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Japanese children of A-bomb survivors worry for health, want exposure certification: survey via The Mainichi

TOKYO — A nationwide survey of the children of Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb survivors by the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations has found that 60.3% “have anxieties and worries as second-generation survivors.”

In addition to many voicing concerns over their health and the effects of radiation, nearly 50% of those responding said they wanted the Japanese government and local governments to subsidize their health care fees or issue them A-bomb survivor certificates entitling them to free health care and other benefits.

The national government does not recognize second-generation survivors as having genetically experienced effects of the atomic bombs, and they are ineligible for the care provided under the Atomic Bomb Survivors’ Assistance Act. But the survey showed many second-generation hibakusha, or A-bomb survivors, are seeking public support.

The survey is the first nationwide one by the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations. It was carried out between November 2016 and July 2017, with 17,567 survey forms distributed through community hibakusha or second-generation hibakusha organizations. A total of 3,422 forms — 19.5% — were collected, of which 3,417 provided valid responses.

Yoshihiro Yagi, an associate researcher of sociology at Showa Women’s University who worked on compiling the results, gave a report of the survey at the confederation’s all prefectural representative conference held in Tokyo on Oct. 13.

According to the report, of the 60.3% of respondents who said they “have anxieties and worries as second-generation survivors,” the largest proportion of people, 78.6%, cited worries about “the effects of radiation on their health.” Fifty-six percent said they were anxious about their “parents’ health issues and nursing care,” while 41.8% said they were concerned about “the effects of radiation on their children.”

When asked what they most wanted from the national and local governments, the most people — 48.7% — said subsidies for healthcare, while 48.3% said hibakusha certificates for second-generation hibakusha. Because hibakusha certificates are issued based on the Atomic Bomb Survivors’ Assistance Act, under the current system second-generation hibakusha are not eligible for the certificates. But in some places, such as Saitama and Yamaguchi prefectures, certificate handbooks are issued to second-generation hibakusha for use in health management.

At the end of 2020, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare presented a model for a second-generation hibakusha health record handbook to the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as to all 47 prefectures. But the survey’s free answer section showed many are seeking certificate handbook content tying directly to health issues experienced by second-generation hibakusha themselves.

Meanwhile, when asked if health problems respondents developed as they aged have “any relation to their parents’ exposure to the A-bomb,” only some said that they thought there was. This suggests there are limitations to determining if there are causal relationships between a parent’s or parents’ exposure to the A-bomb and a second-generation hibakusha’s health.

“The concerns that second-generation hibakusha were harboring on their own have now been backed up with numbers,” Yagi said. “Hopefully this will serve as a nudge toward reflecting on second-generation hibakusha’s policy requests and their activism. Jiro Hamasumi, deputy secretary-general of the A-bomb survivors’ confederation, explained the survey’s significance, saying, “It had long been on the agenda to get an idea for the state of second-generation hibakusha.”

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