Cancer and Fukushima: Who to trust? via The Japan Times

South Korean director Kim Ki-duk is a noted provocateur. His latest movie, “Stop,” is about a Japanese couple who were living near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant when it suffered a meltdown in March 2011.

They evacuate to Tokyo, where the wife is pestered by an underground cult that insists she abort her presumably irradiated fetus, and she becomes convinced she should. Her husband is equally convinced there is nothing wrong with the baby and ties his wife up to prevent her from doing anything. Kim’s point seems to be that whichever position you take on the nuclear accident, it will invariably drive you insane.

But these positions do divide families. In an interview that appeared Oct. 20 on Norikoe Net TV, writer Minori Kitahara remarks to filmmaker Hitomi Kamanaka that there are no men in her latest documentary, “Little Voices from Fukushima,” which centers on a group of mothers trying to gain more information about the effects of radiation on their children’s health, because the authorities give them none. Kamanaka says these women’s husbands refused to appear on camera “even though they support what their wives are doing.”

There are even more mothers involved in the movement whose spouses forbade them to participate in the filming. Because of their jobs, these men gravitate toward the establishment stance, which in this case holds that there is no solid evidence showing that the radioactivity released by the Fukushima accident has had a harmful effect on area residents, including children. Public health in Fukushima is, according to Kamanaka, a gender-identified issue. “The nuclear industry is very much a man’s world,” she says.

The male-dominated media augments the confusion by throwing out stories related to radiation in Fukushima filled with unexplained statistics: three Fukushima hospitals ran tests on 2,700 children and discovered no radioactive cesium in their bodies; the International Atomic Energy Agency says an increase in the incidence of thyroid cancer in Fukushima is “unlikely.” Then Toshihide Tsuda, a professor at Okayama University, contradicts the purport of these stories by publishing a study in the journal of the International Society of Environmental Epidemiology that found thyroid cancer incidence rates of Fukushima residents “under the age of 19″ was 20 to 50 times the national level. News items that mention the study also point out that Tsuda’s conclusions are questioned by experts who call them “premature” or indicative of a “screening surge,” meaning that since so many people were tested more cancers than normal were bound to be found and these cancers may not have been caused by radiation.


What’s missing is the qualitative dimension. Katsuya Kodama, a medical researcher whose specialty is the effects of radiation on cells, pointed out during a recent discussion on the Internet news channel DemocraTV that DNA strands are always being damaged and repair themselves as a matter of course. Radiation above a certain level, however, can cause more permanent damage, which may lead to cancerous cell growth.


He isn’t saying that radioactivity isn’t dangerous or that people living in the area shouldn’t be screened; he’s saying the matter should be explained medically and not just statistically. Strangely enough, his research, like Tsuda’s, has been rejected by the establishment. When he presented his findings to the Nuclear Regulation Authority, they told him they were afraid people would “misunderstand.” In accordance with the official line regarding the possible health crisis in Fukushima, it’s better not to talk about it at all.

Read more at Cancer and Fukushima: Who to trust?

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