Former fishing boat crew members who developed cancer or heart diseases after being exposed to fallout from U.S. nuclear tests in the Pacific will apply for mariners insurance benefits more than 60 years after their exposure.
If their illnesses are found to be related to doses of radiation, the benefits will be effectively treated as workmen’s compensation.
The planned claims involve five former crew members in their 80s and two relatives of the deceased fishing boat workers in Kochi Prefecture, according to the center for supporting victims of nuclear tests in the Pacific, a citizens’ group based in Sukumo, Kochi Prefecture.
The number may rise by several other claimants, according to the group.
If their diseases were determined as being linked to their radiation exposure, their treatment costs will be covered.
Families of the deceased workers will be eligible to collect a survivor annuity.
One of the five former crew members showed a dose of up to 414 millisieverts during a check of his teeth for radiation exposure, according to Shin Toyoda, professor of radiation doses assessment at Okayama University of Science.
The figure is tantamount to the level survivors experienced from being within 1.6 kilometers from ground zero when the atomic bomb detonated above Hiroshima in 1945, Toyoda added.
There also exist the results of blood tests of other crew members from that time, showing a decline in their white cells.
Still, experts say that even if the scope of their radiation doses was established, it will be difficult to definitively conclude that their exposure from decades ago is responsible for the diseases they have incurred or their deaths.
It may be concluded that their current health conditions resulted from their lifestyles or other factors, they say.
A total of 1,000 vessels passed near the testing sites from March to May, including 270 that are believed to have sailed from Kochi Prefecture.
Hajime Kikima, a 71-year-old doctor who operates a clinic in Hamamatsu who has assisted former fishermen with exposure from the nuclear tests, called on the insurer to grant benefits to the claimants.
“They should be certified as eligible for insurance benefits since there is the fact that they were exposed to radiation and that they suffer from diseases whose causes are suspected to be linked to radiation,” he said.
Read more at Fishermen want workers’ comp for diseases allegedly linked to 1954 U.S. H-bomb tests