News / Asia

One Tokyo Neighborhood Still Oblivious to Radiation Hot Spot

Boys playing baseball adjacent to shrubbery where a high level of radioactive cesium has been detected, Edogawa, Japan, October 15, 2011.
Boys playing baseball adjacent to shrubbery where a high level of radioactive cesium has been detected, Edogawa, Japan, October 15, 2011.
TEXT SIZE - +

Residents in the greater Tokyo metropolitan area, the world's most populous with about 33 million people, have taken radiation monitoring into their own hands. They are making some unexpected discoveries following the March tsunami damage to the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant.

Uninformed parents

Just meters from where a hot spot of radioactive cesium was confirmed days before by a private laboratory, a Little League baseball game was underway Sunday.  

A family strolling past the Edogawa City Baseball Stadium, near where high levels of radiation has been detected this month, Japan, October 15, 2011.
A family strolling past the Edogawa City Baseball Stadium, near where high levels of radiation has been detected this month, Japan, October 15, 2011.

The players, their parents and the spectators, mostly neighborhood residents, unaware that some of the dirt here has tested equivalent to four times the minimum level of the contaminated zones from the 1986 Chernobyl accident in Ukraine.

While the news about the Edogawa municipal ballpark complex had been reported overseas, including on the front page of Saturday's New York Times, it had yet to be mentioned in Japan's mainstream media.

Between two of the ball fields, the Odaka family was walking in a small park with their four year-old daughter.

Odaka (who wanted to be identified only by his family name) says he and his wife had not heard anything about the radiation here, nearly 250 kilometers from the reactors that leaked radiation in the days after a huge earthquake and tsunami hit Japan's northeastern Pacific coast on March 11.

He says he would like to know more about the source of the information relayed to him by VOA News. He says the government should evaluate this information and properly inform the public.

If the area is radioactive, then the government, he adds, should decontaminate the area.

Concerns

Two mothers watching their elementary school age boys playing in a league baseball game, also expressed surprise when asked by VOA News about the adjacent contaminated soil.  

The women agree that they have heard numerous general reports about radiation since the March disaster, but felt they could not be overly concerned or they would not be able to go on with their daily lives.

But this is the first time they have heard about a high level of radiation in their own neighborhood. In the nearby city of Yokohama, higher than normal levels of radioactive strontium have been found at three locations.

The suspect materials were analyzed by a private company in Yokohama that charges entities to analyze soil, sediment and food samples for various types of radiation. The Isotope Research Institute is reported to have analyzed thousands of samples sent by citizens, ranging from swimming pool water to breast milk, in the past seven months.

Hot spots

Another hot spot has been uncovered in a children's theme park in Chiba Prefecture, which is adjacent to Tokyo. The reported level of radiation there is higher than in an evacuated village in Fukushima, 45 kilometers from the crippled plant.

Latest Japanese goverment-released radiation dose map. Hot spots are being found far outside the expected zones of elevated radiation.
Latest Japanese goverment-released radiation dose map. Hot spots are being found far outside the expected zones of elevated radiation.

Citizen monitoring last week also detected abnormal levels of airborne radiation on a sidewalk on the path to a primary school in an upscale Tokyo neighborhood (in Setagaya ward).  That case, however, appears not related to the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Government officials say the radiation source was found under the floor of a nearby house, old bottles containing radium powder. Radium was previously used as a luminous paint to make watch and clock faces glow in the dark.

The incidents have prompted Japan's government to order the science and environment ministries to boost monitoring of radiation levels.

But local and central government officials say the isolated hot spots outside Fukushima are not a cause for alarm because no one spends such an extended period of time at such spots to absorb doses that would harm their health.

They also are expressing skepticism about some of the highest reported readings from citizens, saying they could be erroneous as uncalibrated small dosimeters can be very inaccurate.  

Radiation in sea life off the Fukushima coast and its effects on the food chain also remain a concern. Researchers at the Tokyo University of Marine Sciences and Technology say samples of plankton collected in July exhibited high levels of radioactive cesium. Many fish feed on plankton.

But the scientists say it is too soon to conclude a serious risk to humans. Some species of fish caught off Japan's Pacific Coast since the reactor meltdowns have also been found to be contaminated and Japanese authorities moved to halt those fish from being sold.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid