Friday, June 10, 2016

Fukushima Fallout

"I want everyone, all the children, to go to the hospital and get screened. They think it's too much trouble, and there are no risks and they don't go."
"My cancer was detected early, and I learned that was important."
"There aren't many people like me who will openly speak out. That's why I'm speaking out so others can feel the same. I can speak out because I'm the kind of person who believes things will be OK."
21-year-old Japanese woman with thyroid cancer, Fukushima, prefecture
A young woman, who requested anonymity because of fears about harassment, is among 173 people diagnosed with thyroid cancer in Fukushima, but she’s the first to speak to media more than five years after the nuclear disaster there. AP Photo/Yuri Kageyama
There are now a confirmed 173 young Japanese from Fukushima with diagnosed or suspected cases of thyroid cancer, the result of the 2011 nuclear meltdown that occurred after the tsunami following the earthquake that almost topped the Richter scale. The rate of thyroid cancer in the prefecture is spectacularly above what could be considered normal and what prevails elsewhere. It is the children in particular who have been hit, with additional cases coming to public awareness on a steady basis.

The government of Japan attributes their increasing revelations to the rigorous screening being undertaken. It minimizes the effect of the radiation that spilled out of the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant. In other words, the cancers are there and being detected, but only because they're being looked for. The nuclear meltdown in 2011 was simply extraneous and unfortunately incidental to the growing incidence of thyroid cancer. Amazing.

Little wonder that the young woman wants to remain anonymous even as she carries her message to the public in as open a manner as possible. She is, after all, challenging the prevailing wisdom coming down from the government itself. And since the population of the country believes in harmony, frowning on the prospect of a square peg in a round hole, she does so in self-defence, fearing harassment.

She has taken a position as a nursery school teacher. In her profession she will see many  young people. And she wants them and their families to be alerted to the possibility of thyroid cancer striking the young. She has her own fears; whether she will be able to marry, have children, and whether her children will be healthy.

The UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation  acknowledges that thyroid cancer is clearly related to radioactive iodine, and this is what spilled into the surrounding areas in the 1985 explosion and fire at Chornobyl in Ukraine. Call it a template. Official Japan is obviously under the impression that the catastrophe in Ukraine is unique to Ukraine. As a non-European country what happens in Japan is unique to Japan. The laws of physics and thermonuclear science differ from country to country.

The government has ordered that medical testing of the 380,000 people aged 18 or under in Fukushima prefecture in March 2011 at the time of the meltdown, be undertaken. That screening has been partially completed, with roughly 38 percent awaiting screening. Of those who have been screened an incredible 75 percent between the ages of 18 and 22 are yet to be screened. It is a daunting undertaking. Yet thyroid cancer ranks among the most curable of cancers.

The young woman who has become an activist encouraging others to ensure they have been properly screened so that swift action can be taken, has had one cancerous thyroid removed, and other than for painkillers she requires no medication despite that she experiences hormonal imbalance and becomes easily tired. "My ability to bounce right back is my trade-mark. I'm always able to keep going", she said.  How's that for optimism? It reflects, of course, the naive optimism of the young.



A support group for thyroid cancer patients which includes lawyers and medical doctors has been established. A lawyer who advises the group believes patients should file a class-action lawsuit demanding compensation. "The patients are divided. They need to unite, and they need to talk with each other", said Hiroyuki Kawai. The government, doubtless, has a very low opinion of this man and his aspirations for the victims of the disaster.

The committee of doctors and other scientific medical experts screening young people for thyroid cancer in Fukushima have seen the number of confirmed cases steadily rising. Still, they cling to the view that these cases are not related to radiation. "It is hard to think there is any relationship" with radiation, according to Hokuto Hoshi, a medical doctor heading the committee. Mind . . . boggling.

Seems as though they all have blinkered vision, an inability to recognize reality, preferring to think in terms of coincidence rather than cause-and-effect. They think they're ostriches and sand has obscured their vision and scrambled their scientific minds.

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