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The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus
In-depth critical analysis of the forces shaping the Asia-Pacific...and the world.

Save the Children: Radiation Exposure of Fukushima Students
Apr. 29, 2011


By APJ Editors


Despite the fact that Japan has in the past set the maximum radiation exposure for citizens at 1 millisievert, the government has now increased that amount to 20 millisieverts for Fukushima school children. Defending this twentyfold increase, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology argues that 20 millisieverts is still within the recommended range of 1-20 millisieverts set by the International Commission on Radiological Protection for exposure in emergency situations. Others question the wisdom of using maximum guidelines for children in areas that may be impacted for years to come. A petition has been launched to urge the Japanese government to repeal this decision as experts write about the potential risks.


Tilman Ruff, chair of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and associate professor at the Nossal Institute for Global Health at the University of Melbourne, writing in English for Japan’s Kyodo news service, outlines the risk to Fukushima’s children.


OPINION: Children of Fukushima need our protection


By Tilman Ruff

MELBOURNE, April 26, Kyodo


I was dismayed to learn that the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology earlier this week increased the allowable dose of ionizing radiation for children in Fukushima Prefecture.


The dose they set, 3.8 microsieverts per hour, equates to more than 33 millisieverts (mSv) over a year. This is to apply to children in kindergartens, nursery, primary and junior high schools. Let me try to put this in perspective.


Widely accepted science tells us that the health risk from radiation is proportional to the dose -- the bigger the dose the greater the risk, and there is no level without risk.


The International Commission on Radiological Protection recommends that all radiation exposure be kept as low as achievable, and for the public, on top of background radiation and any medical procedures, should not exceed 1 mSv per year.


For nuclear industry workers, they recommend a maximum permissible annual dose of 20 mSv averaged over five years, with no more than 50 mSv in any one year.


In Japan the maximum allowed annual dose for workers, 100 mSv, was already higher than international standards. This has been increased in response to the Fukushima disaster to 250 mSv.


The U.S. National Academy of Sciences BEIR VII report estimates that each 1 mSv of radiation is associated with an increased risk of solid cancer (cancers other than leukemia) of about 1 in 10,000; an increased risk of leukemia of about 1 in 100,000; and a 1 in 17,500 increased risk of dying from cancer.


But a critical factor is that not everyone faces the same level of risk. For infants (under 1 year of age) the radiation-related cancer risk is 3 to 4 times higher than for adults; and female infants are twice as susceptible as male infants. Females' overall risk of cancer related to radiation exposure is 40 percent greater than for males. Fetuses in the womb are the most radiation-sensitive of all.


The pioneering Oxford Survey of Childhood Cancer found that X-rays of mothers, involving doses to the fetus of 10-20 mSv, resulted in a 40 percent increase in the cancer rate among children up to age 15.


In Germany, a recent study of 25 years of the national childhood cancer register showed that even the normal operation of nuclear power plants is associated with a more than doubling of the risk of leukemia for children under 5 years old living within 5 kilometers of a nuclear plant.


Increased risk was seen to more than 50 km away. This was much higher than expected, and highlights the particular vulnerability to radiation of children in and outside the womb.


In addition to exposure measured by typical external radiation counters, the children of Fukushima will also receive internal radiation from particles inhaled and lodged in their lungs, and taken in through contaminated food and water.


A number of radioactive substances are concentrated up the food chain and in people. As a parent, as a physician, the decision to allow the children of Fukushima to be exposed to such injurious levels of radiation is an unacceptable abrogation of the responsibility of care and custodianship for our children and future generations.






ティルマン・ラフ メルボルン

4/26 共同










すでに国際基準より高かった日本の労働者の最大許容線量100mSvは、福島の大事故を受けて250mSvまで引き上げられた。 米国国立科学アカデミーBEIR VII報告書によれば、1mSvの放射線(被曝)は固形癌(白血病以外の癌)については約1万人に1人、白血病では約10万人に1人、癌による死亡では17500人に1人のリスク上昇をもたらすものとみられる。
















(ティルマン・ラフ 核兵器廃絶国際キャンペーン代表 オーストラリア・メルボルン大学ノッサル国際医療研究所準教授)



訳者 田中泉



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