A Japanese government-backed researcher has been quick to play down dangerous health effects from radiation released by the Fukushima nuclear plant in a statement released on Friday. The conclusion made by Kazuo Sakai of Japan’s National Institute of Radiological Sciences is the latest coming from authorities seeking to downplay fears over the long-term effects of the disaster, especially in the people living nearby.
“Since the accident in Fukushima, no health effects from radiation have been observed, although we have heard reports some people fell ill due to stress from living as evacuees and due to worries and fears about radiation,” Sakai said. The researcher also declared that the said radiation is not at a “level where we have to worry about its health effect” for people living in and near Fukushima, taking into account normal day-to-day environmental exposure and ingestion from food.
This pronouncement comes in the wake of the Fukushima prefectural government revealing last week that three people aged 18 or younger have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. As learned from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, radioactive iodine released in nuclear accidents tends to accumulate in thyroid glands, particularly in young people. The Chernobyl area saw a noticeable increase in thyroid cancer cases detected, particularly among children.
Sakai said “there is no clear link between the cancers and exposure to radiation”, referring to the thyroid cancers reported in Fukushima, “as standard knowledge says it takes several years before thyroid cancer is detected after exposure to radiation.” While experts from Fukushima Medical University have that it was still too early to directly link the cancer cases with the meltdowns, it is but common logic to also say that it is too early to assume there is no danger, or categorically say that the meltdowns did not cause the cancer. It is also worth noting that all these “experts” who have been stating that there are no radiation concerns are government-funded entities and may have biased agenda for saying so.
The environmental campaign group Greenpeace had immediately dismissed the report, saying that the government should not seek to play down health worries. Kazue Suzuki, nuclear campaigner at Greenpeace, said “Japan should pour more energy into prevention of diseases including thyroid cancer than talking down the risk of low-level radiation.”[ via Bangkok Post ]