This falls into the category of “too little, too late” for the 34,000 Fukushima school children who will receive these devices beginning in September. After 6 months of being bathed in the radioactive fallout from the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, will it really matter…unless the situation at the facility worsens.
Amid growing concerns over exposure to radiation, the Fukushima Municipal Government said Tuesday it will give dosimeters to all children attending preschools as well as elementary and junior high schools in the city.
The city said it will hand out the gauges for three months from September to about 34,000 children as part of its efforts to ensure their health.
City officials will collect data once a month and examine the results in cooperation with medical institutions.
It will also distribute the gauges to parents with children less than 3 years old at the request of the parents.
The move comes after a similar decision by the city of Date, Fukushima Prefecture, which has radiation hot spots where exposure could exceed the 20-millisievert limit during the course of a year.
Another town adopting this kind of measure is Kawamata, part of which sits in the government’s no-go zone near the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
The plant has been crippled since it was damaged by the March 11 quake and tsunami, triggering the country’s worst nuclear accident.
The dosimeter outlay is another step taken by local governments at the urging of worried parents.
The central government basically remains noncommittal about the school radiation issue, except for changing numbers in the radiation levels for schoolchildren.
This last sentence is the key to understanding the level of concern that the government has for these children. Rather than taking preventative measures – like wholesale evacuation – the government simply raised the level it considered safe, not surprisingly, at the limits currently found in the environment. They just squeak by.
On May 27, the education ministry said it will strive to limit radiation exposure of students to 1 millisievert or less a year while they are at school.
The move came after a barrage of criticism from parents in Fukushima Prefecture, who fear radiation leaking from the nuclear plant could increase their children’s chances of developing leukemia or other types of cancer.
But the new limit is only a “best effort” target, and an earlier — and binding — radiation limit is still intact.
In April, the ministry set a limit of 3.8 microsieverts per hour for playground use at schools in the prefecture.
Together with estimated exposure from outside of school grounds, total annual exposure could grow to 20 millisieverts.
Many schools in Fukushima Prefecture have already acted on their own and banned students from using their school grounds over fears of radiation exposure.
Numerous schools are also attempting to scrape away contaminated soil.
This half-hearted effort has put these children in danger of higher levels of illness and health problems in the future.
I would encourage people to read this report from the National Academy of Science in the United States, Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation May Cause Harm. Here are some highlights:
A preponderance of scientific evidence shows that even low doses of ionizing radiation, such as gamma rays and X-rays, are likely to pose some risk of adverse health effects, says a new report from the National Academies’ National Research Council … Specifically, the committee’s thorough review of available biological and biophysical data supports a “linear, no-threshold” (LNT) risk model, which says that the smallest dose of low-level ionizing radiation has the potential to cause an increase in health risks to humans. In the past, some researchers have argued that the LNT model exaggerates adverse health effects, while others have said that it underestimates the harm. The preponderance of evidence supports the LNT model, this new report says.
For the Japanese government, the justification of allowing these students to suffer from chronic, long-term exposure to low-level radiation is that it will be too bad for those who are ultimately affected, but the cost to Japan’s reputation and economy by a mass evacuation is more damaging than a few sacrificed in the future. In other words, in the numbers game, the children of Fukushima come up short and are considered “acceptable losses“, as if they are soldiers off to fight a war for the US (coming soon to a Japan near you).
Kenji Kamiya, director of the Hiroshima University Research Institute for Radiation Biology and Medicine, said: “Although it’s safe in terms of numerical figures, it’s difficult for the public [to grasp what it actually means]. I can understand why many parents are worried. The central and local governments should repeatedly provide more details about the safety factors.”
As for this program to offer dosimeters to children, the horse is already out of the barn. It is a waste of money meant only as a public relations ploy to salve the public distrust of the government. Put simply, they have no other plan but to deceive the public into compliance. Meanwhile, a generation of Fukushima children will grow wondering when the effects of their childhood in Fukushima will be visited upon them.
Kan has planned ahead 20 years to make sure every house is made from solar panels. Will he also introduce legislation to fund the future medical and legal bills for these children and their families?