I keep thinking about Fukushima and the new report in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives on what countries should do to help exposed populations after a nuclear disaster. I wish this report had been in the hands of officials entrusted with the safety of Fukushima Downwinders!
Of course I am here in the US and can’t know what did or did not happen as radiation began to spew from Fukushima reactors severely damaged in a catastrophic earthquake and resulting tsunami in 2011. But I do follow the news pretty closely. Here’s what I see and what I wonder in the context of the report’s recommendations.
1. Was a roster immediately made of everyone within Fukushima exposure zones?
- The roster would have needed to determine who was missing after the earthquake and tsunami so that the survivors’ list of those who were exposed would be complete.
- The roster would have to include everyone within the geographic limits of the exposure zone. This strikes me as extremely difficult—nobody seems clear on the actual “exposure zone.” Immediately after the accident, government officials ordered residents in a 3km radius to evacuate. Evacuation areas were later expanded to 20km, with orders to shelter indoors between 20-30km from the facility. More recently I’ve read reports of exposure as far away as Tokyo (239 km) and beyond.
2. Were Individual Radiation Exposures Measured?
News updates out of Fukushima include photographs of children being checked for nodules and cancer of the thyroid.I don’t know if we need a link here- we can simply include one of the photos of a Fukushima child having thyroids ultrasounded? Does this mean that children, adolescents, adults, and those who might be more sensitive to radiation, have had both internal and external exposures measured, as the journal article recommended? Without thisinformation, it will be very difficult to know what radiation-caused health problems people should watch for. This is important because, if radiogenic diseases and cancers are caught early, treatment is sometimes a possibility.
3. Accuracy of Radiation Release Information:
Although this was not discussed in the report, I have also read that reactor operators (TEPCO) may not have made accurate information available on the levels of specific radioactive substances released from the reactors. This also worries me. Without this information, it will be difficult if not impossible to calculate radiation exposure health risk for people who were exposed.