Need for patient scientific tracking of diseases and deaths from Fukushima radioactivity
[in the 12 months after Fukushima] an excess of 38,700 Japanese deaths, with no obvious cause.
Nobody should yet race to conclusions that 38,700 Japanese died from Fukushima exposure in the first year after the disaster.
The final element needed before conclusions are made is patience; vital statistics must continue to be tracked, and compared with radiation exposures to the Japanese people.
[In 2009] A team of Russian researchers, led by Dr. Alexey Yablokov, published results of 5,000 reports and articles
on Chernobyl – many in Russian languages never before made public. Yahlokov’s team concluded that near Chernobyl, increases in disease sand deaths were observed for nearly every human organ system.
Let the Counting Begin Fukushima’s Nuclear Casualties http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/08/15/fukushimas-nuclear-casualties/ by JOSEPH MANGANO, 15 Aug 12 It’s been nearly 18 months since the disastrous nuclear meltdown at Fukushima. There have been many reports on the huge amounts of radioactivity escaping into the air and water, unusually high levels in air, water, and soil – along with atypically high levels of toxic chemicals in food – that actually “passed” government inspection and wasn’t banned like some other food.
Conspicuously absent are reports on effects of radiation exposure on the health of the Japanese people. Have any health officials publicly announced post-March 2011 numbers on fetal deaths, infant deaths, premature births, birth defects, cancer, or other health conditions? The answer so far is an emphatic “no.”
The prolonged silence doesn’t mean data doesn’t exist. Japanese health officials have been busy with their usual duties of collecting and posting statistics on the Internet for public inspection. It’s just that they aren’t calling the public’s attention to these numbers.
Thus, it is the public who must find the information and figure out what it means. After locating web sites, translating from Japanese, adding data for each of 12 months, and making some calculations, mortality trends in Japan after Fukushima are emerging.
The Japanese government health ministry has posted monthly estimated
deaths for the 12 months before and after Fukushima, for the entire
nation of Japan. These are preliminary figures, but they have
historically been very good estimates of final numbers. A further
look is in order.
Total deaths increased 4.8%, compared to the normal 1.5% annual rise.
Since about 1.2 million Japanese people die each year, this computes
to an excess of 57,900 deaths. The rise in deaths from accidents is
given as 19,200, close to estimates of those killed directly by the
earthquake and tsunami. But this still leaves an excess of 38,700
Japanese deaths, with no obvious cause.
The reports provide mortality numbers for 12 common causes, making up
about 80% of all deaths in Japan, including heart disease, stroke,
cancer, and pneumonia. Each increased in the past year, with the
exception of homicide and suicide. The category “other,” which is a
collection of all other causes, rose 5.9%. The sharpest increases
occurred immediately after the meltdowns, in March-June 2011 (vs. the
same period 2010), a finding consistent with that found in preliminary
mortality in the U.S. in a December 2011 article I co-authored with
Dr. Janette Sherman in the International Journal of Health Services.
Nobody should yet race to conclusions that 38,700 Japanese died from
Fukushima exposure in the first year after the disaster. Several
activities must occur. The final death statistics must first be
posted, which will occur sometime next year. Counts of deaths and
diseases among infants who are most susceptible to radiation exposure
must be made public. Numbers for each area of Japan must be made
public – radiation exposure from Fukushima would likely result in the
highest rises in mortality in areas closest to the damaged plant.
Numbers of deaths must be converted into rates, to account for any
change in population.
Other potential factors accounting for increased mortality must be
considered. For example, were there any fatal epidemics post-March
2011? Was access to medical services reduced in the aftermath of the
earthquake and tsunami? Changes in morbidity and mortality rates
often have more than one contributing cause.
The final element needed before conclusions are made is patience; vital statistics must continue to be tracked, and compared with radiation exposures to the Japanese people. One year after the 1986
nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl, which joins Fukushima as the two worst
nuclear disasters in history, no examinations of deaths among nearby
Soviet citizens had been done. In fact, data was suppressed, and the
standard line from the Soviet government – and for years after – was
that 31 emergency workers who died putting out the fire at the
stricken reactor were the only casualties.
Fast forward 20-plus years, with the publication of a 2009 book by the
New York Academy of Sciences. A team of Russian researchers, led by
Dr. Alexey Yablokov, published results of 5,000 reports and articles
on Chernobyl – many in Russian languages never before made public.
Yahlokov’s team concluded that near Chernobyl, increases in diseases
and deaths were observed for nearly every human organ system. They
estimated that 985,000 persons died as a result of Chernobyl exposures
by 2004 – and that many more were to follow.
There is no question that even if Fukushima studies proceed and are
conducted in an objective manner, it will take years before the true
extent of casualties are known. However, an early estimate of 38,700
additional unexplained deaths in Japan in just one year must be taken
seriously, and underline the need for Fukushima health studies to be
made a top priority, in Japan and in other affected nations.
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