German media ZDF ran a short piece on the Fukushima Health Survey Sunday. They interviewed parents in Minamisoma after a meeting with members of the Health Survey including Dr. Suzuki who has been acting as a stand in for Dr. Yamashita. There were demands for Dr. Yamashita to be fired from the survey, he has since had his title changed but is still very involved in running the survey.
We have seen this frustration from parents at other public meetings with the Health Survey. Parents do not believe the excuses they are being told and most of the excuses are easily disproved.
English transcript of the news piece:
“After the nuclear disaster in Fukushima people feared the worst, but a UN study in May gave an all-clear. A new study now proves that the damages are dramatic in children. The number of thyroid disorders has jumped. Fukushima City this morning: the health commission of the prefecture presents the newest numbers of children tests, one and a half years after the disaster. More than 42% of 57,000 tested children have nodules or cyst, reports Dr. Suzuki who leads the examinations. In Chernobyl they found only 0.1 – 1%. nobody of the experts asks for the reasons. In the afternoon, in Minamisoma, Dr. Suzuki wants to inform concerned citizens. He explains the results mainly by improved diagnosis methods, but people don’t believe him. “It is not right to tell us that everything is okay, when he himself cannot explain the results.” “I think he really believes in what he tells us, but i m not convinced.” There are no refererence studies, Dr. Suzuki tells us, and maybe the children simply took too much iodine or seafood. He doesn’t know if this has something to do with radiation. “we are mainly here to inform the parents of the results of our study.” But what do such results mean to parents without proper explanations? The official handling of the disaster is more than questionable. Many people have completely lost trust in government and believe that the disaster is played down to protect the mighty nuclear industry of Japan.”
The news piece mentions that 43% of fukushima children have thyroid nodules, normal are 0.5-1%. Dr Suzuki explains in Minamisoma, that there are no reference studies and that the measurement instruments are much better than earlier, and that Fukushima children eat much seafood.
Dr. Suzuki’s claim on iodine levels and seafood consumption are actually the opposite of how this works. Seafood consumption increases dietary iodine. The traditional Japanese diet is high in iodine. Dietary iodine is radioprotective (protects the thyroid from taking in radioactive iodine). Dietary iodine also protects they thyroid from creating goiters and other thyroid problems.
There are at least two reference studies. One from 2001 in Nagasaki and another from recent years in the US. Both provide a reference and show the rates at Fukushima are completely outside the normal ranges. The Nagasaki study disproves the notion that seafood consumption somehow makes the Fukushima results null as the group there has a similar enough diet to the north east portions of Japan. Extra dietary iodine would actually improve the ability of the body to resist absorbing iodine 131 into the thyroid but what the Fukushima high nodules rates show is exactly the opposite.
The notion that better ultrasound technology makes it easier to find nodules is also a questionable excuse. While the field of ultrasound in general has seen advancements in the breadth of applications and technical improvements that allow new types of ultrasound examinations these changes do not really impact the thyroid application. Thyroid scan images from the Health Survey given to parents show the quality of the scans. They do not have significant quality or resolution improvements over older scans. The photo below is a scan from the Health Survey.
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