A recent report published in the Fairewinds Energy Education (FEE), titled “Cancer on the Rise in Post-Fukushima Japan,” estimates there will be about a million cancer diagnoses in Japan due to the Fukushima disaster.
According to the new report, given the data collected by esteemed Japanese medical professionals and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), there will be a spike in cancer rates due to radioactive discharge from the decimated power plant. Estimates suggest there will be anywhere between 100,000 and 1,000,000 cancer diagnoses from the Fukushima disaster.
A study released in the Epidemiology journal in October found that thyroid cancer rates among children in the Fukushima Prefecture were 20 to 50 times higher than children living outside the prefecture. Unfortunately, the more recent study released suggest these figures are just the tip of the iceberg.
Post-Fukushima radiation exposure underestimated
The new report reveals that the amount of radiation exposure at Fukushima had been underestimated. The methods used to detect radiation levels were outdated. They relied upon comparing figures to the post-Hiroshima disaster, which occurred prior to the discovery of DNA. Consequently, these studies did not incorporate genotoxicity, the damage of genetic information, which was six orders of magnitude greater following the Fukushima disaster.
Genotoxicity is caused by photoelectron induction associated with low-dose radioisotope exposure, which occurs whenever tissue adsorbs low doses of radionuclides, like plutonium-239 and uranium-238.
Old world risk models merely calculate the amount of external radiation exposure following a nuclear blast, but fail to consider radiation exposure at a cellular level. The nuclear industry relies on these outdated models for evaluating present day radiation toxicity. In actuality, nuclear fallout could be tens of thousands of times worse than present radiation risk models suggest.
At the cellular level, particles of Uranium-238 bind and infect DNA embodied in a cell. Once the DNA-Uranium complex is formed, it can magnify the genotoxicity of the natural background radiation 55,000 times higher than normal. Radioactive particles can stay in affected cells for days, months, years and even a lifetime.
The half-life for plutonium-239, the amount of time it takes half of a radioactive isotope’s atoms to decay, is 24,200 years; whereas the half-life for uranium-238 is 4,460,000,000 years, which is even older than Earth. These isotopes have the potential not just to impair human health, but the environment, as well, for hundreds of thousands of years.
Worse, a nuclear meltdown doesn’t have to occur to increase the risk of cancer among nearby residents. Power plants already churn carcinogenic material into the environment whether they are functioning properly or experience a full-blown meltdown. Most citizens aren’t aware that power grids emit pollutants that are directly linked to child thyroid cancer.
Workers fail to measure radiation levels
There are other reasons radiation levels at the Fukushima Daiichi site were underestimated. Many workers at the power plant weren’t given the appropriate dosimeters to measure radiation levels following the disaster. As a result, many workers were exposed to radiation levels which far exceeded safety limits.
Furthermore, nearly 40 percent of Fukushima evacuees, including police, firefighters and troops, were exposed to the maximum radiation dose.
TEPCO finally acknowledged that the cancer one of the workers contracted was caused by toxic radiation exposure at the Fukushima site. The man will receive compensation from the government, which will cover medical expenses and lost income.
The results of the study demonstrate why an alternative, sustainable and healthy form of energy is most needed. So long as nuclear contaminants continue to cloud the air, cancer rates will continue to rise.