Radiation ‘may affect reproduction’

Kyodo

Based on her experience of supporting victims of the Chernobyl disaster, a senior NPO member said much more attention should be paid to the reproductive health of those exposed to low levels of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Considerable attention has been paid to the increased risk of thyroid cancer, as research in Ukraine showed that the incidence rate among children started to increase four to five years after the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe.

However, Yuko Yoshida stressed that reproductive health must also not be overlooked, telling a symposium in Tokyo held by the Japan Federation of Bar Associations that “women exposed to low levels of radiation in adolescence face a high risk to their reproductive systems.”

“These women are more likely to experience problematic pregnancies, including premature births and the accumulation of excessive amounts of amniotic fluid,” said Yoshida, secretary general of the nonprofit organization Chernobyl Health Survey and Health Care Support for the Victims — Japan Women’s Network.

Using the NPO’s experience from assisting Chernobyl’s victims over the past 20 years, Yoshida stressed the need to focus not only on life-threatening diseases such as thyroid cancer, but also on other health issues Fukushima Prefecture residents could face in areas heavily tainted by the March 2011 meltdowns.

She emphasized the need to establish a system to measure internal exposure levels over the long term, in order to introduce adequate countermeasures in response to the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

The symposium was timed to coincide with the second anniversary of the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami. Evacuees from the ensuing nuclear crisis plan to file group lawsuits at several district courts on the day of the commemoration to seek damages against the state and Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the Fukushima No. 1 complex.

The event was held as a preliminary to the federation’s annual human rights meeting, to be held this October in Hiroshima, where the main topic will be the “termination of human rights violations caused by radiation and redress of damages.”

Speaking at the gathering, JFBA President Kenji Yamagishi noted that the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings and those from the Fukushima disaster all faced “unprecedented” human rights violations.

Participants also discussed whether the victims of the Fukushima meltdowns should be required to sue for damages before the deadline for bringing legal action expires, given that the long-term effects on their health remain unknown. Another item on the agenda was how lawyers could support the victims and outline a path for them to seek redress.