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Japan’s environment minister denies mocking radiation fears of Fukushima residents

by

Staff Writer

Environment Minister Tamayo Marukawa came under fire Tuesday for what opposition lawmakers called an insensitive gaffe that appeared to ridicule the fears of people in Fukushima Prefecture over radiation exposure.

At the center of the controversy was a remark she reportedly made Sunday during a speech in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture.

The Nagano-based Shinano Mainichi Shimbun on Monday quoted the Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker as saying, “There are always those ‘anti-radiation’ people, as you may call them, who are worried about radiation no matter how low the levels are.”

According to the newspaper, Marukawa then went on to attack the government’s official goal of reducing contamination near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant to an annual dose of 1 millisievert, calling it a “scientifically groundless” figure decided by her Democratic Party of Japan predecessor.

On Tuesday, DPJ lawmaker Rintaro Ogata said Marukawa’s comments sounded as though she were deriding those suffering from radiation exposure fears in Fukushima.

Marukawa said she has no clear recollection of the remark as the event went unrecorded due to the absence of her secretary.

Nonetheless, she said she felt “misquoted” by the newspaper, though she added: “I would like to apologize for not expressing my views clearly enough.”

The DPJ, which was in power when the triple disaster hit Japan in 2011, set the annual 1-millisievert target based on an estimation by the International Commission on Radiological Protection that acceptable radiation exposure levels range from 1 to 20 millisieverts per year in the aftermath of a nuclear accident.

Marukawa denied that she called the target “scientifically groundless” and instead emphasized that the DPJ should have more thoroughly explained the rationale behind it.

  • GBR48

    The LDP really need to start hiring people with better memories. Most of them can’t seem to remember half the stuff they have done or said.

    As the Ministry of Culture is being moved to Kyoto, perhaps the Ministry of the Environment, and its presumably ‘pro-radiation’ minister, could be relocated to Fukushima.

  • Roy Warner

    She and anyone else who believes that radiation levels in Fukushima are harmless are quite welcome to demonstrate such certainty by moving their families there. The rapidly depopulating prefecture would welcome them.

    • Sam Gilman

      Dear Roy

      11 hours ago you posted a message on the Japan Times website trying to undermine peer reviewed research that showed Fukushima had lower radiation than in Europe.

      https://disqus.com/home/discussion/japantimes/external_radiation_doses_in_fukushima_comparable_to_those_of_europe_study/#comment-2503818538

      I replied to you 9 hours ago explaining why your objections were wrong, warning you that you came across as a fearmonger.

      https://disqus.com/home/discussion/japantimes/external_radiation_doses_in_fukushima_comparable_to_those_of_europe_study/#comment-2503921876

      I now find you five hours after that trying to stir up the same fears.

      So I ask myself – is Roy Warner here to discuss Fukushima, or is he here to have fun spreading fear?

      Is this the kind of person you aspire to be?

      • Timothy Milhomme

        I think you might have a hard time convincing the families of the people that have died from radiation because of the THREE REACTORS THAT HAVE BEEN PUKING RADIATION INTO THE PACIFIC OCEAN AND THE ATMOSPHERE AND 3-11-16 it will be FIVE YEARS dwarfing the Chernobyl disaster.

      • Sam Gilman

        Hi Timothy,

        It looks like from your Disqus feed that you’re new to this topic (unlike Roy who lives here).

        Nobody has died from radiation here. That may be a surprise to you given some of the media coverage from overseas (and I don’t know if you read any conspiracy blogs) but that’s the truth of it. It looks like no one among the general public got a dose high enough to worry about. Some of the people in the clean up operation have had doses which may increase their lifetime chance of cancer, which is of course bad.

        The minister here is talking about a 1mSv a year extra dose. What does this number mean? Four whole Sieverts in one go will likely kill you, 1 Sievert will give you radiation sickness. But what about lower than that – milliSieverts? Well, the lowest dose at which there is general agreement that sees an increase in cancer is 100mSv. That would lead to an increase of – roughly speaking – the normal 40% chance of developing cancer over a lifetime rising to 40.2%. Radiation can cause cancer, but you actually need a fairly big dose of it to increase your risk. Below 100mSv the picture becomes very difficult to discern and it is accepted that there is no agreement if there are effects below this level. 1mSv per year is roughly the difference you get between living in Houston and Denver. (Natural background radiation is 3mSv per year, but it varies a lot). No difference in cancer rate is observed between these places. Even if there is a risk at these levels, it’s so small it’s impossible to pick up. In terms of all the risks we take in life, it might as well not exist.

        This is what the argument is about: should people be forced to stay away from their homes because of a theoretical risk of cancer that is lower than if they lived in a built up area like Tokyo, and far, far lower than if they ate red meat – that is so low it would be impossible to detect any change in health.

        As for the oceans, again, the Internet may have misled you. Contaminated water has been going into the artificial bay by the plant, but its effect on the wider oceans is negligible. Fish caught not far from the plant now show negligible levels of radiation. There are certain anti-nuclear websites that try to blame the effects of global warming in the Pacific on Fukushima, which is a horrible thing to do and makes you wonder about their funding.

        My problem with people like Roy is that people in Fukushima, particularly parents and farmers, are hurt by irresponsible fearmongering. Not just feelings hurt – but lives ruined, depression, suicide kind of hurt. It’s unfortunate, but there are people who have decided not to care what the truth is, and instead promote the idea that it is dangerous to live in Fukushima prefecture (the exclusion zone is a small part of the prefecture). Some of them do this because they are unable to think straight, which is forgivable. However, the majority seem to do it as a kind of sport, or as an attempted vindication of their religious-like anti-nuclear beliefs.

      • Timothy Milhomme

        Whatever you say

      • Sam Gilman

        You mean you don’t care if what you said is not true?

      • Timothy Milhomme

        What I mean is Chernobyl was one. In 25 years after that around 1000000 deaths that’s one million and you want people to believe that with 3 it’s no problem. Like I said whatever you say

      • Sam Gilman

        No, it’s not a million deaths. That’s a junk science claim from a book that has been disowned by the publishers and trashed by actual scientists in quite forceful terms. You’ve got to check the sources.

        Chernobyl released at least ten times as much radioactive material as Fukushima. Chernobyl needed to be plugged as fast as possible, and a lot of people got very high doses. A lot of people got radiation sickness. A lot of children developed (thankfully curable) thyroid cancer. The average radioactive iodine dose of children in the area in Chernobyl is more than a hundred times higher than the average dose in Fukushima, and eight times higher than the highest estimated dose for any child found. Chernobyl was a mess – a bad idea for a reactor that didn’t have any containment and which the Soviet authorities reacted to by giving kids radioactive milk in a horrible show of bravado. School kids were taken to watch glorious Soviet firefighters battling the disaster.

        The actual current estimate is around 60 deaths that can definitely or probably attributed to Chernobyl, plus a theoretical estimate of 4000 shortened lives over seventy years among 5 million people – but researchers are having trouble establishing even these effects.

        The same science predicts at most a handful of deaths from Fukushima radiation. The head of the Chernobyl Tissue Bank that monitors long term effects of the disaster in the local population is clear that she does not expect any public health fallout from Fukushima.

        Moreover, whatever exposure could have endangered people has already happened.

        You really should read this link to get an idea of what fearmongering can do:

        http://www.nature.com/news/fukushima-fallout-of-fear-1.12194

        I don’t understand what it is in people that when recognised international experts are clear that lots of people in Fukushima prefecture are not going to die, they are deeply disappointed and want to fight it.

      • Timothy Milhomme

        That link was THREE YEARS AGO. All your information is old. They have not stopped the DISASTER at Fukushima and if they could have they would have. Why haven’t they fixed it. March 11th will be FIVE YEARS.

      • Sam Gilman

        That’s an remarkably callous response to the actual reported suffering of people in Fukushima. It appears you’re not interested in their welfare at all.

        From July last year:
        http://www.newshub.co.nz/world/experts-warn-of-fukushima-mental-health-fallout-2015073113

        However, even if “no discernible physical health effects are expected, psychological and social problems, largely stemming from differences in risk perception, have had a devastating impact on people’s live,” said Fukushima Medical University’s Koichi Tanigawa, who led 15 experts in assessing health impacts from major nuclear accidents worldwide.

        Those “differences in risk perception” are in no small part the result of fearmongering, of the kind we see Timothy trying on here.

        Why is it, time after time with all these people who pretend to be concerned about radiation in Fukushima that they turn out not to care much at all?

      • Timothy Milhomme

        Whatever you say

      • Nelson Surjon

        hahaha …. Tanigawa from the FMU? Are you seriously taking any of the Fukushima Medical University “biased” scientists by their words ? Luckily many many mothers in Fukushima have not made that mistake and seeking answers outside that infamous circle of “pro nuke pro LDP” … though they are having a hard time going to independent clinics cause most won’t diagnose their children for radiation exposure (ordered by the FMU itself).

      • Nelson Surjon

        Who the hell is in charge of that Asylum (FMU) these days? I know Yamashita and Suzuki both stepped down ….

      • Sam Gilman

        And so we have a good example of the fearmongers that I have been talking about.

        I’m not sure this is an appropriate beginning when you’re trying to spin to the world your story that that child sickness is being covered up in a conspiracy:

        hahaha

        And then there is casual libel based on no evidence whatsoever:

        Tanigawa from the FMU? Are you seriously taking any of the Fukushima Medical University “biased” scientists by their words ?

        The study Nelson Surjon suggests is dishonest has 15 authors – not only from Fukushima Medical University, but also Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Tokyo Universities as well as an institute in Cambodia. The conclusion that there are no expected detectable health effects in the population is supported by researchers from the World Health Organisation, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, endorsed by the head of the Chernobyl Tissue Bank that monitors the long term effects of the Chernobyl accident on the surrounding populations, and indeed the generality of mainstream medical research.

        Are the hundreds of researchers in this field from around the world all part of this conspiracy to falsify research?

        And it really is a conspiracy he’s claiming:

        Luckily many many mothers in Fukushima have not made that mistake and seeking answers outside that infamous circle of “pro nuke pro LDP” … though they are having a hard time going to independent clinics cause most won’t diagnose their children for radiation exposure (ordered by the FMU itself)

        Nelson Surjon wants us to believe that Japanese doctors across the country will obediently follow an instruction to break their Hippocratic oaths and bring harm to their patients – people they live and work amongst – through deliberate misdiagnosis and falsification with no protest. Nothing in the papers. Nothing from doctors fleeing from this apparent oppression in the foreign press. They’re just pliant and unquestioning. This has echoes of ages old western orientalist tropes of mass obedient hordes prepare to do harm to their own if ordered to do so. And so the people of Fukushima need civilised westerners like Mr Surjon to deliver them from their own barbarity.

        In the real world, doctors are not diagnosing “radiation exposure” because that would mean diagnosing radiation sickness, a condition that requires levels of exposure that are literally impossible for children to have received. To give an idea of what doses are needed, here is a link from the Mayo clinic, presumably also part of Nelson Surjon’s conspiracy.

        http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/radiation-sickness/basics/symptoms/con-20022901

        (Note: here they list radiation exposure in Grays; you can basically convert Grays to Sieverts on a 1:1 basis in most cases)

        People like this like to think they’re doing good, that they are saving people. But for that to be true, it means that pretty much everyone else is evil – mainstream scientists, the mainstream media, your local doctor…

      • http://seekerblog.com/ Steve Darden

        You are just fear-mongering – why? The references I posted all take you to the sources of ongoing monitoring of Fukushima contamination. The activity of radionuclides decreases with time. So 3 years later all the activities are lower than in my analysis.

      • thedudeabidez

        That’s a junk science claim from a book that has been disowned by the publishers and trashed by actual scientists in quite forceful terms.”

        Actually, no, that book was compiled from data by medical professionals on the ground in and around Chernobyl. The “fact” that it’s “junk science” is an industry misinformation campaign.

      • greenthinker2012

        I have a comment held up in moderation because it contains a link.
        Here it is with (dot) replacing “.”

        The publishers do not agree with you.

        Here is a link to their website where they say…

        “In no sense did Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences or the New York Academy of Sciences commission this work; nor by its publication does the Academy validate the claims made in the original Slavic language publications cited in the translated papers. Importantly, the translated volume has not been formally peer‐reviewed by the New York Academy of Sciences or by anyone else.”

        www(dot)nyas(dot)org/Publications/Annals/Detail.aspx?cid=f3f3bd16-51ba-4d7b-a086-753f44b3bfc1

        They also provide links to reviews of the book on the bottom of the same page.

        Some excerpts from one of the reviews…

        “…the authors unfortunately did not appropriately analyze the
        content of the Russian-language publications,
        for example, to separate them into those that
        contain scientific evidence and those based on hasty impressions and ignorant conclusions.”

        and

        “Biased selection of articles and the author’s conclusions are predetermined by his belief in a totally negative effect of any dose of radiation, and he is not embarrassed with brutal contradiction of the selected works and his own conclusions to the century-long experience in radiobiology and radiation medicine.”

      • jmdesp

        Read that book then. Read chapter 5, the only that explicitly says “if we were to follow the standard scientific methods, we would have to conclude radiation can not be linked to any death increase, *therefore we reject them*”.
        And then there’s the funny thing like claiming the radiation deposit map are completely unreliable, so they can not be used to evaluate where the deaths should be if really the radiation had increased them, but then including a radiation deposit map on the next page, saying look how horrible this is.

        Russian professionals reading that book concluded it was impossible to track where most of the claims were supposed to come from, because the reference were not rigorous at all, highly imprecise and used translated names, making it impossible to be sure what the real name was in Russian and search for it. But a lot came from scary press articles, and not from any rigorous medical source.

  • Leslie Corrice

    The Minister’s alleged statement is entirely correct. Politically questionable considering the millions of Japanese suffering mortal fear of radiation (radiophobia), but scientifically spot-on.

  • Liars N. Fools

    So typical of the Abe administration both for believing what they say and for making a political gaffe.

  • Bernadette Soubirous

    She is a very beautiful woman. I don’t think she meant any harm towards the Japanese people. I will give her the benefit of doubt.

  • Charles

    Has Hell frozen over? Do I actually agree with an LDP politician about something? Wow!

    She’s absolutely right–these fears of minute amounts of radiation ARE “scientifically groundless.”

    Now, don’t get me wrong, there might be SOME parts of Fukushima (very close to the reactor) that are still contaminated at an unacceptable level. However, I’ve seen some incredible ridiculousness, like a guy in KYUSHU who was running a YouTube channel trying to get donations so his family could “evacuate” from Kyushu back to his home country! Ridiculous!

    One of my college courses was Radiological Emergency Preparedness. I just keep the things I learned in that class in mind, and check the radiation levels before I’m about to take a new job in Japan. I’ve never had a job offer from a place with dangerous radiation levels (I check).

    You say “If you think it’s ‘scientifically groundless,’ then why don’t you pack up and move to Fukushima, then?”

    Well, that would be rather impossible. Because, you see, I already live in Fukushima!

    • Roy Warner

      A course in Radiological Emergency Preparedness? An entire course? Impressive. The nation, nay, the world needs such expertise. Such a specialist must be better informed than Sugenoya Akira, a physician who treated Chernobyl victims. He offered to give refuge to children exposed to radiation in Fukushima to protect them from the potential of health risks. Does your understanding of etiology surpasses his? I’m not familiar with the practice of wearing tinfoil hats. Does Dr. Sugenoya wear one? Where is the scientific evidence that it exists? Have you photographs? Testimony? If this practice cannot be verified, doubts inevitably arise in regards to other statements made by those who invoke it.

      • Charles

        Rather than relying “Dr. Sugenoya” for all my information, I just take courses in the subjects, research the radiation levels, and analyze the available data myself. You might make fun of my Radiological Emergency Preparedness course, but my guess is that it’s more training than you’ve received. Of course, now that I’ve written that, you’ll probably claim you have a degree in nuclear physics or something like that. Everyone’s a “BIG DAWG” on the Internet.

        Your rebuttal to my post creates a huge straw man, that I think that all parts of Fukushima are safe (I don’t). I’m talking about how most areas of Japan are safe (including the part of Fukushima that I live in) and most people being paranoid about radiation levels are living in areas far away from eastern Fukushima that are not at significant risk. I acknowledged in my previous post that a few areas very, very close to the reactor might still be dangerous. If you had the reading level of an educated adult native speaker, you would’ve been able to read that. Here, I’ll copy and paste from my previous post:
        “Now, don’t get me wrong, there might be SOME parts of Fukushima (very
        close to the reactor) that are still contaminated at an unacceptable
        level.”

        You seriously don’t know what that figure of speech “tinfoil hat” means? If you don’t know it, then Google it. I spend enough time each week teaching basic English to people who pay me; I have no need or obligation to teach it to some fear monger on the Internet who claims not to know what “tinfoil hat” means.

        If you want to bash Japan, go ahead–there are plenty of things worth bashing. However, the environment minister’s remark isn’t one of them. She was absolutely right.

      • Charles

        Rather than relying “Dr. Sugenoya” for all my information, I just take courses in the subjects, research the radiation levels, and analyze the available data myself. You might make fun of my Radiological Emergency Preparedness course, but my guess is that it’s more training than you’ve received. Of course, now that I’ve written that, you’ll probably claim you have a degree in nuclear physics or something like that. Everyone’s a “BIG DAWG” on the Internet.

        Your rebuttal to my post creates a huge straw man, that I think that all parts of Fukushima are safe (I don’t). I’m talking about how most areas of Japan are safe (including the part of Fukushima that I live in) and most people being paranoid about radiation levels are living in areas far away from eastern Fukushima that are not at significant risk. I acknowledged in my previous post that a few areas very, very close to the reactor might still be dangerous. If you had the reading level of an educated adult native speaker, you would’ve been able to read that. Here, I’ll copy and paste from my previous post:
        “Now, don’t get me wrong, there might be SOME parts of Fukushima (very
        close to the reactor) that are still contaminated at an unacceptable
        level.”

        You seriously don’t know what that figure of speech “tinfoil hat” means? If you don’t know it, then Google it. I spend enough time each week teaching basic English to people who pay me; I have no need or obligation to teach it to some fear monger on the Internet who claims not to know what “tinfoil hat” means.

        If you want to bash Japan, go ahead–there are plenty of things worth bashing. However, the environment minister’s remark isn’t one of them. She was absolutely right.

      • jmdesp

        You know they are many physicians who were in Chernobyl and even who treated children that had thyroid cancer who have views completely opposite to Dr Sugenoya.

        Dr Aurengo in France who is well known for his skeptic views about the effect of low dose radiation was a thyroid specialist who treated children after Chernobyl. Why is he a skeptic then ? Because the sick child from Chernobyl were not exposed to low dose at all, according to the studies quoted by the report from UNSCEAR the average exposure was around 500 mSv, but thousands of people were exposed to more than 1000 mSv, some up to 5000 mSv.

        The famous Dr Yamashita Shunichi actually spent years in Chernobyl, that’s where he concluded that the fear of radiation was much more harmful than the radiation, which lead to his ill-conceived discourse that people would be safe if just they stopped worrying.

  • fromjapan

    Japan’s government and the ruling party always underestimate harm of Contamination to defend profit for industries historically.

    Japan’s shameful “tradition” still continue.

  • Timothy Milhomme

    What is with these people. A small amount of radiation! Fukushima! Really ? whatever you say

  • fromjapan

    While Japan Govt apply “Provisional radioactivity standard” to the Fukushima only,
    They insist on “Safe”.

    Abe Govt of Japan is still deceptive.

  • Hideomi Kuze

    Japan’s government has used double standard about radioactive contamination.

    They use unsafe loose regulation to the Fukushima.

  • Hideomi Kuze

    Japan’s government has used double standard about radioactive contamination.

    They use unsafe loose regulation to the Fukushima.

  • Hideomi Kuze

    Japan’s government has used double standard about radioactive contamination.

    They use unsafe loose regulation to the Fukushima.

  • Hideomi Kuze

    Japan’s government has used double standard about radioactive contamination.

    They use unsafe loose regulation to the Fukushima.

  • Hideomi Kuze

    Japan’s government has used double standard about radioactive contamination.

    They use unsafe loose regulation to the Fukushima.

  • Hideomi Kuze

    Japan’s government has used double standard about radioactive contamination.

    They use unsafe loose regulation to the Fukushima.

  • Hideomi Kuze

    Japan’s government has used double standard about radioactive contamination.

    They use unsafe loose regulation to the Fukushima.

  • Hideomi Kuze

    Japan’s government has used double standard about radioactive contamination.

    They use unsafe loose regulation to the Fukushima.

  • Hideomi Kuze

    Japan’s government has used double standard about radioactive contamination.

    They use unsafe loose regulation to the Fukushima.

  • fromjapan

    Nuclear disaster migrants are forced to return to Fukushima by Govt who want to discontinue compensation.

    • jmdesp

      You know if they don’t want to return, that’s their right of course, but 5 years later we would expect that they would have had enough time to start a new life elsewhere, and not be still dependent on continued compensation ? It’s not like this should be very hard, when unemployment is very low in Japan, and the area around Fukushima was one of the poorest economy of the country, so it should actually be easier to find a job elsewhere than it was there.

  • Nelson Surjon

    Radiophobia ? Yeah sure! We are all so “paranoid” .. see, international legal standards set by the Nuke lobby itself was at 1 mSv/y (20 mSv for nuclear workers and noting that 5 mSv was the benchmark to evacuate people near Chernobyl). BUT, after 311, all these standards meant nothing. Everything changed and 100 mSv was somehow ok. The standard of 20 mSv is still in place in Fukushima only (discriminate much?) for adults as well as CHILDREN. No scientists ever since brought up a true reason or scientific data as to why it is ok now for Japanese children to be contaminated at such levels (internally and externally). Nope … no explanation needed as to why, instead all we have to rely on is a bunch of clowns mocking everyone else who somehow would be worried for their children and insulting them as if they (we) were complete clueless over-emotional morons. I am one of these morons and I have been helping in taking kids away from Fukushima. I will continue to do so and won’t be offended by that LDP’s little soldier, nor by any of you. After all, you are breathing, inhaling and being exposed with the same contaminants as we (I) do. We do have an advantage though; we are protecting our loved ones by choosing not to believe the criminals from the Fukushima Medical University, ETHOS etc … So laugh all you want! We don’t really care at this point. Bottom line; everything over 1 mSv is ILLEGAL and morally wrong. And that ladies and gents is the mother of all truth on this subject. Enjoy your bequerels!

  • Rod Adams

    The minister has nothing to apologize for. She did not blame the people who are afraid, she blamed those who have imposed that fear based on loud campaigns against all doses of radiation no matter how small.

    The groundless fears can be dispelled by clear communications from leaders and knowledgable professions describing the experimental facts revealed during more than 100 years of experience with radiation.

    We know that high doses are harmful and should be avoided. We have just as high a level of certainty about acute doses below 100 mSv. There is no evidence of negative human health effects, but there is a growing body of evidence that doses below that level can stimulate immune responses and cellular level protective measures that provide a positive health effect similar to that received from moderate exercise or proper nutrition that includes adequate levels of necessary vitamins and minerals.

    There are plenty of credentialed people who will vehemently disagree with my stated level of certainty, but unless they are dishonestly motivated by job protection or donations by people interested in promoting competitive technologies, they will not be able to make a statement with solid experimental evidence contradicting me.

    Rod Adams
    Publisher, Atomic Insights

  • nelsonsurjon

    We are not talking about the same source of radiation … but i think you know that already !

  • Sam Gilman

    Thank you – and that’s an excellent blog. I think it’s great the way that you take the issue of numbers and go over what they actually mean. Throwing around numbers confidently without explaining what they actually imply for health or the environment is a classic fear tactic.

    (I doubt I am more knowledgeable than you!)

  • Sam Gilman

    Thank you – and that’s an excellent blog. I think it’s great the way that you take the issue of numbers and go over what they actually mean. Throwing around numbers confidently without explaining what they actually imply for health or the environment is a classic fear tactic.

    (I doubt I am more knowledgeable than you!)

  • Rainer Klute

    No need to excuse for calling something scientifically groundless that is scientifically groundless! If Marukawa should excuse for anything at all, it’s for not confronting the radiation fearmongers more articulate and for not explaining clearly what science says about the biological effects of radiation. No need to worry below 100 millisieverts per year!