A 40-year-old mother who once lived on the coast of Fukushima Prefecture and moved farther inland to Koriyama said she still fears for the health of her 11-year-old daughter.
Her classmates started serving “kyushoku” school lunches containing Fukushima rice and vegetables that passed the screening for radioactive materials. But the fifth-grader has instead eaten from a bento lunch box prepared by her mother.
The daughter says that eating her own lunch led to teasing from her classmates. She heard one of them say behind her back: “You aren’t eating kyushoku. Are you neurotic?”
She does not talk to that classmate anymore, although they used to be friends.
“I now feel a bit more at ease even when I am different from other students,” the daughter said.
Her mother expressed concerns about her daughter’s social life, but protecting her child’s health takes precedence.
“My daughter may fall ill sometime,” the mother said. “I feel almost overwhelmed by such a fear.”
An official of the Fukushima prefectural board of education said a certain number of students act differently from other students because of health concerns over radiation.
“Although the number is limited, some students bring bento to their schools,” the official said. “Some students wear surgical masks when they participate in footraces during outdoor school athletic meets.
“The feelings toward radiation vary from person to person, so we cannot force them (to behave in the same way as other students).”
Sung Woncheol, a professor of sociology at Chukyo University, and others have conducted surveys on mothers whose children were 1 to 2 years old when the nuclear disaster started. The mothers live in Fukushima city and eight other municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture.
Of the 1,200 mothers who responded to the survey in 2015, 50 percent said they had concerns about child-rearing in Fukushima Prefecture.
Nearly 30 percent said they avoid or try to avoid using food products from Fukushima Prefecture, compared with more than 80 percent six months after the disaster.
But for some mothers, the passage of nearly five years since the disaster unfolded has not erased their fears of radiation.
The 36-year-old mother who received the divorce papers from her husband in autumn 2014 continues to live with her children in the central Japan city to which she had no previous connection.
A month after the nuclear disaster, she fled with her then 1-year-old son and her daughter, 10, from their home, even though it was not located in an evacuation zone.
She said she left Fukushima Prefecture because she “could not trust the data released by the central government.”
The mother still has not told her children that their parents are divorced.
“I believe I could protect the health of my children,” the woman said. “But my family has collapsed.”
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201602230068

February 25, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , , | Leave a comment