New rules for recognizing victims of A-bomb diseases get poor response

JIJI

The central government has put in place new standards for recognizing sufferers of atomic bomb-related diseases.

Now, hibakusha affected by cardiac infarction, hypothyroidism and chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis no longer have to prove their maladies were induced by radiation exposure when applying to be recognized officially as sufferers of atomic bomb-related diseases.

The new standards were approved Monday by a health ministry panel that had been reviewing the previous standards.

According to the ministry, some 4,000 new people suffering from diseases other than cancer are expected to be recognized as victims of atomic bomb-related diseases.

The ministry said the review was not based on scientific findings but was instituted to help survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Some patients have criticized the new standards as insufficient, saying it is difficult to verify whether these three designated diseases and radiation cataracts were induced by radiation.

They cover sufferers of the three diseases who were exposed to radiation within 2 km of the hypocenters of the atomic-bomb blasts, compared with 3.5 km under the previous standards.

The standards cover radiation cataract patients who were within 1.5 km of the epicenters to distinguish their condition from age-related cataracts.

Requirements for patients with cancer or leukemia were left unchanged from the previous standards, which cover people exposed to radiation within 3.5 km of the hypocenters or those who traveled to within 2 km of the blast sites within 100 hours of the attacks.

Tetsuro Miyahara, secretary-general of a national lawyer group representing plaintiffs in lawsuits against the government over the recognition of sufferers of atomic bomb-related diseases, told a news conference he is dissatisfied with the new standards as they don’t take into account the full range of the effects of residual radiation.

Noting that the courts have recognized the effects of internal exposure, Miyahara said that the discrepancy between justice and the government has not been resolved.

“The lawsuits are expected to continue, as we find no grounds for the government’s estimate that 4,000 applicants will be newly recognized under the new standards,” Miyahara said.

Over the years numerous patients who have requested to be recognized as sufferers of atomic bomb-related sicknesses but were turned down by the government have sued to have the decision overturned.