Case collection period: October 21, 2011 through November 10, 2011
Total number of reported cases: 192
Number of reported cases involving children: 46
Total number of reported symptoms: 140
Number of reported symptoms involving children: 49
1. Distribution map of individuals who reported cases
This map reflects where the reporting individuals were located, which was intended as a means of verifying which areas had the occurrences. If the reporting individuals had relocated to another area, the area where they began to have the onset of symptoms was used. Also, 14% of the reporting individuals (27 out of 192) did not fill out the location they resided in, so they are not reflected in this map. However, due to the similarity of the reported symptoms, it is considered that almost all that did not specify their location would be distributed in the areas shown.
The red circle shows Fukushima nuclear power plant, and it was encircled by concentric circles every 100 kilometers up to 600 kilometers. The area with the highest number of reports was Tokyo (59 cases), followed by Kanagawa (24 cases), Saitama (15 cases), Chiba (11 cases), and the rest each had fewer than 10 cases. Main reason that the report from the area around Fukushima-- which was anticipated to have a high number of case reports--had only a few is thought to be due to the unstable daily lives of people whose ability to communicate with the outside world was deeply impacted by the dislocation and chaos following both the natural disaster and the nuclear accident. This rather suggests the severity of the damage. Also, within the same concentric circle, even if it’s not colored, it is expected that there are hot spots and people might have symptoms.
The reason the radioactively contaminated area is widespread seems to be due to the size of the accident as well as the weather pattern. What had a large influence was the direction of the wind immediately after the accident and also the two gigantic typhoons at the end of September that crept up north as if they were stalling over Honshu.
Food is one of the reasons for the reported cases from unexpected areas outside the radioactively contaminated area. Because the government raised the permissible levels of radiation in food, the food with higher levels of radiation contamination has spread. This makes it difficult to secure the safety of food.
Also, the government is attempting to incinerate the contaminated debris from Fukushima all over the nation. It is feared this spread of the contaminated debris would bring new damage by radioactive contamination to what’s left of the safe areas and healthy people.
Thus, judging from the steps the government has taken, it cannot be assumed that, in this case of the Fukushima nuclear accident, some degree of safety is secured if one is far away from the accident as in the case of Chernobyl. It’s not uncommon that the cases far away are very serious. Also, comparison with Chernobyl gives people awareness that “It’s safe if it’s far away” and makes them unconcerned about the internal radiation exposure from food.
This writer, who categorizes these cases sent in daily, has a sense that based on these cases this Fukushima nuclear accident is at least two to three times the size of the Chernobyl accident: Tokyo area, which is 200 to 250 kilometers from the Fukushima nuclear plant, is as contaminated as Chernobyl. In other words, it is understood that with the highly contaminated area at Fukushima nuclear plant as an origin, the contaminated area extends a total of 600 kilometers, approximately 200 kilometers to the east and approximately 400 kilometers to the west, in an irregular shape.
1. Distribution map of individuals who reported cases
A composite diagram was created as there was a match between the cesium 137 soil contamination map published by the National Academy of Sciences and the areas where the cases were reported. The areas where the occurrence of the cases was reported are the same as the November report, and they closely correlate with the cesium 137 soil contamination map and indicated by purple, green, and red arrows.
2. Human diagrams and bar graphs showing symptom category by the organ system
This figure shows all the categorized all the symptoms in the reported cases and the number of their incidences, superimposed on a human diagram. As obvious from a glance at this diagram, it is safe to say the symptoms cover the entire body, not just occurring in specific parts and organs.
The distribution map of the individuals reporting cases in section 1 shows that symptomatic individuals exist in a widespread area. Also this map implies that medical facilities in any area and medical personnel in any specialty need to add to their medical routine the perspective from “radiation contamination” and that the improvement of the symptoms will not happen without cooperation of physicians beyond specialties.
Those who have symptoms visit the specialists or medical facilities which are geared towards addressing the specific symptoms that they want to improve the most. Even if they might be experiencing weight loss, fatigue or paresthesia, if they want to prioritize gum bleeding, they will visit their dentists first. For some, it might be ophthalmologists, obstetrician/gynecologists, or dermatologists. As it might be generalized, it is no longer the case that a thyroid specialist would be the most knowledgeable about the symptoms of radiation contamination.
The impression based on this writer’s repeated verification is that the presumption is that in the last six months symptoms appeared first, needless to say, within the highly contaminated area in Fukushima region within the 100-kilometer range, but also in small children under age 6, children younger than high school age, adults with pre-existing medical conditions outside the 200-kilometer range. This writer has not received specific reports regarding the occurrence of the cases. However, in the same time period, Mr. Kota Kinoshita of the Radiation Defense Project, who is involved in the radiation contamination issues, has received following reports from individuals and medical personnel: abortions of anencephalic babies after the nuclear accident; a higher incidence of newborns with medical problems; and nose-bleeding that would fill a washing basin bowl. Moreover, it is anticipated in the next six months all the cases would worsen and become more serious. In addition, it is anticipated that healthy individuals in the contaminated area as well as individuals outside the contaminated area who are unconcerned about food or radiation contamination would begin to see declining health. Next month, the first babies since the nuclear accident will be born, and it is thought that there may be some new symptomatic cases. Either way, the seriousness of the cases, the area of occurrences, and the speed of the spread far exceed what happened after the Chernobyl accident.
A primary factor for the onset of cases can be largely divided into two types: ingestion through food and attachment of contaminating material in the air with skin and mucous membrane. An average number of symptoms per person is 3.96 in the whole group and 3 in the children’s group, but one person had more than 10. Also, symptoms in skin and mucous membrane which involve such things as skin and bronchi came to the top in both the whole group as well as in the children’s group. Skin symptoms include eczema, urticaria, allergies, and worsening of atopy, and the mucous membrane was involved in bronchi, nose, eyes, and mouth, in that order.
3. Bar graph showing symptoms categorized by systems (whole)
4. Human diagram showing symptoms categorized by systems (children)
5. Bar graph showing symptoms categorized by systems (children)
As an event in the last six months, evacuation/relocation began especially in families with children. The percentage of relocation was 6.7 % (13 out of 192 cases). The number one evacuation/relocation destination was Osaka, which is followed by Hyogo, Ooita, western Yamanashi, Yamaguchi, Okinawa and Fukuoka.
There was a single worrisome report regarding relocation: they evacuated from Ibaraki to Aichi but returned to Ibaraki because the radiation level of the house in Aichi was higher than in Ibaraki. It is thought that contaminated areas are coexisting with uncontaminated areas at 350 kilometers to 450 kilometers, and there might be hot spots in some places. In such places, people’s judgment is questionable with recognition of safety coexisting with feeling unsafe. Personally, if there is a chronic illness such as atopy, I believe it is necessary to pre-check the radiation level of the relocation destination if within a 500-kilometer range.
Recovery in cases due to relocation depends on the degree of symptoms. Therefore, it is important to evacuate/relocate as soon as possible. If an onset is seen at the relocation destination, or if the case was severe, recovery might be difficult even after evacuation/relocation.
When evacuating/relocating, taking contaminated cars not only might trigger re-onset of the symptoms at the relocation destination, but also makes it difficult to secure the clean zone. Even taking clothing from contaminated areas has been reported to cause recurrences of cough as soon as the boxes were opened.
When it comes to temporary evacuation, symptoms might resolve or improve at the evacuation destination, but they recur 100% when returning back home. Temporary evacuation might be effective in terms of physical and mental aspects while there, but it does not lead to a complete resolution. It would be the best if the temporary evacuation was the step towards evacuation/relocation. There are some cases which become exhausted financially and mentally after repeated temporary evacuation.
Seeking Medical Care
Of the reported cases, 30% (58 out of 192 cases) have visited medical facilities for specific symptoms or general malaise. This includes regular check-ups. Some improved after seeking medical care, but on the other hand, some improved and recurred, whereas some do not have improvements. Also, because of multiple symptoms, most tend to visit multiple specialists.
In both relocation and seeking medical care, it can be said that people’s awareness is slowly changing from understanding the radiation contamination to actually causing some action.
Research and report Shino Yasutomo
Translated by Dr. Yuri Hiranuma