The Marketing-Speak Of The UNSCEAR Report On Fukushima

Friday much of the media reported a declaration that there were no health impacts from Fukushima. This wasn’t even close to what was actually said in UNSCEAR’s press statements while even more lies in the details and semantics of what was said.

UNSCEAR’s statements say quite a bit more if you look at their qualifying statements and what they don’t say.

From the UNSCEAR Press Release:

UNSCEAR Statement:Radiation exposure following the nuclear accident at Fukushima-Daiichi did not cause any immediate health effects. It is unlikely to be able to attribute any health effects in the future among the general public and the vast majority of workers,”

What it means: Immediate is key, this same rather illogical statement was repeated ad nauseum as events unraveled in 2011. Immediate heath problems typically don’t happen unless someone gets a considerable radiation exposure. Even official charts describing the acute effects of exposure document immediate impact happens at higher levels. Though problems with sore throats, nose bleeds and flu like symptoms were widely reported by people in the region soon after the plant began releasing large amounts of radiation. What “immediate” doesn’t say is what will happen in a few years or a few decades as those exposed may begin to experience health problems. It is well known that most radiation effects outside of acute exposure happen over time. Declaring that they are “unlikely to be able to attribute” health problems to someone’s radiation exposure has long been both a challenge and an “out” for those trying to deny health problems caused by radiation exposure. There are many examples over the decades of those with vested interests trying to blame radiation related health problems on everything from lifestyle to “fear”. UNSCEAR also points to problems “among the general public” but does not clarify who that general public is. Is it just the people exposed? People from Fukushima? People from anywhere in Japan? This is also an important detail as WHO and some other reports attempted to mix those known to be exposed in among populations known to be less or not exposed to water down the statistics of health issues potential.

 

UNSCEAR Statement:  “Families are suffering, and people have been uprooted and are concerned about their livelihoods and futures, the health of their children…it is these issues that will be the long-lasting fallout of the accident. At the same time, it is important to maintain a long-term medical follow-up for the exposed population, and in relation to certain diseases to provide a clear picture of their health status development.

What it means:  UNSCEAR attempts to blame all of the problems after Fukushima on the evacuation. This has been a nuclear industry public relations tactic seen many places. MIT and a number of their scientist tried to claim the evacuation was not needed and that people should have been left in the evacuation zones. Various media personalities that work in the nuclear industry have also pushed this bizarre assertion. The few people that remained in the zone or nearby but did not change their life habits found themselves to be drastically more exposed than those who evacuated and have taken precautions to lower their exposures. Yet even UNSCEAR could not come right out and make such an outlandish claim without trying to water it down by admitting the need for long term health monitoring.

 

UNSCEAR Statement:On the whole, the exposure of the Japanese population was low, or very low, leading to correspondingly low risks of health effects later in life.

What it means:  Not all of Japan was exposed. By taking those in and around Fukushima who were exposed and lumping them in with the entire population of Japan they become statistically gone. This is the same tactic the WHO used in their report. Anyone paying attention knows that exposures were along plume lines and certain areas while other areas receive very low or no fallout. This “whole population” is a slight of hand game by UNSCEAR to deny the problem. Japan currently has about 127 million people. By contrast the entire prefecture of Fukushima has about 1.9 million people.

UNSCEAR Statement:The doses delivered for the two most significant radionuclides were quite different: doses to the thyroid mainly from iodine-131 ranged up to several tens of milligray and were received within a few weeks after the accident; the whole-body (or effective) doses mainly from caesium-134 and caesium-137 ranged up to ten or so millisieverts (mSv) and will be received over the lifetime of those exposed. The additional exposures received by most Japanese people in the first year and subsequent years due to the radioactive releases from the accident are less than the doses received from natural background radiation (which is about 2.1 mSv per year). This is particularly the case for Japanese people living away from Fukushima, where annual doses of around 0.2 mSv from the accident are estimated, arising primarily through ingestion of radionuclides in food.” 

What it means: Doses estimated are not cited as to how they came to these numbers, this matters greatly. How were they calculated and what was used? Was the entire population of Japan used to create these numbers? They calculate cesium exposure over a lifetime, spreading out their exposure over their remaining years rather than looking at the exposure in 2011. This also does not clarify between internal and external exposures. If both are included or only one or the other. These statements are quite meaningless without some sort of information to analyse them with. UNSCEAR’s claim that Japan’s average natural background radiation is about 2.1 mSv/year is grossly incorrect. This map from the Japanese government shows far lower levels around Japan before the Fukushima disaster. Very few places have natural backgroun radiation over 1.10 mSv/year. The admission that those not living near Fukushima prefecture are getting .2 mSv additional exposure from their food is hardly anything to  call good, it should be zero.

 

UNSCEAR statement: “No radiation-related deaths or acute effects have been observed among nearly 25,000 workers (including TEPCO employees and contractors) involved at the accident site.”

What it means: “Nobody died” has been an ongoing mantra of the nuclear industry as they have tried to explain away the disaster in Fukushima. This statement is also not quite true. They qualify it as “radiation related” deaths or acute effects. Two workers were sent to the hospital with beta burns after entering unit 3 in an area far more contaminated than assumed. A worker who attempted to vent unit 3 by entering the building received a high exposure dose and was sent to the hospital. Another worker died of “acute leukemia” (this has identical symptoms to acute radiation exposures), while TEPCO insists this had nothing to do with his work at the plant, he worked the same week an unidentified worker was photographed standing next to a 10 Sievert hot spot at the base of the unit 1 venting tower.

UNSCEAR Statement:Given the small number of highly exposed workers, it is unlikely that excess cases of thyroid cancer due to radiation exposure would be detectable. Special health examinations will be given to workers with exposures above 100 mSv including annual monitoring of the thyroid, stomach, large intestine and lung for cancer as a means to monitor for potential late radiation-related health effects at the individual level.

What it means:  Thyroid cancer is fairly low on the list of problems for the workers. There are a wide variety of health problems that can be caused by their elevated radiation exposures. Workers at the plant had respirators and received protective iodine tablets. These two factors would have drastically reduced their thyroid cancer risk. UNSCEAR focuses on a red herring of thyroid cancer while admitting that they need to be screened for a wide variety of problems due to their exposure. UNSCEAR also cites that workers with documented exposures over 100 mSv will get health checks. There is a long documented problem of workers NOT having their exposures properly recorded. This has been an ongoing problem. There were reports by workers to foreign TV media in 2011 that admitted they were sharing dosimeters and many times a worker would drop their dosimeter to rush into an area known to be highly radioactive. Workers also cited that dosimeters would error out if they encountered areas over a certain level of radiation. Near unit 1 was cited as a place this happened so workers would rush past trying to avoid exposure. These “error out” issues mean some of the high exposures are not documented. Workers also complained about body scanners running too fast or not scanning their entire body meaning again their exposures doses were not fully recorded. There were still problems in late 2012 where contract workers were caught covering their dosimeters with lead shields to fake their doses. All of these ongoing problems mean that many workers have not had their real exposure dose recorded. Of the exposures documented 6 TEPCO workers were exposed over 250 mSv. Two were in the 678 mSv range, those being the two workers who stayed in the unit 1-2 control room for an extended time. They documented problems like respirators that didn’t fit properly, a door that didn’t seal after Unit 1 exploded and needing to remove respirators to eat. As of December 2012 there were 457 workers whose documented doses were in the brackets that included 100 mSv or above. These numbers may be larger due to the underestimating of exposures that has been going on since 2011. These also do not include SDF soldiers or Tokyo Fire Dept. firefighters who were on site during the worst of the disaster.

UNSCEAR Statement: “The assessment also concluded that although the rate of exposures may have exceeded the levels for the onset of effects on plants and animals several times in the first few months following the accident, any effects are expected to be transient in nature, given their short duration. In general, the exposures on both marine and terrestrial non-human biota were too low for observable acute effects.”

What it means:  There is ample evidence to the contrary. Animal rescue groups have documented a wide variety of health problems among some of the animals left behind that could be caused by their radiation exposures. Confirming this is an issue many animals including cattle and horses who even with proper veterinary care, food and shelter have been dying in large numbers at the care facilities. This problem has been ongoing at the horse ranch in Iitate and cattle at the farm sanctuary in Fukushima. This is the bone yard of all the cattle that have died of the same illness at the farm, veterinarians can not identify a typical cause. More pics from the farm (warning graphic)

There have also been documented radiation induced changes to butterflies in Fukushima, birds, and various reptiles and insects have been found with hyper concentrations of radiation.

UNSCEAR Statement:For effects that are bound to occur after high doses, the Committee concluded that as seen with carcinogenesis, there are some instances in which childhood exposure poses more risk than adult exposure (e.g. for effects in the brain, cataracts, and thyroid nodules). There are other instances where the risk appears to be about the same (e.g. neuroendocrine system and effects in the kidneys) and there are a few instances where children’s tissues are more resistant (lung, immune system, marrow and ovaries).

“More research is needed to fully understand the risks and effects following childhood exposure to radiation. This is necessary (and possible) because there are many individuals who were exposed as children (such as the survivors of the atomic bombings) who are still alive. Their experiences must not be lost,” said Fred Mettler, Chair, UNSCEAR Report on Effects of Radiation Exposure on Children.”

What it means: UNSCEAR admits concerns for children having higher risks from radiation exposures but try to qualify it as only in high dose conditions. Established science and what is used as safety guidelines even by the nuclear community clearly adhere to the LNT theory (Linear No Threshold) where there is now threshold below where no damage from radiation exposure occurs. So UNSCEAR’s statement goes against the established science. They also show no concern for the welfare of the children exposed, nothing about making sure they get timely screening to improve their health outcomes only ” to preserve their experiences” for UNSCEAR’s record keeping.

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