News / Asia

WHO: Health Risk from Fukushima Radiation Exposure Low

A radiation monitor indicates 102.00 microsieverts per hour at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)'s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan, Feb. 20, 2012.
A radiation monitor indicates 102.00 microsieverts per hour at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)'s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan, Feb. 20, 2012.
Lisa Schlein
The World Health Organization reports the health risks for people exposed to radiation in the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan are low.  The nearly 200-page WHO report represents the first international global assessment of health risks from the nuclear accident following the earthquake and tsunami, which struck Fukushima on March 11, 2011. 

International experts conducted the study over the past two years.  The experts, chosen by the World Health Organization, looked at the potential lifetime risk of so-called solid cancers including leukemia, breast cancer and thyroid cancer. 

The experts estimated risks in the general population in the highly contaminated Fukushima Prefecture, as well as inside and outside Japan.  They also assessed the health risks to emergency workers who were exposed to radiation at the power plant in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.

WHO Director for Public Health and Environment, Maria Neira, says the assessment finds no discernible increase in health risks from the Fukushima event in countries outside Japan. 

With respect to inside Japan, she says the lifetime risk for some cancers may be somewhat elevated above what would normally be expected during a person’s lifetime.  The information was gathered in certain age and sex groups that were living in the most-affected areas.

“Those levels in the Fukushima Prefecture were too low to affect development or outcome of pregnancy and no increases as a result of anti-natal radiation exposure in a spontaneous abortion or miscarriage or perinatal mortality or congenital defects or cognitive impairments are anticipated,” said Neira. 

In the most contaminated location, the report estimates the increased risks of all solid cancers, over what would normally be expected, are around four percent in females exposed as infants.  It expects a six percent rise of breast cancer in females, about a seven percent increase in leukemia in males, and a rise in thyroid cancer of up to 70 percent in females exposed as infants.

The report finds around two-thirds of emergency workers are estimated to have cancer risks in line with the general population, while one-third is estimated to have an increased risk.

During the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, concerns were raised about the contamination of food and water.  Acting Director for WHO’s Food Safety and Zoonosis Department, Angelika Tritscher, says these concerns persist.  She says monitoring is continuous because of the long lifetime of the nuclear environment.

“The external exposure sources air and through the ground and the cloud, while this is relatively decreasing, relatively proportionally, the ingestion continues to be a concern and monitoring has to continue on this,” said Tritscher.

The WHO report does not deal with the mental or psychological impact of the Fukushima accident and its possible consequences on health and well-being.  But, the experts agree these should not be ignored and people affected by the disaster should be monitored and provided with therapeutic help if needed.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs