Almost nothing to see here, move along.
Eight months after Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s six reactor Daichi Fuskuhima complex was rocked by an earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale and subsequent tsunami, both Tokyo and TEPCO maintain that the effects of the disaster have been contained.
Not so, according to a just published peer reviewed medical paper appearing in the U.S., which indicates that Fukushima’s pernicious consequences have traveled across the Pacific.
The figures come from a recently published article in the December 2011 edition of the International Journal of Health Services, a peer reviewed scientific journal, authored by Joseph J. Mangano and Janette D. Sherman, “An Unexpected Mortality Increase in the United States Follows Arrival of the Radioactive Plume from Fukushima: is There a Correlation?”
The study is the first peer-reviewed study published in a medical journal documenting the health hazards of the Fukushima disaster.
In earlier research published five months ago on counterpunch.org the authors noted, “The recent CDC (Center for Disease Control) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report indicates that eight cities in the northwest U.S. (Boise ID, Seattle WA, Portland OR, plus the northern California cities of Santa Cruz, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, and Berkeley) reported the following data on deaths among those younger than one year of age: 4 weeks ending March 19, 2011 - 37 deaths (avg. 9.25 per week) 10 weeks ending May 28, 2011 - 125 deaths (avg.12.50 per week.)This amounts to an increase of 35% (the total for the entire U.S. rose about 2.3%), and is statistically significant. Of further significance is that those dates include the four weeks before and the ten weeks after the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster.”
According to the researchers’ data, on 17 March after Fukushima was impacted, scientists detected the plume of toxic fallout had arrived over U.S. territory and subsequent measurements by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found levels of radiation in air, water, and milk hundreds of times above normal across the U.S.
Janette Sherman, MD, said: "Based on our continuing research, the actual death count here may be as high as 18,000, with influenza and pneumonia, which were up five-fold in the period in question as a cause of death. Deaths are seen across all ages, but we continue to find that infants are hardest hit because their tissues are rapidly multiplying, they have undeveloped immune systems, and the doses of radioisotopes are proportionally greater than for adults." Dr. Sherman is an adjunct professor, Western Michigan University and Joseph Mangano is an epidemiologist, and Executive Director of the Radiation and Public Health Project research group.
The pair noted, “We recently reported on an unusual rise in infant deaths in the northwestern United States for the 10-week period following the arrival of the airborne radioactive plume from the meltdowns at the Fukushima plants in northern Japan. This result suggested that radiation from Japan may have harmed Americans, thus meriting more research. We noted in the report that the results were preliminary, and the importance of updating the analysis as more health status data become available.”
“The human fetus and infant are especially radiosensitive, given their rapid cell growth and cell division, as well as their small size that results in a proportionately larger dose. These exposures include X-ray, alpha, beta, and gamma radiation. Depending on the time of in utero radiation exposure, the result can be expressed as spontaneous abortion, premature birth, low birth weight, stillbirth, infant death, congenital malformations, and brain damage. While this report concentrates on effects to humans, all life is sensitive to nuclear radiation exposure, including plants, fungi, insects spiders, birds, fish, and other animals. The best-studied group near Chernobyl (birds) shows a 50 percent decrease in species richness and a 66 percent drop in abundance in the most contaminated areas, compared with normal background in the same neighborhood.”
In perhaps its most worrying observation the report notes, “The Fukushima meltdowns, and the introduction of radioactivity across the globe, indicate that accurate measurements are needed on subsequent changes in environmental radioactivity and in health status. In the United States, there have been limitations in both measures. Radioactivity samples in precipitation, air, water, and milk were sporadically reported by the Environmental Protection Agency. Many measurements failed to produce detectable levels, and on May 3, 2011, the agency reverted to its policy of making only quarterly measurements.”
The report concludes, “The health effects of exposure to radioactivity from the Fukushima meltdowns, both in Japan and around the world, will take a long time to fully assess. The paucity of data from the U.S. EPA is unfortunate and will hamper future studies. A quarter of a century after the Chernobyl disaster, and more than 60 years after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, compilations of health casualties are still being updated. It is critical that research should proceed with all due haste, as answers are essential to early diagnosis and treatment for exposed people, particularly children and the very young.”
For those wishing to read the study, its URL is: http://www.radiation.org/reading/pubs/HS42_1F.pdf. The 18-page study contains 25 footnotes, and, as noted earlier, has been peer reviewed.
It will be interesting to see how TEPCO responds to the article, or whether it will simply vanish into the black hole of non commentary.
The pushback has already begun, with Michael Moyer, editor in charge of technology coverage at Scientific American writing, “The publication of such sloppy, agenda-driven work is a shame. Certainly radiation from Fukushima is dangerous, and could very well lead to negative health effects—even across the Pacific. The world needs to have a serious discussion about what role nuclear power should play in a power-hungry post-Fukushima world. But serious, informed, fact-based debate is a difficult enough goal to achieve without having to shout above noise like this.”
And oh, on 20 December Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported from Mito in Ibaraki prefecture that a fire partially burned the ceiling of a building housing a nuclear reactor in Tokai.
By. John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com