On October 20th, a news report out of Japan concerned a former Fukushima Daiichi welder who had been diagnosed with cancer. There was a considerable disparity between Japanese and western Press coverage. In Japan, the situation was reported as a “Fukushima Worker to get cancer compensation”. (NHK World headline) Outside Japan, the Press treated it as the first possible casualty of Fukushima’s low level radiation. Perhaps the most provocative of the numerous international headlines was “Man who worked at Fukushima nuclear plant after 2011 disaster is first to develop cancer from radiation exposure”. (NY Daily News) The world’s news outlets decided to put the Japanese news report on “spin cycle” and confabulate to the extreme.
The western reports were unabashed in the attempt to prove that low level radiation exposure caused the welder’s cancer. The prestigious Wall Street Journal was perhaps the least provocative in the headline “Construction worker’s leukemia could have been caused by radiation exposure.” However, other western news sources were more incendiary. The Washington Post headline read, “For the first time, Fukushima recovery worker diagnosed with cancer.” CNN reported it was the “first case of cancer linked to Fukushima cleanup work diagnosed.” The New York Times said, “[This amounts]to the first official acknowledgment that exposure to radiation at the disaster site may have caused cancer.” The BBC reported, “Japan’s government has acknowledged that a worker involved in clean-up work at the Fukushima nuclear plant may have developed cancer as a result.” And, the list goes on…
The problem is that they were all wrong!
The Japanese welder received a workman’s comp benefit package because he satisfied the statutory criteria stipulated in the 1976 Industrial Accident Compensation Insurance Act. The Act was a revision to the original worker’s accident insurance law of 1968, which seems to have been patterned after prior government unemployment and disability laws developed by other Asian countries. Regardless, the Act provides that workers who are injured, or become ill due to their job or commuting to and from work, can receive government financial aid and medical coverage.
To be certified as an “industrial accident” associated with radiation, a claimant must have been exposed to at least 5 millisieverts per year, times the number of years of such exposure, and have developed the illness more than a year after first being exposed. No requirement for a medical diagnosis relating the exposure to the contracted disease is needed! This important point – which all foreign news outlets failed to uncover – was stressed by a Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry official, who said, “Based on the spirit of workers’ compensation insurance, we gave consideration to his case from a standpoint that he should not miss compensation (he might be eligible for). We also took into account that the maximum permissible radiation dose for ordinary people was 5 millisieverts annually when it was introduced in 1976.” (Asahi Shimbun) During the news conference on Oct. 20th, the Health Ministry stressed that the granting of compensation did not mean there is a link between radiation exposure and effects on the claimant’s health had been proved. In other words, there was no “acknowledgement” of a causative link.
Here’s how the welder qualified. He had spent 14 months at F. Daiichi from October 2012 until December 2013. During that time, he received 15.7 mSv of exposure. The worker explained that he felt too ill to work in late December of 2013, so he went to a doctor. He was diagnosed with acute leukemia in January of 2014. During his stint at F. Daiichi he had more than 5 mSv of exposure over a period of little more than a year, and had been diagnosed with cancer more than a year after the exposure period began. He was awarded workman’s comp because he met the statutory criteria. Period! There was no doctor’s diagnostic link made between his occupational exposure and his cancer.
As it turned out, the worker tried to clear things up the next day, but it seems the international Press missed this, too. It should first be noted that the only Japanese press outlet referenced by the Western Press as a source of the radiation-caused cancer claim, albeit incorrectly, was the Asahi Shimbun. The worker’s personal interview was also posted by the Asahi on October 21st, but has been inappropriately ignored.
In the interview, the welder said, “I decided to go to Fukushima hoping that I could make some contribution to the recovery of the disaster-stricken communities, and I have no regret over my decision.” He then added, “Initially, I did not think the illness was caused by radiation exposure.” He was very ill and his immune system had been deteriorated by the cancer drugs he was taking in 2014. He worried about his family’s finances. When he heard that another nuke welder had applied for the compensation, he decided to file for it, too. He had nothing to lose. On October 20th, he was told his application had been accepted. The welder said, “I was relieved to hear the decision.”
It must be acknowledged that the Asahi interview was posted on October 21st, the day after the initial Western Press onslaught; however there has been no attempt to correct the matter since! How appropriate! We have posted previously that the Western Press has a prolonged and pronounced penchant for posting negative reports about nuclear energy and/or radiation exposure in the low level region; but when something emerges that might disprove the negative, it is summarily disregarded!
However, the Western Press didn’t stop with merely confabulating the news out of Japan. Adding insult to injury, they went to the most biased sources on nuclear energy they could find for some juicy quotes. The Telegraph UK cites Greenpeace (which is routinely predisposed to substantial elaboration with respect to anything even loosely connected to nuclear energy), “This is a massive blow to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency], which stated in September this year that no discernible health effects are to be expected due to the exposure of radiation released by the accident.” The Guardian US subsidiary of Guardian UK) cites Jan Vande Putte of Greenpeace Belgium, who said, “The statement from the IAEA that there would be no discernible health effects from the Fukushima disaster was clearly premature… Greenpeace calls on the IAEA and the Japanese authorities to retract their unsubstantiated and unscientific statement.” The Guardian also dredged up a quote from Japan’s Shinzo Kimura of Dokko University, who said, “This is a landmark decision from the viewpoint of workers’ rights, and it’s probably just the tip of the iceberg.” It is probably right; we can expect numerous phony Western News reports concerning this sort of concurrence in the future
In each of the above cases, the antinuclear quotes entirely miss the fact that we are dealing with a non-medical, entirely-statutory awarding of a workman’s comp claim. But, then again, groups like Greenpeace always take full agenda-fulfilling advantage of every chance they get to make radioactive mountains out of whatever molehills chance to occur. Despite the Western Press claims, the fact remains; no discernible negative health effects have occurred due to Fukushima Daiichi radiation exposures, and it is highly unlikely that any ever will.
It should be mentioned that the welder says he hopes other Fukushima workers might qualify for workmen’s comp in the future. I agree. Japan’s 1976 Act provides funds and medical expenses for those who meet the statutory criteria. There have been more than 25,000 people who have worked at F. Daiichi since the accident began on March 11, 2011. There will surely be many who, unfortunately, will be subsequently diagnosed with cancer. How many? Japan’s cancer rate is the largest in Asia, with nearly 40% of all deaths due to the disease. Thus, there will surely be a huge number of former Fukushima workers who will get cancer and be granted the same sort of compensation as the welder. We can fully expect that every time this happens, the Western Press will report that the cancer was caused by Fukushima radiation…it’s good for business.
Ironically, we might assume that the workman’s comp blue law is an unforeseen benefit to those who work at F. Daiichi; i.e. a benefit for those unfortunate enough to subsequently contract cancer. But to reiterate; we can be very sure that these future cancers will not have been caused by occupational radiation exposure a tenth of that experienced by the healthy populations of the black sand beach communities in Brazil and India, where annual exposures are in the 50mSv/yr range.
The Western Press is calling the enforcement of a Japanese blue law an acknowledgement of cancer caused by an extremely low level of radiation exposure. In reality, no such admission has been issued by Japan’s government, and correctly so. It is a monetary award granted through a forty-year-old statute. No medical connection has been made between the cancer and the individual’s exposure. The Western Press reports to the contrary are nothing more than deliberate deception.
Update 10/26/15 – A colleague sent me an Email and suggested I look into the latency period between radiation exposure and the onset of leukemia. I did. It is 5-7 years between exposure and onset of the disease. ( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3225426/ ) Both the Western and Japanese Press failed to report this one! It takes the entire issue out of the ridiculous category, and into the absurd.
1 – http://www.japaneselawtranslation.go.jp/law/detail/?id=1920&vm=04&re=01
2 – http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20151020_34.html
3 – http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/fukushima-plant-worker-radiation-linked-cancer-article-1.2403883
4 – http://www.wsj.com/articles/japan-says-fukushima-nuclear-plant-worker-diagnosed-with-cancer-1445333714
5 – http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/10/20/for-the-first-time-fukushima-recovery-worker-diagnosed-with-cancer-report-says/
6 – http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/20/asia/japan-fukushima-radiation-cancer/
7 – http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/21/world/asia/japan-cancer-fukushima-nuclear-plant-compensation.html?_r=1
8 – http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-34579382
9 – http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/