Tokyo Contaminated & Not Fit for Habitation, Doctor Says

All 23 districts of Tokyo contaminated with radiation, worse than at Chernobyl after the accident, and blood cells of children under ten are showing worrying changes; the WHO, the IAEA & the Japanese government cannot be trusted.

by Susie Greaves

In July 2014 Dr Shigeru Mita wrote a letter to his fellow doctors to explain his decision to move his practice from Tokyo to Okayama city in the West of Japan [1]. In it, he appeals to their sense of duty to answer the anxieties of parents in Japan who do not believe the information coming from the authorities. He says “I must state that the policies of the WHO, the IAEA or the Japanese government cannot be trusted.” and “if the power to save our citizens and future generations exists somewhere, it does not lie within the government or any academic association, but in the hands of individual clinical doctors ourselves.”

Mita claims that all 23 districts of Tokyo are contaminated, with the eastern area worst affected — up to 4 000 Bq/kg. (The becquerel is a unit of radioactivity. One Bq is the activity of a quantity of radioactive material in which one nucleus decays per second.) These findings confirm what the nuclear physicist Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Nuclear Education found in 2012, when he picked up five random soil samples in Tokyo from between paving stones, in parks and playgrounds. The levels of contamination were up to 7 000 Bq/kg; in the US, anything registering these levels would be considered nuclear waste [2].

While practising in Tokyo, Mita also discovered changes in the white blood cells of children under 10.

Independent science & independent reporting in Japan outlawed

In December 2013, the Japanese parliament passed a bill whereby public officials and private citizens could face ten years in prison for divulging “special state secrets”, and journalists, five years, for seeking to obtain classified information. The bill is widely interpreted as a way of preventing sensitive information about Fukushima (among other topics) reaching the Japanese public and by extension the rest of the world [3].

The independent organisation Reporters without Borders has downgraded Japan in its world press freedom index from 22nd place in 2012, to 53rd in 2013 and to 59th in 2014, following the passing of the state secrets bill. Reporters without Borders say that Japan“has been affected by a lack of transparency and almost zero respect for access to information on subjects directly or indirectly related to Fukushima” [4].

Nuclear lobby put in charge

Back in December 2012, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) whose mission is to promote the peaceful uses of the atom, signed agreements with Fukushima Prefecture, Fukushima Medical University and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. These “Practical Arrangements” have in effect, handed over the management of the post-accident situation at Fukushima and its health consequences to the nuclear lobby. Among other clauses regarding cooperation and funding, we read that “The Parties will ensure the confidentiality of information classified by the other Party as restricted or confidential” [5].

But this should come as no surprise. Anyone who doubts the heavy hand of the nuclear lobby in the “management” (i.e. minimisation) of nuclear accidents should read the account by the physicist Bella Belbéoch entitled “Western responsibility regarding the health consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe in Belarus, the Ukraine and Russia” [6]. The initial Soviet cover up of the accident is well known. Less well known are the “stages of submission” in which the IAEA forced the Soviets to accede to their demands to minimise estimates of the health effects of the accident. In a series of manipulations and bullying tactics, they forced the Soviet officials to divide their estimates of the health effects by a factor of 10. One Soviet delegate, Legassov, committed suicide, a few days after he capitulated to the IAEA demands, on the 26th April 1988, the second anniversary of the Chernobyl accident.

A travesty of reporting on risks and cancers

How has the nuclear lobby reacted to Fukushima? A preliminary assessment published in 2012 by the World Health Organisation (but actually emanating from the IAEA) managed to draw optimistic conclusions, while ignoring two critical groups, the workers at the TEPCO plant, and the people who were evacuated from the immediate area (See [7] WHO Report on Fukushima a Travesty SiS 55). Then in 2013, the UNSCEAR report [8] described the risks of people developing thyroid cancer, leukaemia and breast cancer as barely discernible, even though the rates of childhood thyroid cancer in Fukushima prefecture are already 40 times what would be expected [9]. The UNSCEAR report has been criticised by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War because it consistently underestimates the radiation dose received, underestimates internal radiation, ignores the vulnerability of the human embryo to radiation, ignores hereditary effects, ignores the unreliability of the dose received by workers at the stricken plant, and only considers some cancers as potential health effects, whereas the experience of Chernobyl shows that every vital organ and system of the body is affected [10].

Raising the ‘safe’ limit of radiation

The Japanese people are faced with a government whose response to the dangers of the radiation was to increase the acceptable limit from 1 mSv/year to 20 mSv/year and who are now encouraging people to move back into areas that had previously been evacuated. (The millisievert is a unit of radiation dose. Before the Fukushima accident, Japan, like the rest of the world, respected the limit of 1 mSv/year recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP).) Meanwhile, the nuclear lobby wants to see the resumption of nuclear power in Japan as quickly as possible. This is not an atmosphere in which doctors are encouraged to report health effects that could be the result of radiation, and certainly not in Tokyo, whose residents have been led to believe that they have nothing to fear.

Changes in white blood cells in children

Mita began work as a general practitioner in Tokyo in the 1990s. In the letter to his colleagues explaining his decision to move his practice from Tokyo to Okayama City, he claims that contamination in the eastern part of Tokyo is 1000-4000 Bq/kg and in the western part, 300-1000Bq/kg. He compares these levels with Kiev, in Ukraine, after the accident at Chernobyl, of 500 Bq/kg, and with measurements taken before the 2011 Fukushima accident at Shinjuku, the site of the Tokyo municipal government of 0.5 – 1.5 Bq/kg. He says that

Tokyo should no longer be inhabited, and that those who insist on living in Tokyo must take regular breaks in safer areas.

Mita conducts thyroid ultrasound tests for parents who are concerned about the health of their children but he is now concerned about the results of another test on children under 10, the differential white blood cell count. This test is undergone routinely by workers in the nuclear industry who are exposed to radiation. Blood is produced in bone marrow, which is one of the organs most vulnerable to radiation. The white blood cells consist of five different kinds of cells, neutrophils, lymphocytes, eosinocytes, basophils and monocytes, and it is the relative numbers of these five cell types that is examined. Mita has found a decline in neutrophils in children under 10, in areas that are not considered to be highly contaminated or even contaminated at all. His patients come from Northern Kanto, the area around Tokyo and including Tokyo itself [11].

"The pediatricians’ general textbook says that the reference value of neutrophils for healthy children (6-12 years old) is between 3000 and 5000. 3000 is considered as the threshold value.” Mita says. “But the mean value of neutrophils of the children who have visited our clinics since the accident has decreased to 2500. … It is lower than the threshold value of 3000. I think this points at a serious problem."

Mita explains that although the decrease in neutrophil does not directly cause lowered immunity, it is “the last bastion of the immunity system” and could play a role in fatal illnesses such as septicaemia in the case of aggressive colds. “In the summer of 2011, there were many children with bloodshot eyes; and what we saw most were children with dark circles under the eyes. We also had increased occurrence of sinusitis. Previously, these patients got better soon after they were given proper treatment; however, we are seeing more cases of sinusitis accompanied with mild case of asthma continuing for longer periods. And when these children spend some time in the West, they get better. If at all possible, I would like them to move away from East Japan.”

In adults, he has found increased nosebleeds, hair loss, lack of energy, subcutaneous bleeding, visible urinary haemorrhage, skin inflammation, and coughs. He has found an increase in infectious diseases such as influenza, hand, foot and mouth diseases and shingles. “We also see more patients with diseases that had been rare before; for example, polymyalgia rheumatica is a disease common among those above age 50 and contracted by 1.7 people out of every 100,000. Before 3.11, [the date of the accident at Fukushima] we had one or less patient per year. Now, we treat more than 10 patients at the same time.” Dr Mita wonders “Could these be the same symptoms of muscle rheumatism that were recorded in Chernobyl?”

Finally, Mita says that the radioactive contamination of Tokyo is increasing because of the Japanese government’s policy of transporting radioactive waste from the Fukushima zone all over Japan for incineration or burial. The Japanese government and the nuclear authorities claimed that filters on the stacks of the incineration plants would remove most of the radioactivity, but this is not the case, and in the opinion of many, it is adding to the contamination. Arnie Gundersen, for instance says, “They are creating 100 to 1000 times more radioactive material by burning debris than keeping it in concentrated form” [12].

To conclude

Mita is talking about his perceptions of the changes in health of a population living in an area that is not considered contaminated. It will be all too easy to dismiss his findings. He himself is not optimistic. He acknowledges that to prove any of his suspicions would require teams of doctors, and expensive research projects to compare groups of people, their radioactive contamination and the illnesses from which they suffer. That’s something simply beyond the reach of any single physician. In other words, “it’s impossible under the present state to collect the kind of data that would be printed in a prestigious science magazine. Still, as long as I know that something strange is clearly happening, I can’t just sit here doing nothing.”

And here is Professor Yablokov talking about the difficulties that doctors and scientists experienced in the Chernobyl territories, to prove a correlation between radiation and illness [13]: “The demand by IAEA and WHO experts to require “significant correlation” between the imprecisely calculated levels of individual radiation […] and precisely diagnosed illnesses […] is not, in our view, scientifically valid. […] We believe it is scientifically incorrect to reject data generated by many thousands of scientists, doctors and other experts who directly observed the suffering of millions affected by radioactive fallout in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia, as “mismatching scientific protocols.” It is scientifically valid to find ways to abstract the valuable information from these data.” Yablokov goes on to list the ways in which this could be done.

But it was not done in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia, and, in this way, the true health consequences of the Chernobyl accident remain hidden. The 2 million people, including 500,000 children still living in the worst contaminated areas around Chernobyl suffer a myriad of illnesses. (According to the Ministry of Health and Sciences in Belarus in 2000, 85% of the children in the contaminated areas were ill, whereas that figure was 15% before the accident in 1986 [14].)

Mita has made a brave decision. The pressure on health professionals and other citizens in Japan to remain silent about the health consequences of Fukushima, will lead to a health catastrophe there — not now, but in the decades to come.

For more on Fukushima and Chernobyl see [15] Truth about Fukushima and other articles in the series (SiS 55) and [16] Fukushima Crisis Goes Global (SiS 61).

References:

  1. World Network for Saving Children from Radiation (2014). A Tokyo doctor who has moved to western Japan urges fellow doctors to promote radiation protection: A message from Dr Mita to his colleagues in Kodaira, Tokyo. Accessed 25 August 2014, http://www.save-children-from-radiation.org/2014/07/16/a-tokyo-doctor-who-has-moved-to-western-japan-urges-fellow-doctors-to-promote-radiation-protection-a-message-from-dr-mita-to-his-colleagues-in-kodaira-city-t/ 
  2. ENENews (2012). Gunderson: Tokyo soil so hot it should be sent to nuclear waste dump – Really severe releases hit city. Accessed 25 August 2014,  http://enenews.com/gundersen-tokyo-soil-hot-be-shipped-radioactive-dump).
  3. “Japan whistleblowers face crackdown under proposed state secrets law.” Justin McMurray, Guardian, 5 December 2013. Accessed 25 August 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/05/whistleblowers-japan-crackdown-state-secrets  
  4. Reporters without Borders (2013). Press freedom index 2013: Dashed hopes after spring. Accessed 25 August 2014,  http://en.rsf.org/press-freedom-index-2013,1054.html
  5. Practical Arrangements between Fukushima Medical University and the International Atomic Energy Agency on Cooperation in the Area of Human Health. Accessed 25 August 2014, http://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/energy/fukushima_2012/pdfs/fukushima_iaea_en_06.pdf
  6. Belbéoch B. Responsabilités occidentales dans les conséquences sanitaires de la catastrophe de Tchernobyl, en Bélorussie, Ukraine et Russie. In Radioprotection et Droit nucléaire (eds. I Rens, J Jakubec, E George). Collection SEBES, 1998. English translation: Western responsibility regarding the health consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe in Belarus, the Ukraine and Russia. http://www.dissident-media.org/infonucleaire/western_responsability.html 25/8/14
  7. Greaves S.  WHO report on Fukushima a travesty. Science in Society 55 2012, 38-39.
  8. United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. Sources, Effects and Risks of Ionizing Radiation. United Nations, New York, 2014. Accessed 25 August 2014, http://www.unscear.org/docs/reports/2013/13-85418_Report_2013_Annex_A.pdf 
  9. Wasserman H. Fukushima, the continuing catastrophe.  The Ecologist, June 2014.http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2433355/fukushima_the_continuing_catastrophe.html
  10. Physicians for Social Responsibility USA et al. Critical Analysis of the UNSCEAR Report “Levels and effects of radiation exposure due to the nuclear accident after the 2011 Great East-Japan Earthquake and tsunami.” International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). Berlin, 2014. Accessed 25 August 2014, http://ippnw-students.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/UNSCEAR-Critique.pdf
  11. World Network for Saving Children from Radiation. Dr Shigeru Mita addresses the need of blood examination among children in the Kanto area. 2013. Accessed 25 August 2014, http://www.save-children-from-radiation.org/2013/11/11/title-dr-shigeru-mita-addresses-the-need-of-blood-examination-among-children-in-the-kanto-area/
  12. “Radioactive rubble reaction to haven in Japan.” Arnie Gundersen, Youtube.  Accessed 25 August 2014,   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIr-QcsjKxE)
  13. Yablokov AV, Nesterenko VB and Nesterenko AV. Consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe for public health and the environment 23 years later. Proceedings of the New York Academy of Sciences 1181, 2009, 318-326.
  14. UN Human Rights Council. Seventh session. Point 3. A/HRC/7/NGO/33 22 February 2008.
  15. Ho MW. Truth about Fukushima. Science in Society 55 2012,18-23.
  16. Ho MW. Fukushima crisis goes global. Science in Society 61 2014, 4-9.

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