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2013年3月 4日 (月)

被曝健康評価 不安を和らげる対策が重要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 4, 2013)
More must be done to ease Fukushima radiation concerns
被曝健康評価 不安を和らげる対策が重要だ(3月3日付・読売社説)

The risk of adverse impacts on human health caused by radiation that leaked during the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is probably infinitesimal.

On Thursday, the World Health Organization released a report saying health hazards resulting from the nuclear crisis are low. The report also says the risk of people in radiation-affected areas getting cancer will not be higher than during their normal lifetime.

The WHO investigation findings can be said to be consistent with evaluations done previously at home and abroad. We hope they alleviate the unease felt by many victims of the disaster.

The WHO presented estimates of the radiation doses received by residents of Fukushima Prefecture and elsewhere based on measurement data for radiation and other substances, and used these figures to calculate health risks from the disaster.

Especially noteworthy is the fact that the WHO took special care "not to underestimate" the radiation doses.

For instance, it worked out the projections under the assumption that people in evacuation areas remained in highly contaminated districts and ate radiation-tainted food for up to four months after the nuclear crisis without evacuating--a situation highly unlikely to happen. The WHO evaluations are therefore based on an overestimated radiation dose.


Risk higher, but still very low

The bulk of affected residents are estimated to have received 10 millisieverts or less of radiation in the first year after the disaster, according to surveys by the government and other organizations. This is about the same as a person would receive during a single precision radiological examination of the chest. Potential readings employed by the WHO are about five times this amount.

Given this, health risks in some areas covered by the WHO investigation are higher than in normal times.

In the town of Namie in the Fukushima Prefecture evacuation zone, the probability of a 1-year-old girl developing thyroid cancer before she turns 16 is set at 0.0365 percent in the WHO report, about nine times higher than the 0.004 percent in normal times.

Using the WHO calculation, less than one girl in 100 currently aged 1 will develop the cancer after the nuclear crisis.

It is generally said one in two Japanese develops cancer in their lifetime. The biggest causes are smoking and improper eating habits, according to experts. Radiation-induced health risks reported by the WHO are so minuscule as to be hardly detectable.

The government must do more to provide sufficient information to the public to prevent the belief that health risks have increased in disaster-hit areas from taking on a life of its own. In addition, the WHO, which placed great emphasis on the anxieties of residents, stressed that due consideration should be paid to the "psychological and social effects" of the disaster. The government must respond appropriately to this.


Facilitate health checkups

In particular, long-term health monitoring of people exposed to radiation must be considered a matter of high importance.

Health checkups being carried out by the Fukushima prefectural government and others, however, have not progressed as hoped. Only 20 percent of people who authorities think should have had their radiation dosage checked have actually done so.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority plans to press the government shortly to beef up support to accelerate the pace of the health checkups. There is no time to waste in putting these arrangements in place.

To ease the concern of people in disaster-stricken areas, it is essential to review the goal of reducing annual radiation contamination levels in these places to one millisievert or less per year. The goal has widely been taken to mean that one millisievert is the threshold between danger and safety in areas affected by the nuclear crisis.

The Fukushima prefectural government considers the strict decontamination goal as an impediment to encouraging residents to return to their homes, and has asked the central government to set a new target. The government should quickly start considering this request.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 3, 2013)
(2013年3月3日01時48分  読売新聞)


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