Deaths and mutations spike around Fukushima; No safety threshold for radioactive cesium exposure — GlobalResearch

” Plants in the area around Fukushima, Japan are widely contaminated with radioactive cesium, which is producing mutation and death in local butterflies, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa and published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The butterflies were found to experience severe negative effects at all detectable radiation levels, even very low ones.

“We conclude that the risk of ingesting a polluted diet is realistic, at least for this butterfly, and likely for certain other organisms living in the polluted area,” the researchers wrote.

Insects hard hit

The researchers note that although the 2011 meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant released “a massive amount of radioactive materials … into the environment,” few studies have looked at the biological effects of this disaster. Researchers have, however, measured elevated radiation levels in the polluted area, and have chronicled the accumulation of radioactive material in both wild and domestic plant and animal life in the region.

Studies have also suggested that insects may be particularly hard-hit by the increased radiation. One study found an increase in morphological abnormalities (physical deformities) in gall-forming aphids. Another found that insect abundance has decreased in the affected region, particularly butterfly abundance.

In order to test the effects of the radioactivity on local insects, researchers collected pale grass blue butterfly (Zizeeria maha) larvae from Okinawa, which is distant from Fukushimaand “likely the least polluted locality in Japan.” They then fed the larvae on plant leaves collected from one of five different regions: Hirono, Fukushima, Iitate-flatland, Iitate-montane and Ube. Because the five regions are all at different distances from Fukushima, the researchers expected that plants collected there would have differing levels ofradioactive cesium, which tests confirmed. The plants from Ube contained essentially no radioactivity, and were used as a control group.

The pale grass blue butterfly is a species commonly found in many regions of Japan, including near Fukushima.

The researchers found that caterpillars that ate radioactive leaves pupated into mutated butterflies that did not live as long, compared with caterpillars that ate non-radioactive leaves. These mutations and increased mortality were seen even in butterflies that consumed only very small doses of radioactive cesium.

“There seemed to be no threshold level below which no biological response could be detected,” the researchers wrote.

Small dose increases lead to large jump in mutation and death

The more radioactive cesium that the larvae consumed, the greater the rates of mutation and early death. Indeed, rates of both problems increased more rapidly than dosage (a non-linear relationship).

The study was not designed to test for similar effects on human beings, but the researchers warn that there is still enough evidence to be concerned. Two of the locations that radioactive leaves were collected from – Fukushima City and Hirono Town – currently have people living in them. In addition, the study findings were consistent with radioactivity levels found in plants following the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

The Chernobyl meltdown led to a sharp rise in infant deaths in locations as far from the plant as Western Germany and the United States. A recent study, published in the journalRadiation Research, linked a sharp jump in thyroid cancer rates in the years following that disaster directly to the amount of radioactive iodine that children were exposed to in the months immediately after the meltdown and explosion.

The triple meltdown at Fukushima is now considered by many scientists to be the worst civilian nuclear disaster the world has ever seen, surpassing even Chernobyl.

Both sites have yet to be fully cleaned up or sealed off. ”

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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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Radiation fears as report shows Fukushima fir trees to be growing strangely – Rocket News 24

” Following the events of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami and the subsequent meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant complex, radiologists in Japan have been closely observing the area for potential changes. A new report by the National Institute of Radiological Sciences now suggests that the fir trees in Fukushima may be exhibiting strange growth patterns, with the radiation from the disaster being named as a possible factor.

The report, published on the organisation’s website on August 28, states that when comparing fir trees from within the affected zone to those from areas with lower radioactivity, the fir trees in the affected area were increasingly found to be stunted and exhibiting signs of morphological change, particularly bifurcation, the splitting of a body into two parts, i.e. ‘branching’.

Each year of a healthy fir tree’s growth sees it growing directly upward while also putting out two horizontal branches. Scientists have noted, however, that some of the trees in the affected areas are only branching off into two separate directions at the tip, and exhibiting lack of upward growth.

The changes can be identified in the below images, which were included with the report. Image A shows a normal example of growth. Note the vertical central branch. Photo B shows a trunk which has entirely split into two, and photo C shows horizontal growth only, with a distinct lack of vertical growth. The red arrows indicate where bifurcation has occurred. You can see in image C how the central, vertical branch of the tree which should be growing upward is missing entirely.

ABC

The investigation was conducted in January of this year, with trees examined in (S1) Okuma, Fukushima (3.5 kilometres from the nuclear plant), and two locations (S2, S3) in Namie, Fukushima (8.5 and 15 kilometres from the plant). Radiation levels in Okuma were recorded at 33.9 microsieverts, and in Namie, the levels were 19.6 and 6.85 microsieverts, respectively. These trees were compared against trees in the north of neighbouring Ibaraki Prefecture (S4) from an area with a microsievert reading of 0.13.

Between 100 and 200 trees in each location were examined for changes, with the effect seen more often in the areas with higher levels of radiation. 90% of the trees examined in Okuma exhibited some degree of morphological change, a number which fell to 40% and 30% in Namie, and to less than 10% in northern Ibaraki Prefecture.

The correlation between the frequency of the morphological change and the proximity to the Fukushima Daiichi site/level of radiation recorded suggests that it is likely—but as yet not confirmed—that the changes are connected to the increase in background radiation.

However, the report notes that this particular morphological change has been identified in other areas and can be attributed to a range of other factors including environmental changes and as a result of pest damage. The report states that rather than attributing this change directly to the nuclear disaster, researchers are instead presenting evidence that proves that this change is seen more often when radiation is a contributing factor. ”

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Birds are in a tailspin four years after Fukushima — Smithsonian

” The first time Tim Mousseau went to count birds in Fukushima, Japan, radiation levels in the regions he visited were as high as 1,000 times the normal background. It was July 2011, four months after the Tohoku earthquake and subsequent partial meltdown at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant, and the nation was still recovering from massive infrastructure damage. Still, when Mousseau and his research partner rented a car and drove up from Tokyo, they encountered little resistance on the road.

“I knew we had to get there and capture as best we could the early effects [of radioactive contamination] that nobody had really looked for,” he remembers thinking after seeing news of the Fukushima disaster. “Ultimately we realized that our best possible approach for that first year was simply to start doing bird counts.”

Now, after four years surveying bird populations in 400 sites around Fukushima-Daiichi, Mousseau and his team have assembled a grim portrait of the disaster’s impact on local wildlife, using bird populations as a model system. Even though radioactivity has dropped throughout the region, their data show that bird species and abundances are in sharp decline, and the situation is getting worse every year.

“At first only a few species showed significant signs of the radiation’s effects,” Mousseau says. “Now if you go down and around the bend maybe five or ten kilometers [from a safe zone] to where it’s much, much hotter, it’s dead silent. You’ll see one or two birds if you’re lucky.”

Mousseau’s team conducted almost 2,400 bird counts in total and gathered data on 57 species, each of which showed specific sensitivity to background radiation. Thirty of the species showed population declines during the study period, the team report in the March issue of the Journal of Ornithology. Among these, resident birds such as the carrion crow and the Eurasian tree sparrow demonstrated higher susceptibility than migratory species, which didn’t arrive in the region until a few weeks after the partial meltdown in early March.

Nuclear accidents are rare in human history, so we have very little data about such radiation’s direct effects on wildlife. Mousseau has spent the past 15 years drawing comparisons between nuclear events to help build up our knowledge base and fill in the gaps. For instance, while there are no official published records of the Chernobyl disaster’s early impact on wildlife, plenty of work has been done in recent years to assess Chernobyl’s ecosystem post-accident, from local birds to forest fungi.

When Mousseau returned to Fukushima in 2012, he began capturing birds in irradiated zones that had patches of bleach-white feathers. It was a familiar sign: “The first time I went to Chernobyl in 2000 to collect birds, 20 percent of the birds [we captured] at one particularly contaminated farm had little patches of white feathers here and there—some large, some small, sometimes in a pattern and other times just irregular.”

His team thinks these white patches are the result of radiation-induced oxidative stress, which depletes birds’ reserves of the antioxidants that control coloration in their feathers and other body parts. In Chernobyl, the patches have a high coincidence with other known symptoms of radiation exposure, including cataracts, tumors, asymmetries, developmental abnormalities, reduced fertility and smaller brain size.

By 2013, the birds Mousseau was counting in Fukushima had white patches big enough to be seen through binoculars.

Presented together, Mousseau thinks such data sets on Chernobyl and Fukushima could offer significant evidence for radiation’s prolonged, cumulative effects on wildlife at different stages after a nuclear disaster. But other experts have a completely different take on the available information.

“I’m not convinced about the oxidative stress hypothesis, full stop,” says Jim Smith, editor and lead author of Chernobyl: Catastrophe and Consequences and an expert on pollution in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. “The radiation levels in both Fukushima and Chernobyl are currently low-dose, and the antioxidant capacity of a cell is way, way bigger than the oxidizing capacity of the radiation at those levels,” he says. This would mean the white feather patches—and perhaps the overall bird declines—are being caused by something other than radiation.

Birds’ feathers often change color as a byproduct of aging, much like our hair color changes as we get older. They also get replaced in molt cycles a few times a year and require new doses of melanin every time to retain their pigment. According to Yale evolutionary ornithologist Richard Prum, this opens the door for pigment mutations to occur quite regularly—whether or not a bird lives in or passes through a radiation zone.

“It’s a bit like fixing a car: the problem may be obvious, but there are lots of moving parts,” says Prum, who studies the evolution of avian plumage coloration. “Melanin stress can manifest in the same way—such as white feathers—under a variety of circumstances, and the causes behind it can be very diverse. Just this winter I saw four species with abnormal white pigmentation visit my feeder at home, but I’m not too worried about radiation levels in New Haven.”

Prum says he had heard the ecosystem at Chernobyl was doing quite well, an opinion defended by Mousseau’s critics. Back at the University of Portsmouth in the U.K., Smith primarily studies aquatic invertebrates, and in some of Chernobyl’s most contaminated lakes he has actually observed increased levels of biodiversity following the accident.

“Many of the literature studies on animals find it difficult to distinguish between the early effects of high doses shortly after the accident and later effects of much lower subsequent doses,” Smith says. “Plus some of them don’t properly account for the ecosystem impacts of removal of humans.”

Back in 2000, Robert Baker and Ron Chesser of Texas Tech University published a paper characterizing Chernobyl as a wildlife preserve, established thanks to the absence of humans since the accident. Both scientists have maintained that biodiversity and species abundance in Chernobyl and Fukushima are, in the long term, not adversely affected by radiation.

“Despite our best efforts, post-accident field studies aren’t sufficient to give us a clear picture,” says Chesser. “They offer no good controls, because we aren’t working with data from before the accident.” Chesser suggests that physiological aberrations of the sort Mousseau has observed are not conclusive results of chronic radiation exposure. Instead, they reflect other sources of oxidative stress including reproduction, immune response to infection and disease and strenuous physical activity such as migration.

“All the evidence that I grew up with and read in the last 60 years tells me [Mousseau’s findings] are probably wrong,” Chesser says, explaining why he disputes radiation as the cause behind the bird declines in Japan. “I don’t intend to cast aspersion on anyone, but if your evidence is really outside the norm, you better have some extraordinary data to back that up.”

Mousseau acknowledges that his research methods deviate from those of “old-school radiation biologists,” whose work has typically measured responses to radiation based on Geiger counter readings of individual animals. Not caring about the exact levels of radioactivity, as Mousseau says he does not, understandably ruffles some feathers.

“We’re strictly motivated by measurements of ecological and evolutionary response,” Mousseau says. “Our extraordinary evidence relates to these censuses, these massively replicated bionic inventories across a landscape scale and in both locations, and that has not been done in any rigorous way by any of these other groups.

“The data are not anecdotal, they’re real and rigorous,” he adds. “They’re replicated in space and time. How you interpret them is up for grabs, and certainly a lot more experimentation needs to be done in order to better appreciate the mechanism associated with these declines.” For their part, Mousseau’s team hopes next to understand why different bird species in their data appear to demonstrate varying levels of radioactive sensitivity. They’re headed to Chernobyl again next week, and back to Fukushima in July. ”

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Bird populations in Fukushima plummet after nuclear disaster — Science World Report

” Bird populations may have declined to a large extent in Japan’s Fukushima province due to the disaster that occurred there in 2011. Scientists have taken a closer look at bird populations and have found that since the March 11 earthquake, which caused the nuclear catastrophe, bird populations have plummeted.

“We were working with a relatively small range of background exposures in this study because we weren’t able to get into the ‘hottest’ areas that first summer after the disaster, and we were only able to get to some ‘meium-hot’ areas the following summer,” said Tim Mousseau, one of the researchers, in a news release. “So we had relatively little statistical power to detect those kinds of relationships, especially when you combine that with the fact that there are so few barn swallows left. We know that there were hundreds in a given area before the disaster, and just a couple of years later we’re only able to find a few dozen left. The declines have been really dramatic.”

The scientists also analyzed how the response of bird species differed between Fukushima and Chernobyl. One contrast was that migratory birds fared worst in the mutagenic landscape of Chernobyl than year-round residents, whereas the opposite was true for Fukushima.

“It suggests to us that what we’re seeing in Fukushima right now is primarily through the direct result of exposure to radiation that’s generating a toxic effect-because the residents are getting a bigger dose by being there longer, they’re more affected,” said Mousseau. “Whereas in Chernobyl, many generations later, the migrants are more affected, and one possibility is that this reflects differences in mutation accumulation.”

The findings are published in the Journal of Ornithology. 

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