September 27, 2013
Thirteen communities in Japan want to become eligible for nuclear disaster assistance, even though they are inside the currently designated “Intensive Contamination Survey Areas” covering 100 municipalities in eight prefectures. The 13 communities, located between 100 and 250 kilometers from Fukushima Daiichi, say they want more than they already receive. In addition to government decontamination of homes and properties, the municipalities desire funds for child and pregnant women’s health assistance. The municipalities are: Noda, Kashiwa, Kamagaya, Matsudo, Shiroi, Nagareyama, Sakura, Abiko and Inzai in Chiba Prefecture; Toride, Moriya, and Joso in Ibaraki Prefecture; and Nasushiobara in Tochigi Prefecture.
During the public comment period for Tokyo’s Reconstruction Agency’s re-visiting of the 2012 “Act on the Protection and Support for the Children and other Victims”, the 13 municipalities submitted that they experience injustice because only Fukushima Prefecture qualifies for the additional health-care funds. The Shiroi Municipal Government, in Chiba Prefecture and more than 225 kilometers from F. Daiichi, calls the current funding program biased and arbitrary, which “…runs counter to the principles of law.” The Abiko community, about 250 kilometers from Fukushima, insists that all 100 municipalities should receive the child and pregnant women health care funding. (Mainichi Shimbun1) The question becomes…are the children and pregnant women in the 13 communities actually at risk of negative health effects due to the small, relatively trivial exposures attributed to Fukushima radiation?
The problem stems from Japan’s arbitrary standard for public radiation exposure of one millisievert/year. All designated 100 communities within the contamination survey area were found to have radiation levels over the standard for at least one of their districts. This standard was set by the now-deposed regime of former PM Naoto Kan. Soon after the crisis abated, Tokyo initially invoke the 20 mSv/yr emergency standard recommended by the International Atomic Energy Agency, but came under heavy criticism from the Press and the radiophobic sector of the vocal public. In an obvious attempt to quell the widely-broadcast outcry, Kan’s government lowered the exposure limit step-by-step until it reached one mSv/yr. The government said this was equal to the average natural background level for the island nation. The one mSv limit sated the Press to a degree, but it was only a matter of time before local governments would come calling for monies to prevent health effects that will never materialize.
Saying there will be no adverse health effects to the public in these communities may a bold statement, but it is a very correct one. No adverse health effects have ever actually occurred below 100 mSv/yr. This happens to be the general background exposure level found in Ramsar, Iran, with a population of thousands of very healthy people.(2) In fact, many Ramsar residents receive as high as 260 mSv/yr. Is the Ramsar reference an isolated case? Not at all! The multitudes who live on and near the hundreds-of-miles-long black-sand beaches of Brazil receive 40-50 mSv/yr. Half a million residents of the Kerala coastal region in western India get 10-70 mSv/yr, depending on location. Millions living on the American Colorado Plateau get 6-9 mSv/yr exposures from Mother Nature. And, the list goes on. In all cases, these populations have lower cancer incidence and lower cancer mortality than their national peers living in much lower regions of background radiation. (3, 4)
But, there is also a problem with the background level in Japan, as reported by its Press. The UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation reports that Japan’s national average in 2008 – three years before Fukushima – is 1.5 mSv/yr. It also says that Japan’s typical additional exposure (almost entirely medical) is 2.33 mSv/yr. Thus, Japan’s average public radiation exposure is not the 1 mSv/yr touted by the Kan regime and the Press…it’s actually 3.83 mSv/yr! The national standard is nearly four times less than what the average person in Japan gets every year from non-Fukushima sources. It should be noted that people living in higher elevations of Japan get as much as 10 mSv/yr because of higher elevation and mountainous bedrock containing natural Uranium, Thorium, Radium, plus Radon gas emissions.
Clearly, the 1 mSv/yr limit invoked under Japan’s former PM Naoto Kan failed to take Japan’s average background exposures into consideration. Further, they ignored the mountain of evidence compiled over the past three decades showing that existing international standards are highly conservative; doing little more than adding fuel to paranoiac radiation fears. In addition, Kan’s government arrogantly ignored the recommendations of IAEA, UNSCEAR, and the World Health Organization, who proffer the existing international limits. In other words, Kan’s government set the national standard arbitrarily, predicated on political expediency and a desire to quell negative Press. Did setting this arbitrary limit make the public any safer? Of course not. How can that which is already safe be made even safer? It can’t. Japan’s current radiation exposure limits were created to soothe the Press and the numerous Japanese who experience a mortal fear of any and all radiation exposure. Now, it may be time to pay the Piper of Political Expediency.
The desire for more money from the 13 dissenting communities may be the tip of a large and ominous ice-berg. Since the first lawsuits were filed against Tepco and the government over Fukushima in the spring of 2011, more than a dozen others have followed in-step. It is possible that extending the additional funding to the aforementioned 13 communities will open the door for additional municipalities to demand additional money. More money to do what? Tell us what we already know, it seems. All reputable scientific organizations looking at Fukushima exposures conclude there will be no discernable negative health effects. Further, when we look at the much higher exposures received by millions around the world who are living full, healthy lives, we can safely say that no man, woman, child, or fetus in Japan will suffer harm due to the Fukushima accident.
1. Municipalities criticize gov’t agency for limiting Fukushima disaster aid; http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20130924p2a00m0na020000c.html
2. Mortazavi, S. M. Javad; High Background Radiation Areas of Ramsar, Iran; http://www.angelfire.com/mo/radioadaptive/ramsar.html
3. Boyar, Robert E.; Radiation and Common Sense; Center for Reactor Information; U.S. Department of Energy, Washington, D.C.; 1997 http://www.sustainablenuclear.org/PADs/pad9709boyar.html
4. Henriksen, Thormod; Radiation and Health; University of Oslo; 2009 http://www.mn.uio.no/fysikk/tjenester/kunnskap/straling/radiation-health-2012.pdf
5. United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (2008 (published 2010); New York: United Nations; 9 November 2012. http://www.unscear.org/unscear/en/publications/2008_1.html