Protesters urge rethink of child radiation limit

by Natsuko Fukue

Staff Writer

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.