By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | FEBRUARY 28, 2013
The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Thursday that there is an increased risk of some types of cancer among Japanese who were most affected by the Fukushima nuclear accident that took place in March 2011. Since exposure after the disaster has been continuous, the effects of the radiation have been wide spread not only in Japan, but the rest of the world.
The UN agency has published a report put together by international experts on the health risks linked to the Fukushima tragedy caused by the earthquake and tsunami that hit the region in Japan on March 11, 2011.
These experts have concluded that for the general population, both in Japan and in the rest of the world, in general, the risk of higher rates of cancer should be low, but some kinds of cancer may experience higher rates as a result of the exposure, especially in the weeks after the explosion at the nuclear plant. But the damage is not concentrated to people who live in Japan or the rest of the world.
Nuclear material has leaked into the ground and to the sea, which makes much if not all of the seafood and fish captured near that side of the Japanese coast unfit for consumption.
The report is clear that “the estimated risk for some specific cancers in certain strata of the population of Fukushima has increased”, hence the need to have “long-term continuous monitoring and medical examinations of these people.”
The Director of Public Health and Environment at the WHO, Maria Neira, explained that “the breakdown of the data on the basis of age, sex and proximity to the nuclear plant shows an increased risk of cancer for people living in most polluted areas. ”
“Out of them, even in the Fukushima prefecture, it is not anticipated to have increases in the incidence of cancer,” she explained. Thus, according to WHO figures, it is forecast that the population will experience a 4 percent increase of all cancers among women and children who were exposed, and overall a 6 percent increased risk of breast cancer. These figures are debated by other studies which conclude that the risk of cancer is much higher, even in areas far away from ground zero.
This population will also have a 70 percent greater chance of getting thyroid cancer – usually the risk of this cancer is 0.75 percent -. As for the men who were exposed to the nuclear accident while in their infancy, they will have a 7 percent increased risk of developing leukemia.
As for the workers of the emergency services who worked at the plant after the tragedy, it is estimated that “about two thirds” of them are at risk for cancer as likely as the rest of the population, while the remaining third have a higher risk. The one third found to be at a higher risk are those who worked closer to the disaster area.
Moreover, the report, which consists of 200 pages, notes that it is expected to have an increase in the number of abortions, stillbirths and other mental and physical problems that can affect newborns after the accident due to radiation.
The experts have also analyzed the psychosocial impact that the disaster could have on the health and welfare of the victims. In this regard, WHO has stressed that this aspect should not be ignored in the context of the overall response.
According to Neira, “it is necessary to carry out a long-term health monitoring of people at increased risk, and that these people need to be afforded the necessary medical monitoring and support services.”
“In addition to strengthening medical support services, environmental monitoring is required, including food and water, in order to reduce the potential radiation exposure in the future,” stated the director of the Food Safety at WHO, Angelika Tritscher.
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