National Geographic News
A doctor conducts a thyroid examination on five-year-old girl.

A five-year-old girl undergoes a thyroid examination at a clinic in Nihonmatsu, west of the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

  Photograph by Toru Hanai, Reuters

Marc Silver

National Geographic

Published March 13, 2014

Three years after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, reports are surfacing of a "cancer cluster." The Japanese government has reportedly tested 254,000 of the 375,000 children and adolescents in Fukushima Prefecture and found 33 cases of thyroid cancer. In Japan, the rate of this disease in 10- to 14-year-olds is typically one or two per million.

The Japanese government is investigating the matter, but it has already stated that the high prevalence is not a direct result of the radiation released during the meltdown. (See: "Pictures: A Rare Look Inside Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant.")

To learn more, we interviewed Norman Kleiman, who is on the faculty of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City.

Do the reports of 33 cases of thyroid cancer give you concern?

If you're going to screen that many children, you're going to find more cases than you normally [would], because you're looking for something. I suspect if you took the same number of children in Montana and did the same [screening], you'd probably find a similar ratio.

But there was definitely a "cancer cluster" of thyroid cases after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, right?

There were somewhere between 5,000 and 7,000 cases [among Chernobyl's children]. But children there were the most heavily exposed population of individuals, except for the people who worked in the plant. (Read "Inside Chernobyl" in National Geographic magazine.)

Photo of a nursery evacuated a day after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
This nursery in Prypiat, Ukraine, was evacuated a day after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
PHOTOGRAPH BY GERD LUDWIG, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Why were those children exposed to so much radiation?

One of the great failures of Chernobyl was that the government of the Soviet Union did not immediately take steps to protect the public, especially the vulnerable—children and pregnant mothers—from potential radioactive fallout. (See: Pictures: "'Liquidators' Endured Chernobyl 25 Years Ago.")

The large explosion at Chernobyl sent a plume of material way up in the sky containing a variety of radioactive isotopes, including iodine 131. Iodine is required for thyroid function, and if you have radioactive iodine in a food or water supply, it's going to go to your thyroid.

Iodine 131 has a short half-life—eight days—but it fell on the ground. Cows, sheep, and goats ate the grass and ingested small amounts of radioactive iodine, and dairy products made from their milk were given to young children for about a month after the accident. So children were drinking and eating radioactive-contaminated dairy products, and had an enormous concentration of radioactive iodine in their thyroids.

Were Fukushima kids also consuming contaminated food?

The lesson learned from Chernobyl was to immediately shut down food and water sources after the Fukushima accident. Any animal that could be a source of dairy products was banned from food supplies, and water systems were tested for radioactive contamination. So there really was no exposure of children to these high levels of radioactivity.

Are there other precautions for people who live near a nuclear plant?

Public health authorities in the United States have distributed iodine pills to people who live near certain nuclear power plants. In the first 24 to 48 hours [after an accident], if you take a pill and your thyroid is saturated with iodine, radioactive iodine is less likely to get to your thyroid.

Should the Japanese government even be testing children for thyroid cancer?

They wanted to reassure everyone that they're doing everything they can. Many of these [detected] cancers would have gone undiagnosed, or might not have progressed. The same thing happens with prostate cancer: Most men over a certain age are going to have cancerous cells in their prostate [if they are tested]. But that doesn't mean there's any clinical significance.

Is three years after a nuclear accident a reasonable time to test for thyroid cancer?

In Chernobyl, the earliest cases were found about four years after the accident. That's not where the peak was but where they started noticing a small increase, started saying, "Uh-oh, something's going on." Based on Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors, we would expect this kind of solid [thyroid] tumor to appear somewhere in the four- to six-year range [after an event].

In Chernobyl, did the children with thyroid cancer recover?

I think the mortality was less than one percent.

Will the Japanese kids who have been diagnosed receive treatment?

I'm not a pediatric endocrinologist, and I don't want to speculate. But I understand a lot of this will be watchful waiting.

I've read reports that parents in the Fukushima area don't let their children go outside and play because they fear the children will be exposed to radiation.

There is no more radioactive iodine. Small amounts of long-lived isotopes, such as cesium or strontium, are of some concern. They have a half-life of 30 years, and they have health effects: Cesium concentrates in fatty tissues, strontium in bones.

But levels in Fukushima are minimal, and no [one there is] living near any serious concentration. That's not to say there couldn't be a place where a little bit of radioactivity fell on the ground. But by the same token, [radiation] surrounds us all the time. We live in a radioactive environment, from natural sources and medical/diagnostic exposures. If you fly in a plane over the Poles, you get a higher than average dose. If you have granite countertops in your kitchen, you get a little bit of radiation. If you like bananas, you get a little.

Do you have any predictions of what might happen in Fukushima?

Over the long term I don't think we're going to find any health effects related directly to radiation. The primary health concerns are mental health effects—anxiety and fear of living in what people perceive as a contaminated area. That's where significant efforts need to be directed.

37 comments
Brian Hanley
Brian Hanley

The number of excess thyroid cancer deaths attributable to Chernobyl is 9, out of a total of 15 deaths in the period up to 2005. The highest risk group for thyroid cancer after Chernobyl was teenage girls followed by teenage boys. All of that exposure is due to dairy products because mammary glands have an iodine pump. Linked book has many citations.

http://www.amazon.com/Radiation-Exposure-treatment-modern-handbook-ebook/dp/B00D7KLQYY


Low death rate is because thyroid cancer is one of the easiest to treat using radio-iodine. 


Post-Chernobyl epidemiology has found no increase in any other type of cancer.

Kanna Jones
Kanna Jones

 I found this article because some twitter sent me this link with a message saying "Educate yourself!" when I tweeted about my upcoming film screening event. I am screening the documentary film called A2-B-C, which focused on this health issue of the children in Fukushima on November 2 in Los Angeles. It will be the first public screening in LA, and I wish many people to see this film. A2-B-C will show us how Fukushima people live their everyday-life surrounded by radioactive chemicals and how little the governments are supporting them. I am sure that the sources of this NGS article are from Japanese governments and scientists hired by TEPCE. I know that there are many questions that have not been clearly answered. But this writer is missing the most important point. More than 3 years later, those people who evacuated from their hometown are still living in the temporary housing. Those who are allowed to go home or the children who are allowed to go back to schools are living on the highly contaminated soil. The water and rain that washed the contamination on the surfaces went into the rivers and the ocean. Radiation is still leaking and draining into the sea and no one knows how to stop it and what to do with removed contaminated soil. The most important point here is that people there are living in FEAR everyday. That is the fact. What is the point of writing this article? 

Please watch A2-B-C. This film is not proving the cause of thyroid cysts. This film is showing how our lives can turn upside down if nuclear power-plants fail. 

http://dance4oceans.wordpress.com/sea-pulse-films/ 

Baruch Zeichner
Baruch Zeichner

What a well written piece of propaganda, complete with calming language and quotes from scientists and politicians. It is clear that the NGS has been co-opted and is no longer s source of credible information.

Scott Medwid
Scott Medwid

A good balanced report with good references and links.  I've been a member of NGS for 33 years, keep up the factual reporting.  I know US Navy people that were "boots on the ground" helping in the Tsunami aftermath and I've been following the IAEA reports (updated weekly)  Most people don't realize that each atom of a radioactive isotope is detectable with modern sensing equipment.  Fission products have half lives, some long and some short it's the quantity that matters.  Pick several locations on the planet and test for thyroid issues with the same intensity as the Japanese have done and one will find elevated levels.  This is a function of the testing intensity absent symptoms.


Those that want to protect their biases will tend to stone the messenger.  Looking through the comments, NGS got a stoning.  Please continue to present the data in an understandable format for those wishing to learn about their world.  

Jason De Herrera
Jason De Herrera

This is a fuggin joke. I live in Japan and have two sons. It was even on the news that some schools food was contaminated, they even went sd far as changing sand in sandboxes for safety precautions.

The author of this article should be ashamed to print their name.

My family lives a bit away from the Daiichi power plant, but I am quite sure my kids with grow up with some issues. But since PM Abe passed a secrecy act, no news about radiation will be published.

Sick and despicable article.

Joseph DeMare
Joseph DeMare

The nuclear industry has been edging towards the Big Lie for 50 years now. Looks like we've finally arrived. To assert that radiation doesn't harm people is to fly in the face of reality. It is a flat out lie. People have already died from Fukushima radiation, such as the TEPCO manager who was in charge of the response who died from leukemia. There are many studies that show cancer rates doubling for thyroid cancers and leukemia for people living within five miles of nuclear power plants that are operating normally and only putting out the "usual" amount of radiation into the environment. When evaluating flat out lies like this one, even when they come from an "authority" such as National Geographic, just ask yourself, "How can putting ionizing radiation, which damages cells and DNA, into the environment NOT cause any harm?" The obvious answer is that it MUST cause harm. The people claiming otherwise usually have a lot to gain personally, professionally, politically, and monetarily. Even the ancient Greeks knew that the arguments from someone who stands to make a profit from winning the argument can't be trusted. 


Kim Vasta
Kim Vasta

National Geographic this was the most misinformed and disappointing article I have ever read from you, shame on you. Radiation does not cause cancer and the most problems Japan will have are mental disorders from the disaster??? Are you out of your mind!! Get your information straight or don't write some BS article like this one!

Steph Boton
Steph Boton

Over the long term I don't think we're going to find any health effects related directly to radiation."  Oh My....shame on you National Geographic.  There will be life long consequences of this accident.  We now have two places on the Earth that have been turned into "nuclear exclusion zones".  Not only will the cancers start blooming in Japan but there is already an indication that the levels of thyroid destruction in young children is showing up in California.  Have some respect for the planet Earth.  Nuclear power is not safe or clean....now for a little balance, write an article from the other prospective.  Read the "FOIA" information coming from the NRC after the accident. It's obvious that they knew this was not a good situation.  National Geographic was a beacon of shining light for environmental concerns when I was a child.  Of course you will find NO health effects related directly to radiation.  The nuclear power industry knows you can never prove it in a court of law so they win every time.  It's all good until it's your child or your husband with cancer. It's not fear or anxiety of radiation that is the most dangerous aspect of this.It's the radiation.  Have you lost your minds?

Steph Boton
Steph Boton

Over the long term I don't think we're going to find any health effects related directly to radiation."  Oh My....shame on you National Geographic.  There will be life long consequences of this accident.  We now have two places on the Earth that have been turned into "nuclear exclusion zones".  Not only will the cancers start blooming in Japan but there is already an indication that the levels of thyroid destruction in young children is showing up in California.  Have some respect for the planet Earth.  Nuclear power is not safe or clean....now for a little balance, write an article from the other prospective.  Read the "FOIA" information coming from the NRC after the accident. It's obvious that they knew this was not a good situation.  National Geographic was a beacon of shining light for environmental concerns when I was a child.  Of course you will find NO health effects related directly to radiation.  The nuclear power industry knows you can never prove it in a court of law so they win every time.  It's all good until it's your child or your husband with cancer. It's not fear or anxiety of radiation that is the most dangerous aspect of this.It's the radiation.  Have you lost your minds?

Todd Bliss
Todd Bliss

This article made me so MAD I had to create an account to post this... Nat Geo should be embarrassed by this reporting. I am so happy to see so many negative comments on this story! This is the greatest environmental disaster in human history, period!!!! They are nowhere near getting the Fukushima reactors under control and they continue to pore radiation into the Pacific ocean.


This article is disgusting!

Darrell Blobaum
Darrell Blobaum

Shame, Nat Geo! You should contact dissenters, and they are many. CHERNOBYL: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment by Alexey V. Yablokov, et al, panned by many scientists, but should not be ignored. Asserts Fukushima & Chernobyl are joined at the hip: low dose radiation from Chernobyl & Fuku will continue to harm children, adults & the environment for years? centuries? Alleged conspiracy by International Atomic Energy Agency and World Health Organization to withhold or mistate info.

After Chernobyl, 800,000 fewer children were born in Europe, and 985,000 people died. 

WHO had a study on brain damage in the Chernobyl area, but stopped it after the first results. Nuke industry, governments, with cooperating scientists, etc, lying, misinforming, etc, to keep their Nuclear Dream alive? ALARMIST? Give us some facts!!!

Antonio Borelli
Antonio Borelli

Wow, where do you get your information? from the NRC? Tepco? Japanese Gov't?

Near Fukushima there were counts of 4,000 CPM on the grounds and decks of preschools where cesium had bound firmly to surfaces, requiring sanding or sandblasting to remove from the surfaces.

These were preschools where the children were due to arrive for school the very next day.

As for Chernobyl, I've met a young woman recently who was a child in Belarus during Chernobyl; in the years to follow she spent a lot of time in hospitals for immune system malfunctions, and she remembers that the wards were full "of children without hair", aka leukemia  patients. Of course you should know that the soviets seeded the clouds over Belarus to rinse the radioactivity from the air before the plume hit mother Russia, so Belarus was heavily contaminated. Following this, the data collection of health effects was tailored to exclude evidence of radiation sickness and related ailments to make radiation seem benign.

The nuclear industry is terribly corrupt and has the PR machine to lie and mislead the public about results of nuclear contamination.

It's unfortunate that National Geographic has failed to investigate on the ground in communities in Japan.

Cancer cluster? nah, that would happen anywhere. It can't possibly be related.....dream on.

David Blomstrom
David Blomstrom

"Over the long term I don't think we're going to find any health effects related directly to radiation."


LOL - I knew National Geographic had become a subsidiary of Fox News when it interviewed George W. Bush for a piece designed to discredit conspiracy theorists. I mean, would George Bush allow himself to be interviewed by anyone who was fishing for the truth?


This magazine needs a name change: National GeoSham, or Irrational Geographic.

Shara Mills
Shara Mills

Doesn't it make you sick somewhere in your soul to lie over the lives of a dying group of victims of this radiation industry. Tell Robert Murddock to go swimming off shore of the TEPCO Meltdowns that are still in the process of melting down. I'd say you should rot in hell but that isn't how it works. Hell is having to put up with your greed and misinformation. It kills people.

GANESAN VAIDYANATHAN
GANESAN VAIDYANATHAN

Nice to read the interview. Even in Chernobyl, the cases of Thyroid cancer were more in Beloyarsk than Ukarine, where the reactor existed. The data bank on the Hiroshima, nagasaki survivors for more than half century has not shown any direct correlation between radiation and cancers. Remember today how much of Carbon dioxide we are putting into environment and what you are seeing is already happening to climatic conditions. Iran is going for Nuclear Plant to save oil. Let us not decry, what we do not understand. Nuclear Scientists also wish for their own survival.

Susanne D.
Susanne D.

The author and interviewee have perhaps never heard of genetics. Long-term effects include generation damage. Recessive mutants in a human population show up about nine generations from now.  I continue to be surprised that even today with a vast increase in the understanding of molecular technology, articles dealing with radiation effects never bother to interview geneticists (in particular health physicists). Scientists know the sorts of genetic damage that comes with ionizing radiation. Mutation loads affect families and populations, and today we have the molecular technology to do baseline DNA studies of affected and less affected populations if we had the will.

Jamie C Clemons
Jamie C Clemons

Nice propaganda piece for the Japanese Gov. They are just now March 2014 detecting Cesium 134 in British Columbia from Fukushima. It has been 3 years since the disaster and this means that there are still emissions and trans-Pacific air pollution.This also means we will not only see a spike of Thyroid cancer and cancer death not only in Japan but worldwide. Plus as you said its only been three years and we expect the spike to show up 4-6 years after the accident so we are not even beginning to scratch the surface of this tragedy and your already trying to sweep things under the rug.

Lothar M Schmitt
Lothar M Schmitt

[2] Radiation levels in downtown Koriyama City, Fukushima, Japan, were around 0.7-1.0 muSv/h in 2o11/2o12. This corresponds to about ~6-8 mSv/y dose. Note that the maximum level (averaged over 5 years) for .adult. workers in the nuclear industry is 20mSv/y=100mSv/5y. Now, realize that children with developing (cell-) growing bodies where dividing and multiplying cells spread and maintain acquired molecular damage (which is proportional to received radiation doses) are subject to 30%-40% maximal .adult. doses. Not good in my opinion. The WHO allows 1mSv/y radiation dose for the general population from nuclear industry contributions for .adults. and children.

Lothar M Schmitt
Lothar M Schmitt

[1] It is stated above: "levels in Fukushima are minimal". This is wrong. There were locations found in Aizu Wakamatsu, Fukushima, Japan, with very high radiation. It made national news. You can never exclude that kids playing in a playground are severely exposed to radiation due to collected cesium or strontium in sludge in a nearby trench.

REF: http://ex-skf.blogspot.jp/2011/08/186000-becquerelskg-radioactive-cesium.html

Excerpt/Quote from this source (read worthy.!). Included here, since web-posts disappear.

"The Fukushima District Court Aizu Wakamatsu Branch (Aizu Wakamatsu City....) announced on August 16," 2o11,"that 186,000 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium was found in the sludge in the drain in the court compound. The Aizu Wakamatsu Branch of the Fukushima District Court is located 100 km west of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. .... According to the District Court Aizu Wakamatsu Branch, the sludge containing radioactive cesium was found in the "rainwater box" into which the water in the drain flows. .... The District Court Aizu Wakamatsu Branch has set the 1-square meter areas around this "rainwater box" and another box as off-limit. The air radiation around the other box tested high."

Brian Hanley
Brian Hanley

@Jason De Herrera No. The article, if anything, overplays real concerns. There are many places in the world where radioactivity is naturally higher than in the Fukushima evacuation region. A number of them are hot springs spas. Ramsar in Iran, and the spring at Lourdes. That spring's healing waters are full of radon. But such spas do not encourage radiation monitoring for obvious reasons. The total for a year outdoors in Fukushima if you stayed there is below the limit for medical radiation from CT scans in a year. The total for the first month, if you maximized your exposure at Fukushima outdoors, is the same as a CT scan.

The evacuation of Fukushima has caused the deaths of over 1600 people. That is more than the number who died in the tsunami. Nobody has died or gotten ill from the radiation. Nobody will. There really is no reason to worry about any of it.

That the Japanese government went so far as to change sandbox sand is simply an indication of the gross over-reaction that politicians (who have zero expertise in the area) have gone to. It reflects the pressure from the public. And it reflects pressure from Russian propaganda. The Russians, you see, are making a huge windfall from Japan's nuclear shutdown.  Russia Today is the source of quite a few scare stories. Russian oil wants to keep Japan buying oil and gas. Note that this is furthering global warming.


You can read my book, Radiation - Exposure and Its Treatment. The e-book is quite reasonably priced at $10.00. Hardcover will be around $150 a copy. The book is very extensively cited and explains everything.

Brian Hanley
Brian Hanley

@Joseph DeMare None of those things you said are correct. Thee are no legitimate studies showing cancer clusters near nuclear plants. And it's makes no sense to suggest that would happen, because the most radioactive place you are likely to go is a hospital. There are beaches and vacation resorts with higher levels of radiation than Fukushima ever had. There is an area in the South of France that has 21 times the radioactivity from natural sources that you would get if you had stayed outside in Fukushima at a hot spot, trying to get the max you could. It's not associated with cancer.


In the ocean, there are over 4 billion tons of Uranium dissolved - natural uranium. That means there is enough U-235 dissolved in Tokyo Bay alone to build 24 Hiroshima sized bombs. Radon drops radionuclides over the world and polonium-210 and lead-210 collect on the leaves of plants. If you smoke 1.5 packs a day, you get almost 3 times the NRC limit of radiation because of the rain of radionuclides from radon.


The reason that ionizing radiation can have no visible effect is DNA repair and apoptosis. Your body is repairing billions of DNA lesions every second under normal conditions. Oxygen does it. Ultraviolet radiation does it. Virtually all of the damage is perfectly repaired. (With the exception of people with DNA repair defects.) 


Apoptosis is the deliberate suicide of cells. Your body does this constantly for many reasons. It is how most cancer cells are eliminated. It is apoptosis of cells that causes radiation sickness in those very rare cases of people exposed to high levels of radiation. The cells aren't able to repair enough of the DNA damage before they divide, so they kill themselves. 

That's why your body can tolerate ionizing radiation with no detectable effect. 

Carol Matsubara
Carol Matsubara

@Joseph DeMare But, you can't hide radiation...there are networks of volunteers measuring radiation in Tokyo and other areas of the north. Many people say the government is lying, but how do you hide radiation? You can't

Brian Hanley
Brian Hanley

@Darrell Blobaum That Yablakov book got published as a translation from Russian by the New York Academy of Sciences, without review. 

Yablakov's book is badly sourced, and as one reviewer put it, "he is not embarrassed with brutal contradiction of the selected works and his own conclusions to the century-long experience in radiobiology and radiation medicine."

The New York Academy of Sciences has removed Yablakov's book from its offerings, and disavowed it. There was no nuclear industry participation in that. But there was an investigation, and indications suggest lower level staff pulled a fast one. 

None of that claptrap in Yablakov's book is even close to true.

I suggest that you read my book. Radiation - Exposure and Its Treatment. The e-book is not expensive. 

Brian Hanley
Brian Hanley

@Shara Mills Swimming offshore of Fukushima is, and has been, perfectly safe.If you stayed in the water all day long, you would get a dose equal to 0.3% of the normal daily dose of radiation. This is tiny. It just doesn’t matter. If you moved to Boulder, Colorado you would get a higher dose per year than if you lived in the ocean right off Fukushima. 

Ken O. Buesseler, Steven R. Jayne, Nicholas S. Fisher, Irina I. Rypina, Hannes Baumann, Zofia Baumann, et al. Fukushima-derived radionuclides in the ocean and biota off Japan. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2012;109(16):5984-5988 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22474387.

 
Global warming is a real problem. Fukushima and nuclear radiation leaks are not.

Lothar M Schmitt
Lothar M Schmitt

@GANESAN VAIDYANATHAN  You wrote: "Even in Chernobyl, the cases of Thyroid cancer were more in Beloyarsk than Ukarine". Thyroid cancer as a consequence of Iodine is mainly a local effect (where the iodine was transported too and settled in a short time after the accident, mainly Belarus in case of the Chernobyl accident, see http://www.unscear.org/unscear/en/chernobylmaps.html); otherwise, the iodine is diluted in the air/water and disappears quickly (~20 weeks).  Other countries in Europe (except the USSR) were also more careful and restrictive in regard to food than the USSR's handling of the crisis.

Lothar M Schmitt
Lothar M Schmitt

@GANESAN VAIDYANATHAN   You wrote: "Nuclear Scientists also wish for their own survival." It is known that there was a concern that the first nuclear bomb exploded in the Nevada desert at the Trinity site could ignite the atmosphere. They did it anyway.

Lothar M Schmitt
Lothar M Schmitt

@Adam Smith  Masao Yoshida, a hero, died from  esophageal cancer in July 2o13. For example, alcohol use and smoking are seen as contributing factors for the occurrence of these cancers. The cancer was diagnosed in 2o12, a relatively short time after the Fukushima catastrophe. Therefore, other causes rather than the Fukushima radiation are likely.

Antonio Borelli
Antonio Borelli

@Susanne D.  

Thank you Susanne. Unfortunately, many health physics professionals are in-tight with the nuclear industry.

Brian Hanley
Brian Hanley

@Susanne D.Michael is correct. See

James V. Neel. Genetic studies at the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission – Radiation Effects Research Foundation: 1946–1997. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 1998;95:5432-5436 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9576899.

The idea that humans would suffer germline mutations is traced to a 1955 paper by JBS Haldane who estimated 0.05 Gy would double the rate of mutations. He did the best he could with very little data to come up with a something safe. 

What we know now is that the dose required to double the normal mutation rate is a mortal dose: at least 2 Gy and probably 4 Gy or more. The researchers worked very hard to try to find an effect. But even in survivors who got 5 Gy or more at Chernobyl (first-responders) no effects have been found in their children. Likewise, the children of the "Atomic Soldiers" who were stationed 1/4 mile from an Alamogordo bomb test and marched to ground zero with no protective equipment are fine. All those soldiers got severe radiation sickness and absorbed a significant body-burden of radionuclides. 


So don't worry about your children. 


Further, an odd feature of the epidemiology of Chernobyl showed up in children. Children born in the first 6 months after Chernobyl whose mothers were exposed to high doses of I-131 showed nothing. What was expected was mental retardation and thyroid cancer. Neither appeared. Probably this is because of the recovery capacity of a fetus. You can do major surgery on a fetus and it will heal perfectly, without any scar.

Michael L.
Michael L.

@Susanne D.  

The authors do likely know about genetics.  No studies (i.e. zero) of humans, even including those of the atomic bomb survivors, have ever found evidence of radiation-related genetic effects in humans.   Many of these studies have been done by health physicists, experts on the impacts of radiation exposures on humans.

Lothar M Schmitt
Lothar M Schmitt

@Jamie C Clemons  Your statement is mixing too many issues. 

[A] Thyroid cancer as a consequence of Iodine is mainly a local effect (where the iodine was transported too and settled in a short time after the accident, Ukraine/Russia && mainly Belarus in case of the Chernobyl accident, see http://www.unscear.org/unscear/en/chernobylmaps.html); otherwise, the iodine is diluted in the air/water and disappears quickly (~20 weeks). While I share the concern that recent spikes in diagnosed thyroid cancers in Fukushima Prefecture .are. related to the 11/3/11 catastrophe, I do think that practically no iodine-radiation of any concern reached the Americas.

[B] Cesium does not predominately cause thyroid cancers. It will/has arrive/d in the Americas in a very diluted concentration. This is not to much worry. What is to worry about is the build-up of radionuclides in the food chain not only near Fukushima. This has to be investigated and monitored continuously.

[C] That cesium took 3 years to travel from Fukushima to the Americas via ocean currents is no proof that there is continued release of radiation in Fukushima. Unfortunately however, there is continued release of contaminated ground water into the ocean and of radioactive steam/smoke into the air. However, at a lower rate than in the early days of the Fukushima catastrophe, in particular, during the venting-events and to a slightly lesser degree during the hydrogen explosions.

Brian Hanley
Brian Hanley

@Jamie C Clemons Are you aware that there is enough natural U-235 in San Francisco bay to make 5 atom bombs the size of the Nagasaki bomb? It's dissolved in seawater. 


The ocean has 13.3 tons of uranium per cubic mile. Do the math on that for the fraction that is U-235. It's quite a bit.

Antonio Borelli
Antonio Borelli

@Lothar M Schmitt  

We must also remember that uSieverts, I believe, by definition, are measured at 1m from the ground; guess who gets exposure closer to the ground.....children.

Antonio Borelli
Antonio Borelli

@Lothar M Schmitt  

In Fukushima Pref., The cesium 137 levels are generally slowly decreasing on the ground, but increasing in streams, ponds and other bodies of water. Children are out catching crayfish in ponds, taken out by their teachers into nature, and they are being endangered by this as the cesium bio-accumulates in food sources. The Japanese Gov't is being negligent in not educating teachers, local government and citizens about the dangers still present on the ground in their communities.

David Blomstrom
David Blomstrom

@Brian Hanley @Jamie C Clemons  "There is enough natural U-235 in San Francisco bay to make 5 atom bombs the size of the Nagasaki bomb? It's dissolved in seawater."


Using your logic, we should declare the world ocean off limits to fishing, swimming and everything else. Fortunately, intelligent people realize there is a difference between nuclear energy and seawater (including any natural U-235 it may contain).

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