City plans fall distribution to address parents' fears

34,000 children in Fukushima to get dosimeters

Kyodo

Amid growing concerns over exposure to radiation, the Fukushima Municipal Government said Tuesday it will give dosimeters to all children attending preschools as well as elementary and junior high schools in the city.

The city said it will hand out the gauges for three months from September to about 34,000 children as part of its efforts to ensure their health.

City officials will collect data once a month and examine the results in cooperation with medical institutions.

It will also distribute the gauges to parents with children less than 3 years old at the request of the parents.

The move comes after a similar decision by the city of Date, Fukushima Prefecture, which has radiation hot spots where exposure could exceed the 20-millisievert limit during the course of a year.

Another town adopting this kind of measure is Kawamata, part of which sits in the government’s no-go zone near the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

The plant has been crippled since it was damaged by the March 11 quake and tsunami, triggering the country’s worst nuclear accident.

The dosimeter outlay is another step taken by local governments at the urging of worried parents.

The central government basically remains noncommittal about the school radiation issue, except for changing numbers in the radiation levels for schoolchildren.

On May 27, the education ministry said it will strive to limit radiation exposure of students to 1 millisievert or less a year while they are at school.

The move came after a barrage of criticism from parents in Fukushima Prefecture, who fear radiation leaking from the nuclear plant could increase their children’s chances of developing leukemia or other types of cancer.

But the new limit is only a “best effort” target, and an earlier — and binding — radiation limit is still intact.

In April, the ministry set a limit of 3.8 microsieverts per hour for playground use at schools in the prefecture.

Together with estimated exposure from outside of school grounds, total annual exposure could grow to 20 millisieverts.

Many schools in Fukushima Prefecture have already acted on their own and banned students from using their school grounds over fears of radiation exposure.

Numerous schools are also attempting to scrape away contaminated soil.