April 27, 2013

This past week, the Sendai High Court summarily rejected a lawsuit calling for the complete evacuation of all children in Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture. A small number of city parents (14) filed the suit with the Koriyama City Lower court in June, 2011. The plaintiffs demanded that all children in the city of more than 330,000 be evacuated because they have “the right to live free of radiation”. The lower court rejected to suit in December, 2011, but one family pursued an appeal to the high court, which was in Sendai. The high court said if any parents feel the radiation levels in Koriyama are a danger to their children, they should leave the area of their own accord and not try to have the government pay for it.

The court stated that some locations in Koriyama, which stretches between 50 and 60 kilometers from Fukushima Daiichi, have radiation levels higher than the existing national standards. But, there is no legal precedent for the government evacuating children to other parts of Japan at these levels. Although the court is correct, they did the right thing for the wrong reason. The children of Koriyama were not at risk due to the radiation levels found around the city, which has been demonstrated by recent scientific reports concerning comprehensive studies run on the children of Fukushima Prefecture. The court should have ruled that since there is no compelling, conclusive evidence to support the plaintiff claims of radiological risk to Koriyama children, there is no rational reason for moving the kids elsewhere.

One of the scientific studies was posted by a team of experts from four Japanese universities. (https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/pjab/89/4/89_PJA8904B-01/_pdf) The study covered more than 100,000 people who had sensitive Whole Body radioactive tests, including thousands of children. The team concluded, “…internal exposure levels of [Fukushima] residents are much lower than estimated. In particular, the first sampling-bias-free assessment of internal exposure of children in the town of Miharu, Fukushima, shows that the Cs137 body burdens of all children were below the detection limit of 300 Bq/body in the fall of 2012.” In other words, there is no risk to the children.

A few weeks earlier, a group of Tokyo University researchers found that 99% of the people in Fukushima Prefecture have no detectible radioactive Cesium in their systems. Team leader Ryugo Hayano said they ran examinations on over 22,000 residents and found 212 had bodies that contained detectible Cesium levels, mostly older people eating home-grown and wild vegetables. The 10 Becquerels per kilogram found in these few people is 1/100th of that found in comparable locations near the Chernobyl accident in 1986. None of the positive tests were with children in Fukushima. Again we find there is no risk to the children.

Even before both of the above reports were filed, another report was released out of Tokyo’s Environment Ministry. The study found that in three prefectures, each hundreds of kilometers from F. Daiichi, the incidence of child thyroid anomalies (cysts and nodules) was roughly 56%. (http://www.env.go.jp/en/headline/file_view.php?serial=499&hou_id=1922 )  A heavily-publicized study reported in 2012 by the Fukushima Health Management Survey revealed that about 40% of their children had the anomalies. The 2012 report spawned numerous postings of possible Fukushima radiation injuries in the Japanese press and antinuclear websites around the world. At the time, Professor Shinichi Suzuki of Fukushima Medical University called for caution because their thyroid screenings for children had never been before conducted in Japan.  Now, they have and we now know the children of Fukushima have the lowest of the four prefectures studied, and the difference is considerable. In this case we find Fukushima children actually have better thyroid health than non-Fukushima children.

None of the above research results were used by the Sendai high court. Instead, they followed a less controversial path and rejected the Koriyama lawsuit based on purely legal grounds. In the process, the court left the door open for the Press to downplay the court decision and keep parental fear of radiation alive. Japan Today posted “Thousands of children got cancer after the Chernobyl disaster, but the cases did not surface for several years. It is unclear whether Fukushima children are equally prone, as cancer has various causes, and radiation affects people differently. Radioactive contamination is complex, tainting not only the air but also getting in the food, soil and water.” Toshio Yanagihara, one of the plaintiff’s lawyers, said the ruling was unfair as the children were “victims with absolutely no responsibility for the nuclear accident.” Another lawyer, Toshio Yanagihara, said, “I don’t understand why an economic power like Japan won’t evacuate the children — something even the fascist government did during World War II,” he said, referring to the mass evacuation of children during the 1940s to avoid bombings. “This is child abuse.”

The three above-cited reports on the actual health of Fukushima’s children have received precious little Press coverage in Japan. If the Sendai court would have ruled based on this scientific evidence, it could have forced the Press to let the people of Japan know the truth. Instead, uncertainty and doubt with respect to the health of Fukushima’s children continues. If upheld, the suit would have forced tens of thousands of healthy, innocent children to be moved elsewhere and be subjected to far-greater health risk in the process. That could have meant movement as far as Okinawa, (which is over 1,100 miles “as the crow flies”) or the northern part of Hokkaido (a distance of between 500 and 600 miles). At least the Sendai court has prevented this unconscionable travesty, but they could have begun closing the door on radiophobic fears about Fukushima’s children’s health.