US sailors face grim diagnoses after Fukushima mission — Courthouse News Service

” (CN) – To serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, you must meet certain health and fitness requirements: you must be fit to serve. But a healthy group of young service men and women – many in their 20s – have come down with serious health problems since serving on a humanitarian mission to Fukushima, Japan, following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that led to a nuclear meltdown of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TepCo) nuclear power plant.

Service members have faced cancer, brain tumors, birth defects, and other rare health problems since being exposed to radiation from the Fukushima plant. Some have even died.

Courthouse News talked to some of these service members to find out what’s happened since they came home from Fukushima and why they believe TepCo needs to take responsibility.

“It was a gray smoke that surrounded you, and you didn’t even know what it was”

Naval officer Angel Torres, 47, said he knew his mission to South Korea would be redirected to Fukushima as soon as the earthquake hit. He was aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, the first aircraft carrier deployed by the United States to Fukushima as part of humanitarian mission Operation Tomodachi to render aid and supplies to the Japanese people.

He said when the ship arrived he got “an eerie feeling.”

“It was like a cloud I’ve never seen, a gray smoke that surrounded you and you didn’t even know what it was,” Torres said.

Torres said once Navy personnel realized they’d directed the aircraft carrier straight through a radiation plume, there was confusion and a sense of panic. People bought up all the Gatorade and water at the ship store in fear there wouldn’t be water available.

He said they had to drive back through the plume a second time to render aid, and were issued gas masks to wear.

Helicopters which took supplies to people on land “were completely contaminated,” Torres said. Helicopter pilots and personnel were required to throw out their clothes, scrub down and get tested for radiation.

“We all volunteered to join and sometimes you have to do dangerous things, and this was one of them,” Torres said.

“It was our turn.”

The naval officer said commanders told the service members the amount of radiation they were exposed to was negligible, similar to flying in an airplane or eating a banana. Torres said the executive officer of the ship even told the crew they would be fine unless they licked the flight deck.

“That did well to pacify and stabilize the sentiment and general feeling throughout the ship, but I don’t know that I agree with that one bit, because I’ve eaten a lot of bananas,” Torres said.

Twenty-six-year-old Marine Corps veteran Nathan Piekutowski was in Malaysia on a rest stop when his crew on the USS Essexx got word of the tsunami and headed toward Fukushima. He was part of a team that landed to deliver food and supplies, and they wore biological chemical suits.

“Some areas were completely destroyed, it looked like a wall had smashed everything and a hand drew everything back out to sea,” Piekutowski said.

Piekutowski said crew members were also required to take iodine pills to help mitigate radiation exposure and potential thyroid impacts. They closed up all the windows and hatches on the ship as well.

Radiation impacts on sailors’ health

Piekutowski left the Marine Corps shortly after his service in Fukushima. He began exhibiting extreme weight loss and limb swelling months later, in November 2012. He experienced eyesight loss and vomited stomach acid before going to the emergency room on Christmas Day.

He was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia at the age of 21.

“The type of leukemia I had usually is something you get later in life. Early onset can be caused from being around certain types of chemicals,” Piekutowski said.

The following days and months included chemotherapy treatments, but after his leukemia came back less than six months into remission, the Marine received a stem cell transplant. He’s since faced day-long doctor appointments with specialists which require him to take time off work and travel out of town.

Piekutowski disputes TepCo’s contention the service members who’ve faced cancer and other health problems since returning from Fukushima were predisposed to those conditions. The utility claims their health problems are not from the radiation exposure.

“If that were the case, TepCo would have disseminated all the information it should have,” Piekutowski said, referring to the utility’s initial withholding of information after the nuclear meltdown.

“If we were predisposed to a genetic mutation or illness, why lie and cover things up?”

When Torres returned from Fukushima he said he felt weak and tired and didn’t feel like being intimate with his significant other, something out of the ordinary given what Torres called the “honeymoon effect” when a service member returns home from deployment.

When working out six months after coming home, Torres got a hernia which required surgery. Two years later, he had another one.

“I thought ‘oh my gosh, I’m breaking down here, what’s going on?’” Torres said.

He exhibited symptoms of multiple sclerosis and had an MRI scan, but a spinal tap last month showed Torres does not have the disease.

Torres also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, which he manages through therapy and volunteering with veterans organizations in Chicago.

He said he wishes TepCo would have done “the right thing” and told U.S. officials about the nuclear meltdown before sailors were exposed to radiation.

“When I would deploy to the Middle East, I had a team of sailors and I would look at their wives and children and say: ‘I’m going to make sure your mom and dad are okay. I wish someone would have done that for me,” Torres said.

“There are people that are dying from that carrier. They need to know what these people endured and help them get the help that they need.”

Seeking Justice

Torres and Piekutowski are part of a class action of over 420 sailors suing TepCo and General Electric in San Diego’s federal court. While eight of the sailor-plaintiffs have already died – most from cancer – since the first case was filed in 2012, many others have yet to experience any symptoms and want Tepco to foot the bill for medical monitoring and testing and future health care costs over their lifetime.

The class is represented by high-profile attorneys – former Sen. John Edwards and his daughter Cate Edwards with Edwards Kirby out of North Carolina, along with Charles Bonner of Bonner & Bonner in Sausalito, California, and Paul Garner of San Diego.

In a phone interview, Cate Edwards said there are 23 plaintiffs living with cancer, many of whom served in Fukushima in their early 20s and some as young as 18 years old. In addition to the group facing cancer diagnoses, many of the sailors have degenerative diseases, with some losing mobility and use of their arms and legs in addition to experiencing back problems and eyesight loss.

A 26-month-old toddler born to a sailor-father who served in Fukushima died from brain and spine cancer. Another female sailor opted to end a pregnancy after finding out the fetus had severe birth defects, Edwards said.

“Why are all these young, healthy, fit people getting cancer? Experiencing thyroid issues? It’s too strange to be a coincidence,” Edwards said.

“That just doesn’t happen absent some external cause. All of these people experienced the same thing and were exposed to radiation at Fukushima. A lot of this is just common sense.”

The class has been fighting to get their day in court and get a trial date set. They will inch toward that goal with a motion to dismiss hearing scheduled for Jan. 4. ”

by Bianca Bruno, Courthouse News Service

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Blind mice and bird brains: Silent Spring of Chernobyl and Fukushima — Truthout

Read Linda Pentz Gunter’s article discussing Dr. Tim Mousseau’s peer-reviewed studies of biota exposed to radiation in Fukushima and Chernobyl.

Fukushima contamination – Dr. Tim Mousseau

In this video, evolutionary biologist Dr. Timothy Mousseau discusses research on the biological effects of radiation exposure on biota in Chernobyl and Fukushima. At the end, he highlights the importance of research on the long-term effects of lose-dose radiation on the environment by universities and groups that are NOT  funded by the nuclear industry or somehow connected with them. From my personal research experience, I have found that that type of research is seldom conducted because of the strong foothold that intergovernmental agencies that promote the “safe use of nuclear energy” have in academia. Some good places to find reliable information on radiation doses and effects are the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

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Radiation impact studies – Chernobyl and Fukushima — CounterPunch

” Some nuclear advocates suggest that wildlife thrives in the highly-radioactive Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, animals like it, and not only that, a little radiation for anybody and everybody is harmless and maybe good, not bad. This may seem like a senseless argument to tackle were it not for the persistence of positive-plus commentary by nuke lovers. The public domain deserves better, more studied, more crucial answers.

Fortunately, as well as unfortunately, the world has two major real life archetypes of radiation’s impact on the ecosystem: Chernobyl and Fukushima. Chernobyl is a sealed-off 30klm restricted zone for the past 30 years because of high radiation levels. Whereas, PM Abe’s government in Japan has already started returning people to formerly restricted zones surrounding the ongoing Fukushima nuclear meltdown.

The short answer to the supposition that a “little dab of radiation is A-Okay” may be suggested in the title of a Washington Blog d/d March 12, 2014 in an interview of Dr. Timothy Mousseau, the world-renowned expert on radiation effects on living organisms. The hard answer is included further on in this article.

Dr. Mousseau is former Program Director at the National Science Foundation in Population Biology, Panelist for the National Academy of Sciences’ Panels on Analysis of Cancer Risks in Populations Near Nuclear Facilities and GAO Panel on Health and Environmental Effects from Tritium Leaks at Nuclear Power Plants, and a biology professor – and former Dean of the Graduate School, and Chair of the Graduate Program in Ecology – at the University of South Carolina.

The title of the Washington Blog interview is:

Chernobyl and Fukushima Studies Show that Radiation Reduces Animal and Plant Numbers, Fertility, Brain Size and Diversity… and Increases Deformities and Abnormalities.

Dr. Mousseau made many trips to Chernobyl and Fukushima, making 896 inventories at Chernobyl and 1,100 biotic inventories in Fukushima. His mission was to test the effects of radiation on plants and animals. The title of his interview (above) handily serves to answer the question of whether radiation is positive for animals and plants. Without itemizing reams and reams of study data, the short answer is: Absolutely not! It is not positive for animals and plants, period.

Moreover, low doses of radiation aka: “radiation hormesis” is not good for humans, as advocated by certain energy-related outlets. Data supporting their theory is extremely shaky and more to the point, flaky.

Furthermore, according to the Cambridge Philosophical Society’s journal Biological Reviews, including reported results by wide-ranging analyses of 46 peer-reviewed studies published over 40 years, low-level natural background radiation was found to have small, but highly statistically significant, negative effects on DNA and several measures of good health.

Dr. Mousseau with co-author Anders Møller of the University of Paris-Sud examined more that 5,000 papers involving background radiation in order to narrow their findings to 46 peer-reviewed studies. These studies examined plants and animals with a large preponderance of human subjects.

The scientists reported significant negative effects in a range of categories, including immunology, physiology, mutation and disease occurrence. The frequency of negative effects was beyond that of random chance.

“There is no threshold below which there are no effects of radiation,” Ibid.

“With the levels of contamination that we have seen as a result of nuclear power plants, especially in the past, and even as a result of Chernobyl and Fukushima and related accidents, there’s an attempt in the industry to downplay the doses that the populations are getting, because maybe it’s only one or two times beyond what is thought to be the natural background level…. But they’re assuming the natural background levels are fine. And the truth is, if we see effects at these low levels, then we have to be thinking differently about how we develop regulations for exposures, and especially intentional exposures to populations, like the emissions from nuclear power plants….” Ibid.

Results of Major Landmark Study on Low Dose Radiation (July 2015)

A consortium of researchers coordinated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France, examined causes of death in a study of more than 300,000 nuclear-industry workers in France, the United States and the United Kingdom, all of whom wore dosimeter badges, Researchers Pin Down Risks of Low-Dose Radiation, Nature, July 8, 2015.

The workers received on average just 1.1 millisieverts (mSv) per year above background radiation, which itself is about 2–3 mSv per year from sources such as cosmic rays and radon. The study confirmed that the risk of leukemia does rise proportionately with higher doses, but also showed that this linear relationship is present at extremely low levels of radiation.

The study effectively “scuppers the popular idea that there might be a threshold dose below which radiation is harmless,” Ibid.

Even so, the significant issue regarding radiation exposure for humans is that it is a “silent destroyer” that takes years and only manifests once damage has occurred, for example, 200 American sailors of the USS Reagan have filed a lawsuit against TEPCO, et al because of radiation-related illnesses, like leukemia, only four years after radiation exposure from Fukushima.

Japan Moving People Back to Fukushima Restricted Zones

Japan’s Abe government has started moving people back into former restricted zones surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station even though it is an on-going major nuclear meltdown that is totally out of control.

Accordingly, Greenpeace Japan conducted a radiation survey and sampling program in Iitate, a village in Fukushima Prefecture. Even after decontamination, radiation dose rates measured ten times (10xs) the maximum allowed to the general public.

According to Greenpeace Japan: “The Japanese government plans to lift restrictions in all of Area 2 [2], including Iitate, where people could receive radiation doses of up to 20mSV each year and in subsequent years. International radiation protection standards recommend public exposure should be 1mSv/year or less in non-post accident situations. The radiation limit that excluded people from living in the 30km zone around the Chernobyl nuclear plant exclusion zone was set at 5mSV/year, five years after the nuclear accident. Over 100,000 people were evacuated from within the zone and will never return.” (Greenpeace Press Release, July 21, 2015). ”

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Fukushima thyroid examination May 2015: 103 Thyroid cancer cases confirmed, 5 in the second-round screening — Fukushima Voice version 2e

All of the following information is from Fukushima Voice version 2e. Thank you Dr. Yuri Hiranuma for your dedicated work in helping to make this information available.

” The Nineteenth Prefectural Oversight Committee for Fukushima Health Management Survey convened in Fukushima City, Fukushima Prefecture, on May 18, 2015, releasing the latest results of thyroid examination, consisting of Initial Screening or the first-round screening (originally scheduled to be conducted from October 2011 to March 2014, but actually still ongoing) and Full-Scale Screening or the second-round screening (beginning April 2014). It has been 3 months since the last committee meeting on February 12, 2015, and the latest results include 3 more months worth of data confirmed as of March 31, 2015.

An official English translation of the results will be available here. ”

Below is a summary of the results for the Initial Screening and Full-Scale Screening. All numbers shown below are from the data analysis as of March 31, 2015. Please visit Fukushima Voice version 2e to read an excellent analysis and synthesis of the screenings’ data and view an unofficial translation of selective tables from the results.

Initial Screening (October 2011 – ongoing)Total number targeted: 367,685 Number of participants in primary examination: 299,543 Number with confirmed results: 299,233

  • A1   154,018 (51.5%) (no nodules or cysts found)
  • A2   142,936 (47.8%) (nodules ≦ 5.0 mm or cysts ≦ 20.0 mm)
  • B         2,278   (0.8%) (nodules ≧ 5.1 mm or cysts ≧ 20.1 mm)
  • C                1   (0.0%) (requiring immediate secondary examination)
(Note: Cysts with solid components are treated as nodules).
Number eligible for secondary examination: 2,279
Number of participants in confirmatory (secondary) examination: 2,096
Number with confirmed results : 2,034
Number of fine-needle aspiration cytology (FNAC): 529
Number suspicious or confirmed of malignancy: 112 (including one case of benign nodules)
Number with confirmed tissue diagnosis after surgery: 99
  • 1 benign nodule
  • 95 papillary thyroid cancer
  • 3 poorly differentiated cancer
Full-Scale Screening (April 2014 – March 2016)
 
Total number targeted: 220,000 in FY2014 (about 385,000 total)
Number of participants in primary examination: 148,027
Number with confirmed results: 121,997
  • A1   50,767 (41.6%) (no nodules or cysts found)
  • A2   70,187 (57.5%) (nodules ≦ 5.0 mm or cysts ≦ 20.0 mm)
  • B       1,043   (0.9%) (nodules ≧ 5.1 mm or cysts ≧ 20.1 mm)
  • C              0   (0.0%) (requiring immediate secondary examination)
(Note: Cysts with solid components are treated as nodules).
 
Number eligible for secondary examination: 1,043
Number of participants in confirmatory examination: 593
Number with confirmed results: 491
Number of FNAB: 54
Number suspicious or confirmed of malignancy: 15
Number with confirmed tissue diagnosis after surgery: 5

  • 5 papillary thyroid cancer

Fukushima may end free housing for voluntary nuclear evacuees in 2017 — The Japan Times

” FUKUSHIMA – The Fukushima Prefectural Government may stop providing free accommodations at the end of March 2017 for people who voluntarily left areas in the prefecture not subject to nuclear evacuation advisories, sources said.

Officials hope to encourage people who evacuated on their own to return home, but the proposed end to the assistance will certainty draw objections from them.

There have been calls in some Fukushima municipalities that are worried about the lack of progress in the return home of evacuees for an end to the support program.

The prefecture will decide after listening to the opinions of local officials later this month, the sources said.

Of about 115,000 people who have taken refuge in and outside the prefecture, some 36,000 are believed to be from areas that are not covered by the central government’s evacuation advisories for radiation from the nuclear crisis that started in 2011.

Many voluntary evacuees are people with children as well as former residents of such areas as the town of Hirono, the village of Kawauchi and the city of Minamisoma, all geographically close to the government-designated evacuation zones.

They sought refuge outside their hometowns mainly due to concerns over exposure to radiation from the reactor meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant.

Under the Disaster Relief Act, the prefectural government provides prefabricated temporary housing for nuclear evacuees for free and fully finances their rent for private apartments.

The aid program was originally supposed to run two years, but it was extended by a year twice, with the current version set to expire at the end of next March. For voluntary evacuees, the prefecture hopes to terminate the assistance after another one-year extension, the sources said.

It is looking at continuing the free accommodations for people who fled the designated evacuation areas, the sources said. ”

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