Fukushima: thyroid growths in children spark concern

Following disturbing findings of thyroid growths in children of Fukushima prefecture, Japan’s Environment Ministry this week began thyroid gland tests on children in Nagasaki prefecture, across the central island of Honshu to the south.

Those children will serve as a control group for kids undergoing similar tests in Fukushima prefecture. Fukushima’s prefectural government one year ago launched what it intends to be a lifelong thyroid gland test program for 360,000 children who were aged 18 or under when the disaster began in March 2011. The Fukushima screening have been conducted on 115,000 children—about one third of the total number of children that will require testing. In July, it was revelaed that over 35% of those screened were found to have abnormal thyroid growths.

The big majority, slightly over 35%, had cysts 20 millimeters or smaller, and were classed as “A2.” A further 0.5%, totalling 186 youngsters, had nodules larger than 5.1 millimeters. Parents protested lack of transparency on disclosure of the results. Parents had to explicitly put in requests to receive copies of thyroid images from the tests. Some parents of “A2” children are expressed concerns that the next round of tests for their children won’t happen until after two years.

The program draws on the finding that cases of thyroid cancer soared among children after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. That survey found that 40% of some 96,000 children for whom test results are available developed thyroid gland problems, such as nodules, or lumps, and cysts. One child was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

Officialdom espoused the requisite denialist platitudes. “Yes, 35.8 percent of children in the study have lumps or cysts, but this is not the same as cancer,” said Naomi Takagi, an associate professor at Fukushima University Medical School Hospital, which administered the tests. “We do not know that cause of this, but it is hard to believe that is due to the effects of radiation. This is an early test and we will only see the effects of radiation exposure after four or five years.” (Asahi Shinbun, Nov. 20; Japan Daily Press, Nov. 7; The Telegraph, July 19)

Australian pediatrician and anti-nuclear advocate Dr. Helen Caldicott acknowledged that the high rate of abnormal growths is very anomolous, as it usually takes five to 70 years for the medical implications of radiation to manifest. But she insisted that this was all the more reason for the international medical community become involved. She told Business Insider, July 19: “The data should be made available. And they should be consulting with international experts ASAP. And the lesions on the ultrasounds should all be biopsied and they’re not being biopsied. And if they’re not being biopsied then that’s ultimate medical irresponsibility. Because if some of these children have cancer and they’re not treated they’re going to die.”

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