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Sunday, 23 February 2014

Radiation Makes People Invisible

Excellent Article from the Awesome Crew at Simply Info






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http://www.fukuleaks.org/web/?p=12431  放射能は人々を見えない存在にする ロバート・ジェイコブズ
 Radiation Makes People Invisible
 Robert Jacobs
 Radiation makes people invisible. We know that exposure to radiation can be deleterious to one’s health; can cause sickness or even death when received in high doses. But it does more. People who have been exposed to radiation, or even those who suspect that they have been exposed to radiation that never experience radiation related illnesses may find that their lives are forever changed – that they have assumed a kind of second class citizenship. They may find that their relationship to their families, to their communities, to their hometowns, to their traditional diets and even traditional knowledge systems have become broken. They often spend the remainder of their lives wishing that they could go back, that things would become normal. They slowly realize that they have become expendable and that their government and even their society is no longer invested in their wellbeing.
 As a historian of the social and cultural aspects of nuclear technologies I have spent years working in radiation-affected communities around the world. Many of these people have experienced exposure to radiation from nuclear weapon testing, from nuclear weapon production, from nuclear power plant accidents, from nuclear power production or storage, or, like the people in the community that I live, in Hiroshima, from being subjected to direct nuclear attack. For the last five years I have been working with Dr. Mick Broderick of Murdoch University in Perth, Australia on the Global Hibakusha Project. We have been working in radiation-affected communities all around the world. In our research we have found a powerful continuity to the experience of radiation exposure across a broad range of cultures, geographies, and populations. About half way between beginning this study and this present moment the nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi happened here in Japan. One of the most distressing things (among so many) since this crisis began is to hear so many people, often people in positions of political power and influence say that the future for those affected by the nuclear disaster is uncertain. I wish that it were so, but there is actually a deep historical precedence that suggests that the future for the people of Tohoku is predictable.
 In this short article I will outline some continuities to the experiences of radiation-affected people. Most of the following is also true for people who merely suspect that they have been exposed to radiation, even if they never suffer any health effects. Many have already become a part of the experiences of those affected by the Fukushima disaster. There are, of course, many differences and specificities to each community, but there is also much continuity.
Sickness and mortality– Sickness and even death are the results of exposure to radiation that people expect. It is important to know that there are many different ways that people can become ill after exposure to radiation. When people are exposed to high levels of gamma radiation they can suffer from acute radiation sickness and death can come in a matter of days, weeks or months. Tens of thousands of people died of acute radiation sickness in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after they survived the nuclear attacks. A nuclear weapon gives off a very large burst of gamma radiation that only lasts a very short time, but if the whole body is exposed to high levels it can cause illness and death relatively quickly.
 For those who were not close to the detonation of a nuclear weapon, or within a short distance of a disaster like the Chernobyl or Fukushima disasters, illness is often the result of internalized alpha emitting particles. With nuclear detonations this comes down as “fallout.” In the case of Chernobyl and Fukushima  these came down over large areas as the plumes of the explosions there settled back to Earth. Alpha emitting particles cannot penetrate the skin like gamma radiation can, but rather are internalized through inhalation or swallowing or through cuts in the skin.
 These particles don’t give off a large amount of radiation, but if they lodge in the body they continue to expose a small number of cells 24 hours a day often for the rest of a person’s life. This can result in cancers and immune disorders that develop later in life, sometimes a few years, sometimes after one or several decades. Since the plumes of the three explosions at Fukushima deposited large amounts of alpha emitters across a large area, this is the primary danger to those living in the contaminated areas. It is disingenuous when nuclear industry apologists say things like “no one died at Fukushima” since they are well aware that for most of the people who will eventually get sick this process will take time. We are currently in the latency period for these illnesses, a point not missed by nuclear industry PR people.
 Losses of homes, community and identity– Areas that experience radioactive contamination often have to be abandoned by those who live there. The levels of radiation may be high enough that continued habitation can be dangerous to health. In these cases people lose their homes; often traditional homes that may have been the primary residences for a family for multiple generations. In these cases one’s identity may be deeply connected to the home and the land around the home.
 For communities that have to be abandoned the bonds that have been built up and that sustain the wellbeing of the community are disintegrated. Friends are separated, extended families are often separated, and schools are closed. People who have lived in the same place all of their lives have to make a fresh start, sometimes in old age, sometimes as children, and lose the communal structures that have supported them: shopkeepers who know them, neighbors who can be relied on, the simple familiarity that we have by being known and knowing our way around.
 What is lost when a person is no longer able to eat an apple from a tree planted by their parent or grandparent? With the loss of community many people lose their way of making a living. This is especially true in less industrialized places where many people have been farmers or fishers or herders for generations. When someone who has only known farming is taken from the land they have tended, when someone who is a fisher can no longer fish in areas where they understand the natural rhythms and habits of the fish, it can be impossible to start over. Often such people are forced to enter service positions or become dependent on state subsidies, which further erodes their sense of self and wellbeing. Usually, those removed from their land because of contamination are placed into temporary housing. In almost all cases this housing is not temporary, but becomes permanent. Since it is initially intended to be temporary housing it is often very shoddy and cramped.
 It can become impossible for multigenerational families that have been living together for decades to remain together. This can remove care for the elderly, childcare for young families and further erodes to continuity of family identity, knowledge and support. Removal from land also is accompanied by the loss of a traditional diet. Those without access to the lands and seas that have provided food for their families for generations often begin a journey of ill health fostered by a new diet composed of processed foods. In some communities such as the small villages around the former Soviet nuclear test site in Kazakhstan the people simply continue to live in dangerously contaminated homes. The state responsible for their exposures no longer exists and no government feels the responsibility to evacuate them. They live very traditional lives and most of their food is from their own gardens and from livestock raised on their contaminated land. Many of the long-lived radionuclides simply cycle through this ecosystem and those living here can be contaminated and recontaminated over many generations.
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Further in the article the following topics are discussed:
Loss of traditional knowledge
Discrimination
Becoming medical subjects
Anxiety
Radiophobia and blaming the victim
Conclusions– 

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