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.

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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid