Want to know how the poor souls who worked (and continue to work) at Fukushima are faring? Read this thoroughly researched piece by veteran reporters Justin McCurry and David McNeill. I’ve just read the reprint and am still reeling. Here are the key points:
Radiation Doses Underestimated
- In October of 2013, UN experts said that Japanese officials may have underestimated radiation doses received by Fukushima workers in the early days following the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011 by as much as 20 percent.
- UNSCEAR (UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation) said the testing done on workers took place after significant delay and did not take into account iodine-132 and -133 doses, which have half-lives of only a few hours.
- Employees are allowed to continue their work until they have reached a 100-millisiervert [mSv] threshold. There continues to be controversy as to whether exposures below the 100mSv threshold may also pose a health risk
Many Have Lost Their Homes
- It is not only uncertainty about exposure dose that faces Fukushima’s workers. Many, themselves victims of the earthquake and tsunami, may have lost their homes or watched their families leave due to contamination in their home towns.
- These workers rarely speak with journalists for fear of losing their jobs. Many live far from families who have had to relocate outside of contamination zones.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Among Workers
- A professor in the department of public health at Ehime University in Western Japan reports high levels of physical distress and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder among TEPCO workers. An un-named contract worker confirmed heavy drinking amongst workers, causing hangovers and collapse from heat-stroke upon return to work the following day.
- There is great concern that it will become harder and harder to find enough people with specialized knowledge to continue the work at Fukushima. This effort to manage the damaged reactors is being controlled solely by TEPCO, with non-TEPCO employees hired across Japan to conduct dangerous work for subcontractors.
- TEPCO’s funds appear to be drying up. Pay cuts have occurred, and many workers, frustrated, have left. TEPCO workers are concerned over their health and about whether TEPCO will care for them if they fall ill in the future.
TEPCO, contract, and subcontract workers must not be forgotten
It’s about time these forgotten workers, many of whom are falling ill and suffering from the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, receive the care they need from governmental sources.