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Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Radioactive Fukushima children given cancer all-clear

According to a report by the Japanese national broadcaster, NHK, around half of 1149 children tested in Fukushima prefecture have radioactive iodine in their thyroid glands.
Satoshi Tashiro of Hiroshima University told a meeting of the Japan Pediatric Society in Tokyo that the highest level measured was 35 millisieverts. Radiation doses below 100 millisieverts are not considered dangerous, and Tashiro said that thyroid cancer will therefore probably not increase in the future.
Because of public fears over radiation, Tashiro's reassurance may not satisfy the parents of children affected. A comparison with what happened after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine might put the finding into perspective, however.
When the reactor core at Chernobyl exploded, some 1.76 × 1018 becquerels of iodine-131 escaped into the atmosphere. According to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency in Japan, 1.30 × 1017 becquerels of iodine-131 escaped following the partial meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, less than 10 per cent that released at Chernobyl (see also this report from the World Nuclear Association). Initial measurements by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization had put the Fukushima figure at half that of Chernobyl. By comparison, 6.75 × 1020 becquerels of iodine-131 were released by nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere before they were halted in 1963.
Gerry Thomas, who runs the Chernobyl Tissue Bank at Imperial College London, sees no cause for concern as a result of Tashiro's data. "I would agree with the Japanese that the levels they found do not pose a risk for future increases in thyroid cancer in that population," she says.

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