Fukushima Meltdown Driving Increased Abnormalities Among US Infants

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Common Dreams

Fukushima Meltdown Driving Increased Abnormalities Among US Infants

In wake of disaster, children on the west coast almost one-third more likely to suffer from thyroid abnormalities

by
Lauren McCauley, staff writer

An omniscient sign at an anti-nuclear protest in Kouenji, Japan. (Photo: SandoCap via Flickr)

Infants on the West Coast of the United States are showing increased incidents of thyroid abnormalities, which researchers are attributing to radiation released following the March 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

According to a new study (.pdf) published in the Open Journal of Pediatrics, children born in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington between one week and 16 weeks after the meltdown began are 28 percent more likely to suffer from congenital hypothyroidism (CH) than were kids born in those states during the same period one year earlier.

CH results from a build up of radioactive iodine in our thyroids and can result in stunted growth, lowered intelligence, deafness, and neurological abnormalities—though can be treated if detected early.

Because their small bodies are more vulnerable and their cells grow faster than adults', infants serve as the proverbial 'canary in the coal mine' for injurious environmental effects.

"With the embryo and fetus, there can never be a 'safe' dose of radiation," writes nukefree.org founder Harvey Wasserman. "NO dose of radiation is too small to have a human impact."

According to researchers from the Radiation and Public Health Project who performed the study, “Fukushima fallout appeared to affect all areas of the US, and was especially large in some, mostly in the western part of the nation.” They add that CH can provide an early measure to "assess any potential changes in US fetal and infant health status after Fukushima because official data was available relatively promptly."

Health researcher Joe Mangano similarly cautioned, "Reports of rising numbers of West Coast infants with under-active thyroid glands after Fukushima suggest that Americans may have been harmed by Fukushima fallout. Studies, especially of the youngest, must proceed immediately."

Earlier this year, the Fukushima Prefecture Health Management Survey found that more than 40 percent of the Japanese children studied showed evidence of thyroid abnormalities, which Wasserman says signifies a "horrifying plague." He continues:

The ultimate death toll among Fukushima's victims may be inescapable. But the industry that's harming them is not. Those thyroid-damaged children bring us yet another tragic warning: There's just one atomic reactor from which our energy can safely come. Two years after Fukushima, it is still 93 million miles away—but more ready than ever to safely, cleanly and cheaply power our planet.

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