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

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say 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.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid