On 27 May, more than two months after the explosion at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant following the Great Japan Earthquake, Fukushima Prefecture finally held a meeting on implementation of a program to monitor and manage the health of prefectural residents, and in late June actually launched the program. On 23 June, the Japanese government announced that it would shoulder the costs of the program.
The damage at the nuclear plant has still not been contained, and radiation continues to leak into the environment. Even once the damage has been contained, it will take a long time for radiation levels to drop in areas contaminated with radioactive materials with a long half-life, such as Cesium 137, which has a half-life of about 30 years. We will need to take measures to minimize our exposure to radiation for a long time to come.
The fact that the Fukushima prefectural government has started taking steps to check residents' internal exposure to radiation through whole body counting and urine tests and started distributing dosimeters to check external exposure are welcome developments. However, the summary description of theprogram to monitor and manage the health of prefectural residentspublished on the website of the Fukushima prefectural government gives us cause for concern.
In order to investigate the health effects of radiation, it is essential to determine as precisely as possible how much radiation residents in Fukushima Prefecture have been exposed to since the accident at the nuclear plant. However, the Fukushima prefectural government did not make an effort to determine the dosage levels of residents, because it kept claiming that people outside the emergency evacuation preparation zone and mandatory evacuation zone were in no danger. Now, three months after the accident, itis calling on residents to recall and record their behavior since March 11, without any explanation or apology for its failure to act properly from the outset. This leads us to believe that it has not changed its position that exposure to low levels of radiation has no negative health effects whatsoever. Taking these facts into account, we believe that theprogram to monitor and manage the health of prefectural residents has the following problems.
The appropriateness of the program aim of "relieving anxiety about the effects of radiation"
The Fukushima prefectural government lists "relieving residents' anxiety about the effects of radiation" as an aim of the program. It may of course be the case that some people will feel less anxious if they find that they are barely irradiated. On the other hand, establishing that levels of exposure to radiation are low will not necessarily relieve people's anxiety. The program appears to be based on the assumption that"the irradiation level of residents of Fukushima Prefecture is sufficiently low and will have no health effects," but thereis no consensusamong expertson the causal relation between low-dose radiation exposure andhealth effects. It is anissue that is still uncertain, involving biological mechanisms that are not yet fully understood. It is therefore inappropriate for a program designed to monitor residents' health to downplay the effects of irradiation from the outset. If the Fukushima prefectural government still claims that anxiety about the effects of radiation can be resolved by understanding the level of radiation exposure, it should at least provide grounds to back up such a claim.
The organization of the program committee
The chairperson of the program committee is Mr. Shun'ichi Yamashita, who also serves as the health risk management adviser to Fukushima Prefecture. However, there is a conflict of interest if the person who is in charge of administering the prefecture's policy on radiation issues (risk management adviser) is also responsible for evaluating the health of Fukushima residents, which has been affected by the same risk management policy that person has established. To maintain the neutrality of the program, the person who serves as the health risk management adviser should not be allowed to become a member of the program committee. If, nevertheless, the prefectural government implements the program with the risk management adviser as chairperson, it should, at a very minimum, appoint another specialist whose opinion is different from that of the current risk management adviser, i.e. a person who takes the possible health effects of low-dose radiation exposure seriously. It should not begin implementing the program before transparency in the process for selecting members of the program committee, in what is discussed by the program committee, and of the program itself is completely guaranteed, and before a system for checking the validity of all the above by an independent body is established.
The meaning of "long-term health management"
The Fukushima prefectural government lists "long-term health management" as another of the aims of the program. According to an article in the Asahi Shimbun dated 23 May, the objective is to "detect signs of health effects such as an increase in cancers at an early stage so as to make appropriate treatment possible." However, even if symptoms of cancer or other disease are detected in a resident of Fukushima Prefecture, it will be almost impossible to prove that the cancer or disease suffered by that particular individual was caused by radiation. Given this possibility, Fukushima residents are concerned about the possibility that the program will simply conclude that radiation has caused no health effects. We fervently hope that the program will not end up lending credence to the claim that no health effects are caused by radiation exposure.
Health, according to the World Health Organization, is defined as "a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being." Accordingly, the Fukushima government program should cover the physical, mental and social effects caused by radiation exposure. If there is any suspicion that radiation has negative impacts on health in this broader sense, the Japanese government and the Fukushima prefectural government should stand by the side of those who are exposed to radiation so that they are not forced to keep silent or suffer from unnecessary and cumbersome legal processes.
The first priority must be "to reduce excess radiation exposure as much as possible"
An epidemiological survey on low-level radiation exposure and its health effects will provide useful knowledge and insights, and be of interest to many researchers. However, it is clear that, for those who are exposed to radiation, what is of utmost importance is not getting sick. Given that there is no consensus among experts on the issue of the health effects of low-level radiation, the rational approach to be taken on the basis of the precautionary principle is to reduce excess radiation exposure as much as possible. Therefore, the Fukushima government program should, as a top priority, make every effort to minimize residents' ongoing exposure to radiation. However, we can observe no such intention from the description of the aim of the program expressed by the Fukushima prefectural administration. For instance, measuring internal exposure using whole body counting and the examination of bodily wastes is important, but does not promote internal decontamination.
In order to carry out proper health management on the basis of the precautionary principle, it is essential that all the data obtained from the program is made available to affected individuals, and that, in the case ofindividuals whose levels of radiation exposure are higher than normal,medical practitioners have the resources they need to determine what internal decontamination measures are needed, to calculate exposure pathways and to review lifestyle habits and environmentthrough diagnostic interviews and records of the individual's behavior/life patterns, to determine accumulated levels of exposure through ongoing medical examinations, and to take other appropriate measures. The Fukushima prefectural government should make these the central aims of the health monitoring and management program.
3 July, 2011
Takeshi Arakida (Associate Professor, Faculty of Administration and Social Sciences, Fukushima University)
Hazuki Ishida (Associate Professor, Faculty of Symbiotic Systems Science, Fukushima University)
Imoto Ryo (Associate Professor, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Fukushima University)
Akiko Endo (Associate Professor, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Fukushima University)
Masao Onohara (Professor, Faculty of Human Development and Culture, Fukushima University)
Kim Byonghak (Associate Professor, Faculty of Administration and Social Sciences, Fukushima University)
Kumazawa Toru (Associate Professor, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Fukushima University)
Shinobu Goto (Associate Professor, Faculty of Symbiotic Systems Science, Fukushima University)
Ryota Koyama (Associate Professor, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Fukushima University)
Megumi Sakamoto (Professor, Faculty of Administration and Social Sciences, Fukushima University)
Koji Sano (Professor, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Fukushima University)
Shioya Hiroyasu (Professor, Faculty of Administration and Social Sciences, Fukushima University)
Hisashi Shibusawa (Associate Professor, Faculty of Human Development and Culture, Fukushima University)
Jun Takahashi (Professor, Faculty of Administration and Social Sciences, Fukushima University)
Hiroshi Nakasatomi (Associate Professor, Faculty of Administration and Social Sciences, Fukushima University)
Koji Nagahata (Associate Professor, Faculty of Symbiotic Systems Science, Fukushima University)
Noritsugu Fujimoto (Associate Professor, Faculty of Symbiotic Systems Science, Fukushima University)
Yuichi Murakami (Associate Professor, Faculty of Administration and Social Sciences, Fukushima University)
Ryoji Mori (Associate Professor, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Fukushima University)
Granted permission by the authors.
|状態||作業中 作業予定あり 作業予定なし 作業完了|
|テーマ||社会 政治 法律 経済 文化 芸能 科学技術 ＩＴ 健康／医療 スポーツ メディア 植物 動物 菌類 地方 国際|
|地域||日本 東アジア アフリカ 南アジア 東南アジア 西アジア／中東 太平洋 北米 中南米 欧州|
|ジャンル||ニュース 解説記事 論文 日記 百科事典|