Tucked in between routine reports about power capacity on the day after TEPCO’s big analysis report came out was a report on worker exposures.
5 TEPCO workers received more than 250 mSv of internal radiation in March. How much more, the maximum dose mentioned is 590 mSv. During March other TEPCO workers at the plant had significant internal contamination.
1 worker with 200 – 250 mSv internal contamination
1 worker with 150 – 200 mSv internal contamination
5 workers with 100-150 mSv internal contamination
36 workers with 50-100 mSv internal contamination
42 contractors with 50-100 mSv internal contamination
3642 workers & contractors had lower but detected levels of internal contamination
Fast forward to October and there are 809 workers in October alone who received 10 mSv or less of internal contamination with an average of .06 mSv. These numbers are considerably better but why internal contamination is still an issue is concerning.
What has become of the 5 workers with very high internal contamination is not known. To date neither the government or TEPCO has set up any sort of long term monitoring or health care for these workers.
Most charts that outline exposure doses and health outcomes do not clarify between external and internal exposures. Worker exposure laws do not clarify between internal and external doses. In our research the issue of internal contamination has struggled to build detailed data for radiation workers. Older facilities in the 1940’s to 1960’s did not keep detailed records in many cases, making it difficult to reconstruct worker’s internal doses. BEIR VII found mixed results on internal contamination as did some other studies of multiple groups. More controlled lab studies did find some more clear connections between internal exposure and health outcomes.
A UCLA study of Rocketdyne employees found an increasing rate of cancers tied to the workers internal contamination. Cancers included leukemia, lymphoma, mouth, throat, esophagus and stomach. Full study here.
An ongoing study by Lovelace Biomedical and Environmental Research Institute of inhaled plutonium and mixed uranium-plutonium in beagle dogs and rats showed considerable amounts of these materials being retained in the lungs and not moving to other organs in large quantities or at all. There was an over exposed group of animals in the research tests, these rats received over 625 rads of inhaled material and had noted outcomes over a 6 month period of time. This does not indicate any worker at Fukushima will have these outcomes, it does show that extremely high exposures can have some serious medical implications.
“Virtually all of these deaths are the result of radiation pneumonitis and pulmonary fibrosis and resultant pulmonary failure. This syndrome is typical for high initial lung burdens in rodents, Beagle dogs and monkeys.”
The study goes on to mention that later years of the study will show the assumed latency of cancers in these test animals and that the above deaths and medical outcomes were considered early onset problems of the over-exposures. The 1980-1981 study. The final study showed rats in the medium to high exposure levels developed lung cancers in notable numbers where lower numbers still created fatal cancers, just in lower numbers.
The rat studies under controlled environments showed clear connections between high internal exposures and lung contamination and cancers.
TEPCO has not provided any additional information on those workers with high internal contamination such as their work during the disaster or any incidents that led to their high internal exposures. We do know that two of those workers with the highest levels of contamination were wearing masks but were operating the central control room for units 3 and 4 during the absolute worst of the disaster. They had no protective iodine available, One of the two workers had to wear eyeglasses and they created a gap in his mask adding to his contamination. Both had to remove their masks to eat. They were initially instructed to just wear dust masks, charcoal masks if they went outside. Dust masks will not filter out radioactive iodine. There was a total of 15 charcoal masks for all unit 3 workers. The unit 1 blast also damaged the control room door where the workers were, causing the door to not properly close. EX-SKF also mentions there were workers outside without any masks on when unit 1 exploded. TEPCO released a 25 page report on these incidents but not in English and made the content locked so it could not be easily translated. Who the other 3 highly exposed workers are right now is not clear. We know nothing of the fate of these workers or the others heavily exposed in March.
This article would not be possible without the extensive efforts of the SimplyInfo research team
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