Seventy-six people exposed to radiation in the 1945 U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki filed applications en masse at seven prefectural governments and in Tokyo on Tuesday, asking to be recognized as sufferers of radiation sickness and calling for a more lenient recognition system.

The Japan Confederation of A-bomb and H-bomb Sufferers’ Organizations, which is backing the applicants, has called the current recognition system “too severe and inhumane.”

“Many A-bomb victims gave up hope to be officially recognized as sufferers under the current, severe system,” a confederation official said, “but they have decided to apply as they are suffering more as they grow older.”

The applications were filed Tuesday in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Hokkaido, Aichi, Ishikawa, Wakayama and Kumamoto prefectures as well as Tokyo.

Critics believe the current recognition system is too severe for the A-bomb victims, or hibakusha, as the standards determining whether illnesses are linked to the bombings are stringent and too mechanical in application.

To date, those who have been successful were able to prove that they were within the bounds of specific zones in Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the time of bombings, or have been certified as having been within 2 km of the blasts’ epicenters within two weeks of the attacks.

Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Chikara Sakaguchi, however, remains adamant that no revisions are necessary.

As of the end of March, only 2,169 people were recognized as being sufferers of radiation sickness, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

If the applicants’ symptoms are recognized by the government as being caused by exposure to radiation from the atomic bombings on Aug. 6 and Aug. 9, 1945, they will be eligible to receive special medical benefits of 139,600 yen per month.

The applicants said they will file a class action suit if their applications are rejected. Meanwhile, a further 80 A-bomb victims whose applications were previously rejected are ready to join, the confederation said.

Only 30 percent of such applications have been approved since fiscal 1993. In fiscal 1999 and 2000, the approval rate topped 50 percent before falling to 26 percent in fiscal 2001, the confederation said.

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