Fukushima: Japanese government’s safety standards for children condemned

Fukushima: Japanese government’s safety standards for children condemned

Fukue Natsuko

From http://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article21343

U.S. doctors hit Tokyo radiation limit for kids

Physicians for Social Responsibility, a U.S. nonprofit organization of medical experts, has condemned as “unconscionable” the Japanese government’s safety standards on radiation levels at elementary and junior high schools in nuclear disaster-stricken Fukushima Prefecture.

The PSR statement directly challenges Tokyo’s stance that it is safe for schoolchildren to use school playgrounds in the prefecture as long as the dose they are exposed to does not exceed 20 millisieverts over a year.

The PSR view is also in line with that voiced by Toshiso Kosako, who said Friday he would step down as an adviser to Prime Minister Naoto Kan on the Fukushima nuclear crisis in protest. The University of Tokyo professor urged the government to toughen guidelines on upper limits on radiation levels the education ministry recently announced for elementary school playgrounds in Fukushima.

The U.S. group said in a statement released Friday, “Any exposure, including exposure to naturally occurring background radiation, creates an increased risk of cancer.”Children are much more vulnerable than adults to the effects of radiation, and fetuses are even more vulnerable," it said.

The medical experts group is part of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which won the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize.

“(Twenty millisieverts) for children exposes them to a 1 in 200 risk of getting cancer. And if they are exposed to this dose for two years, the risk is 1 in 100. There is no way that this level of exposure can be considered ’safe’ for children,” the statement said.

The Japan Times

* The Japan Times, Kyodo Tuesday, May 3, 2011:

Protesters urge rethink of child radiation limit

Four antinuclear groups demanded Monday that the government withdraw its decision to set the annual radiation limit at 20 millisieverts for schoolchildren in Fukushima Prefecture, saying the standard poses a health risk.

The four groups – Friends of the Earth Japan, Green Action, Fukuro no Kai, and Mihama no Kai – said during meetings with government officials in Tokyo that 20 millisieverts is the upper ceiling of a safety standard set in 2007 by the International Commission on Radiological Protection.

The groups said a safer standard should be adopted for schoolchildren.

In 2007, the ICRP recommended the maximum exposure limit be set at a range between 1 and 20 milliserverts per year in the wake of an atomic crisis.

In an emergency, the ICRP recommends the maximum exposure limit be set between 20 to 100 millisieverts.

“I want the government to take measurements which protect children, the treasures of our country”, said Sachiko Sato, one of the activists, at an open Q&A session held with officials from the Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry.

The education ministry announced on April 19 that the annual limit for radiation exposure is 20 millisieverts for children in primary and junior high school. The limit was also approved by Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

According to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, however, the government has just set the exposure limit at 3.8 microsieverts per hour for children using a school playground. This means that if a child stayed outside on the playground for 8 hours a day for an entire year, the child’s exposure could theoretically exceeed 20 millisieverts – a scenario that is unlikely, Edano said at a news conference Saturday.

But Fukushima residents are skeptical.

One resident who did not wish to be identified said the limit is too high.

“The government should take back the radiation limit of 20 millisieverts. I want to bring back Fukushima that is safe for children,” the man said.

By NATSUKO FUKUE, Staff writer, Japan Times

* Japan Times, Tuesday, May 3, 2011: