Right after the meltdowns began at Fukushima Daiichi local officials in Iwaki distributed protective iodine to the residents. It was handed out with the instruction that people wait to take it until they are instructed to, by announcement from the central government. There was also the caveat that it should be taken under doctor’s supervision. Meanwhile in the chaos of the tsunami, earthquake and evacuations doctors were in short supply.
The order never came.
Radiation was increasing in Iwaki as the plants melted down and exploded. The central government suppressed the radiation data from the system known as SPEEDI. As the radiation data didn’t come out for months no call to residents to take the iodine was ever sent. There was also confusion distributed that the iodine could be taken after the fact, something that is medically inaccurate. The iodine is to be taken at the time of anticipated exposure to protect the thyroid from taking in the radioactive iodine.
Reports were released that identified the thyroid doses for children and then later removed from the Nuclear Safety Commission. One 4 year old child was determined by a thyroid scan to have a 35 mSv dose to the thyroid. The maximum whole body annual dose a nuclear worker in Japan could have before the disaster was 100 mSv. The maximum whole body annual dose allowed a nuclear worker in Japan before the disaster was 100 mSv. The maximum yearly dose allowed a nuclear worker in Germany is 20 mSv. The information on the NSC’s website was later removed under the claim that it included personal information about the children who were tested.
This is disturbingly high. No information about any of these children from the area receiving any sort of medical intervention has been stated. According to the NSC, they are following the ICRP recommendations. ICRP considers 100 mSv to be an “acceptable” dose for a citizen before anything should be done. We will have more on the ICRP soon, but suffice it to say they are not an impartial objective source for data.
The problem has come full circle. The government didn’t act on the SPEEDI data. The government told local governments to wait on iodine until the go ahead was given. Nobody took the iodine and now children in the region are showing with radiation contamination in their thyroids. It all begs the question, was this incompetence or malice? After reading the New York Times article where government officials admitted they downplayed the nuclear disaster to avoid the cost of larger evacuations it does make one wonder what is going on in the central government in Japan.
There has also been reluctance by government officials to scan all residents in the region in a timely manner. Some people have reported being unable to access a whole body scanner to have it done. A whole body scan takes about 10 minutes and costs about 66 euros to have done. Meanwhile things in Iwaki are not getting much better. Radiation readings are showing about 10 mSv in the area. People are living with uncertainty about their safety or the realistic ability to rebuild in the area due to the contamination and lack of detailed information.
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