[ RadSafe ] Official Medicine: The (Il)logic of Radiation Dosimetry – disguising the true health effects of Fukushima radiation

Roger Helbig rwhelbig at gmail.com
Sat Nov 11 04:38:41 CST 2017

Yet another appeal to the Japanese public alleging that they are being
lied to about Fukushima.  Has ECRR (Busby group) prominently cited.


Official Medicine: The (Il)logic of Radiation Dosimetry – disguising
the true health effects of Fukushima radiation

by Christina MacPherson

it is not surprising that the overwhelming emphasis in scientific
studies and public reports has been placed on psychological impacts
rather than disease and deaths

Informal Labour, Local Citizens and the Tokyo Electric Fukushima
Daiichi Nuclear Crisis: Responses to Neoliberal Disaster Management,
Adam Broinowski , ANU 7 Nov 17

"....Official Medicine: The (Il)logic of Radiation Dosimetry

On what basis have these policies on radiation from Fukushima Daiichi
been made? Instead of containing contamination, the authorities have
mounted a concerted campaign to convince the public that it is safe to
live with radiation in areas that should be considered uninhabitable
and unusable according to internationally accepted standards. To do
so, they have concealed from public knowledge the material conditions
of radiation contamination so as to facilitate the return of the
evacuee population to ‘normalcy’, or life as it was before 3.11. This
position has been further supported by the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA), which stated annual doses of up to 20 mSv/y are safe
for the total population including women and children.43 The World
Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Scientific Commission on
the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) also asserted that there
were no ‘immediate’ radiation related illnesses or deaths (genpatsu
kanren shi 原発関連死) and declared the major health impact to be

While the central and prefectural governments have repeatedly
reassured the public since the beginning of the disaster that there is
no immediate health risk, in May 2011 access to official statistics
for cancer-related illnesses (including leukaemia) in Fukushima and
southern Miyagi prefectures was shut down. On 6 December 2013, the
Special Secrets Protection Law (Tokutei Himitsu Hogo Hō 特定秘密保護法) aimed
at restricting government employees and experts from giving
journalists access to information deemed sensitive to national
security was passed (effective December 2014). Passed at the same time
was the Cancer Registration Law (Gan Tōroku Hō 癌登録法), which made it
illegal to share medical data or information on radiation-related
issues including evaluation of medical data obtained through
screenings, and denied public access to certain medical records, with
violations punishable with a 2 million yen fine or 5–10 years’
imprisonment. In January 2014, the IAEA, UNSCEAR and Fukushima
Prefecture and Fukushima Medical University (FMU) signed a
confidentiality agreement to control medical data on radiation. All
medical personnel (hospitals) must submit data (mortality, morbidity,
general illnesses from radiation exposures) to a central repository
run by the FMU and IAEA.44 It is likely this data has been collected
in the large Fukushima Centre for Environmental Creation, which opened
in Minami-Sōma in late 2015 to communicate ‘accurate information on
radiation to the public and dispel anxiety’.

This official position contrasts with the results of the first round
of the Fukushima Health Management Survey (October 2011 – April 2015)
of 370,000 young people (under 18 at the time of the disaster) in
Fukushima prefecture since 3.11, as mandated in the Children and
Disaster Victims Support Act (June 2012).45 The survey report admitted
that paediatric thyroid cancers were ‘several tens of times larger’
(suitei sareru yūbyōsū ni kurabete sūjūbai no ōdā de ōi
推定される有病数に比べて数十倍のオーダーで多い) than the amount estimated.46 By 30 September
2015, as part of the second-round screening (April 2014–March 2016) to
be conducted once every two years until the age of 20 and once every
five years after 20, there were 15 additional confirmed thyroid
cancers coming to a total of 152 malignant or suspected paediatric
thyroid cancer cases with 115 surgically confirmed and 37 awaiting
surgical confirmation. Almost all have been papillary thyroid cancer
with only three as poorly differentiated thyroid cancer (these are no
less dangerous). By June 2016, this had increased to 173 confirmed
(131) or suspected (42) paediatric thyroid cancer cases.47

The National Cancer Research Center also estimated an increase of
childhood thyroid cancer by 61 times, from the 2010 national average
of 1–3 per million to 1 in 3,000 children. Other estimates of exposure
to radiation, obtained from direct thyroid measurements in Namie town
in April 2011, although discontinued under government pressure, also
returned much higher results than official estimates (i.e. 80 per cent
positive, 1 at 89 mSv, 5 over 50 mSv, 10 at 10mSv or under).48 In
April 2014, Dr Tsuda Toshihide, an epidemiologist at Okayama
University, declared this a ‘thyroid cancer epidemic’ (kōjōsen
densenbyō 甲状腺伝染病), and predicted multiple illnesses from long-term
internal radiation below 100 mSv/y and advocated for a program of
outbreak (emergency or rapid) epidemiology in and outside
Fukushima.49Similarly, a Tokyo-based physician, Dr Mita Shigeru,
circulated a public statement notifying his colleagues of his
intention to relocate his practice to Okayama due to overwhelming
evidence of unusual symptoms in his patients (roughly 2,000). Given
that soil in Tokyo post-Fukushima returned between 1,000 and 4,000
Bq/kg, as compared to an average of 500 Bq/kg (Cs 137 only) in Kiev
soil, Mita pointed to a correlation between these symptoms and the
significant radiation contamination in Tōhoku and metropolitan

While results from the Fukushima Health Survey demonstrate flaws in
the official dosimetry model and public safety campaign, the survey
itself also has clear limitations. It is limited to subjects in a
specific age bracket in one prefecture and one non-fatal illness
(thyroid cancer, which can be treated with surgery but has lifelong
side effects) from the ingestion of one radionuclide (Iodine 131) with
a relatively short half-life (eight days) that comprised only 9.1 per
cent of the total releases. Its dosimetry is based on the National
Institute of Radiological Sciences (NIRS) model,51 which is for
external exposure only, does not account for exposures in the initial
days of the disaster and uses Japanese Government data that has been
criticised for underestimating releases and exposures.52 Further, the
survey ignores the damage from the bulk of the total inventory
including longer-lived radionuclides (such as Plutonium 239, Caesium
137, Strontium 90, Americium 241, among others), some of which are
more difficult to measure on ordinary and less sensitive Geiger
counters and which have been distributed and continue to circulate
across a wide area. It also ignores other organ diseases, unusual
chronic illnesses and premature births and stillbirths, voluntary
terminations and birth deformities occurring in and beyond Fukushima

In addition to the control of relevant data, the government has used
other methods to encourage residents to stay in radiation-contaminated
areas. In May 2011, Dr Yamashita Shunichi, then co-director of
Fukushima Medical University and the Fukushima Health Management
Survey and a specialist from Nagasaki on radiation illness in
Chernobyl, declared there was a 1 in 1 million chance of children
getting any kind of cancer from radiation and there would be
negligible health damage from radiation below 100 microSv/h, and
prescribed smiling as an aid to living with radiation to a public
audience in Fukushima.53

Dr Yamashita is only one among a host of politicians, bureaucrats,
experts and advertising and media consultants who support the
post-3.11 safety mantra of anshin (secure 安心), anzen (safe 安全), fukkō
(recovery 復興). Through public meetings, media channels, education
manuals and workshops,54 local citizens in Fukushima Prefecture were
inundated with optimistic and reassuring messages, also known as ‘risk
communication discourse’, and central and prefectural
government-sponsored ‘health seminars’ encouraging a ‘practical
radiation protection culture’ in which they have been urged to take
responsibility (jiko sekinin 自己責任) for their own health (e.g. wearing
glass badges, self-monitoring, avoiding hotspots), form bonds of
solidarity (kizuna 絆) with their community and participate in the
great reconstruction (fukkatsu 復活) for the revitalisation of a
resilient nation (kyōjinka kokka 強靭化国家) as a whole. To counteract
baseless rumours (ryūgen higo 流言蜚語) and the negative impact of gossip
(fūhyō higai 風評被害) of radiation in contaminated Fukushima produce,
citizens in and beyond Fukushima Prefecture, and even non-citizens,
have been encouraged to buy and consume Fukushima produce as an
expression of moral and economic support (through slogans such as
‘Ganbare Fukushima!’ がんばれ福島!). At the same time, to reduce
‘radiophobia’ and anxiety, while focusing on the psychological impact
from stress, health risks from radiation exposures have been
trivialised and/or normalised for the general public.55

This approach is backed up by international nuclear-related agencies.
As stipulated on 28 May 1959 in the ‘WHA12-40’ agreement, the WHO is
mandated to report all data on health effects from radiation exposures
to the IAEA, which controls publication. On no other medical health
issue is the WHO required to defer publication responsibilities to
another institution. Scientific expertise at the IAEA primarily lies
in nuclear physics (radiology and dosimetry) as opposed to
epidemiology and medical expertise on radiation effects to living
tissue. The IAEA and its related UN bodies are informed by the
International Commission of Radiation Protection (ICRP)
recommendations on radiation dose assessments derived from the Atomic
Bomb Casualty Commission/Radiation Exposure Research Foundation
(ABCC/RERF) lifetime studies of hibakusha (被爆者) in Hiroshima and
Nagasaki. This dosimetry is primarily based on an average exposure of
a 20–30-year-old ‘reference man’ (originally modelled on a US Army
soldier) mainly to short-term one-off acute gamma radiation exposure.
While it recommends caution, the ICRP continues to maintain that
anything below 100 mSv/y is a ‘low dose’ and that the risk of
‘stochastic effects’ are yet to be scientifically proven beyond doubt.
Within this framework, it would seem reasonable to raise the level
from 1 to 20 mSv/y.

The ABCC/RERF studies ignored, however, biological contingencies of
sex, age, constitution, other health conditions and the variegated
effects (including complicating chemical and metabolic dynamics) from
both internal and external exposures to different radionuclides of all
types (‘low level’ internal radiation is at least 20 times greater).
After Chernobyl, the WHO and IAEA used the ICRP dose model to conclude
that there were up to 56 deaths of ‘liquidators’ (clean-up workers)
from acute radiation sickness and 4,000 additional cancers;56 and that
environmental effects such as lifestyle (i.e. parental alcoholism,
smoking) and ‘radiophobia’ (stress and depression) contributed to
excess illnesses in 80 per cent of adult cases. It also concluded that
no harm would be received by the 2 million farmers and more than
500,000 children who continued living in radioactive areas in Belarus.

Nevertheless, it is no longer possible to ignore a significant body of
research, including 20 years of scientific studies compiled in Belarus
and Ukraine that show serious depopulation, ongoing illnesses and
state decline.57 These studies have found genetic effects within a
radius of 250–300 km from Chernobyl, while children’s health in
Belarus has declined from a situation where 80 per cent of the child
population was healthy prior to the Chernobyl disaster to a situation
post-Chernobyl where only 20 per cent are healthy.58 In 1995,
Professor Nechaev from the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry
(Moscow) stated that 2.5 million people were irradiated from Chernobyl
in the Russian Federation, the Ukrainian Prime Minister Marchuk stated
that 3.1 million had been exposed to Chernobyl radiation and Professor
Okeanov from Belarus observed a spike in leukaemia and cancers among
liquidators in Gomel relative to duration of exposure.59 By 2001, of
800,000 healthy Russian and Ukrainian liquidators (with an average age
of 33 years) sent to decontaminate, isolate and stabilise the reactor,
10 per cent had died and 30 per cent were disabled. By 2009, 120,000
liquidators had died, and an epidemic of chronic illness and genetic
and perigenetic damage in nuclear workers’ descendants appeared (this
is predicted to increase over subsequent generations).60 The full
extent of the damage will not be understood until the fifth generation
of descendants. By the mid-2000s, 985,000 additional deaths between
1986 and 2004 across Europe were estimated as a direct result from
radiation exposure from Chernobyl.61

Given this background of regulatory capture and radical discrepancies
in methods and estimates prior to the Fukushima disaster, it is less
surprising that there may be a process of regulatory capture and cover
up underway in response to Fukushima Daiichi. In December 2011, a
Cabinet Office Working Group chaired by RERF chairman Nagataki
Shigenobu consisted of 18 Japanese ICRP members (including Niwa Otsura
and Yamashita Shunichi). The experts invited Mr Jacques Lochard to
provide external expertise. Lochard is an economist, ICRP member,
Director of the Center of Studies on the Evaluation of Protection in
the Nuclear Field (CEPN) (funded by Electricité de France EDF), and
co-director of the CORE-ETHOS Programme in Chernobyl (1996–1998).

The CORE (Cooperation and Rehabilitation in the Belarusian territories
contaminated by Chernobyl) Programme organised a takeover of
radioprotection health centres in Ukraine and Belarus, and delayed a
health audit beyond five years while it produced the ETHOS report
outlining a ‘sustainable system of post-radiological accident
management for France and the European Union’.62 While local
scientists (led by Yuri Bandazhevsky and Vassili Nesterenko)
recommended whole body counts (WBC) for each child (in which 50,000
children would be tested with spectrometers), food measurement,
dietary radioprotection (prophylaxis through adsorbents) and
resettlement of those exposed to radiation over 1 mSv/y,63 the ETHOS
manual concluded that in a similar radiological event in western
Europe, resettlement would be restricted to those exposed to more than
100 mSv/y. By factoring in ‘social, economic and political’ costs,
ETHOS proposed ways for populations to live with radiation, and
identified psychosomatic illnesses derived from ‘stress’ based on
unfounded fears (i.e. ‘radiophobia’) of radiation as the greatest
health risk. After a prolonged delay, in 1996 the IAEA and WHO finally
settled on 5 mSv/y as the mandatory evacuation limit in a compromise
between the Soviet (1 mSv/y) and western European (100 mSv/y)
recommendations after Chernobyl.64These agencies targeted ‘alarmist’
reports (including social protests) as encouraging ‘radiophobia’,
stressing the psychological impacts of radiological events.

In post-3.11 Japan, the Japanese Cabinet Office Working Group65
reinforced the IAEA dosimetry regime by reiterating that cancers only
emerge four to five years after exposure, that increases in cancers
within this period could not be attributable to the accident,66 and
that illnesses in people exposed to radiation below 100 mSv/y could be
concealed by other carcinogenic effects and other factors (rendering
them statistically negligible), and thus could not be proven to be
radiation related. In fact, in July 2014, Nagataki Shigenobu declared
that it would be ‘disastrous to conclude [from the survey findings] an
increase in thyroid cancer’ was due to radiation exposure.67
Consequently, privileging a government study of the thyroid glands of
1,080 children in late March 2011 (a very small sample), Nagataki
claimed that almost none had exceeded 50 mSv for internal exposure and
that 99.8 per cent of the population in Fukushima Prefecture could be
estimated to have received an external dose below 5 mSv. Nagataki
dismissed the need for further medical screenings, regular check-ups
or internal radiation tests (whole body counter, urine and blood
tests) at hospitals and clinics in Fukushima Prefecture or elsewhere.

Instead, the government appears to have adopted the ETHOS model:
‘improving’ community life in radiation-contaminated areas through
local education and support groups; encouraging proactive
self-responsibility (i.e. self-monitoring with government monitors)
for children and parents (including pregnant women); stamping out
‘stigma’ attached to ‘Fukushima’ residents, the area and its produce
while stigmatising ‘radiophobia’; and encouraging evacuees’ return
after and even prior to ‘decontamination’.68

By September 2015, an officially estimated 3,407 people (up from 3,194
the previous year) had died from ‘effects related to the great east
Japan earthquake’ (Daishinsai kanren shi 大震災関連死).69 In March 2015,
about 1,870 deaths of those who had evacuated due to the overall
disaster were deemed to have been from ill-health and suicide. By
March 2016, this had increased to 2,208 deaths, while 1,386 deaths
were estimated to have been caused by effects related specifically to
the nuclear disaster (genpatsu kanren shi).70 Further, a statistically
significant 15 per cent drop in live births in Fukushima Prefecture in
December 2011, and a 20 per cent spike in infant mortality were found
to have been caused mainly by internal radiation from the consumption
of contaminated food.71 Nor do statistics on abortions seem to have
been factored into official accounts. As the statistics are so
temporally specific, anxiety (disruption, evacuation) is unlikely to
have been the major factor as the spikes would be more prolonged. It
has also been extrapolated from the conservative UNSCEAR 2013 estimate
of a 48,000 person Sv collective dose, that another 5,000 are expected
to die from future cancers in Japan (and larger numbers to become
ill).72 Using the Tondel model, however, the European Commission on
Radiation Risk (ECRR), in contrast to the ICRP dose model, which
estimates 2,838 excess cancers within 100 km radius over 50 years
excluding internal radiation, estimated that 103,000 excess cancers
within 100 km would be diagnosed within 10 years and 200,000 in the
next 50 years.73

As with informal and formal nuclear workers, if these deaths were
officially recognised as being tied to radiation from Fukushima
Daiichi, then the family of the deceased as main income earner would
be eligible for a 5 million yen ‘consolation’ payment (half for
others). Further, it would also imply the need for stricter
radiological protection standards and a greater number of permanent
evacuations and official health treatment program that would
effectively limit the so-called ‘benefits’ associated with nuclear
power generation.74 In short, it is not surprising that the
overwhelming emphasis in scientific studies and public reports has
been placed on psychological impacts rather than disease and deaths
(particularly but not limited to nuclear workers and children) and the
argumentation over the significance of thyroid cancers. The same
pattern occurred after Chernobyl and Three Mile

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