Did Fukushima fallout affect the health of U.S. infants?


Two years after the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear accident that devastated Japan, we continue to keep a close eye on the secondary impacts of radiation, not just in Asia but also here in the United States. We’ve been keeping tabs on U.S. sailors who were exposed to radiation during relief missions and reporting that radioactive fish are still turning up across the Pacific, long after the Fukushima meltdown. But now comes one of the more disturbing reports I’ve seen.

A respected medical journal has reported that American infants in Hawaii and elsewhere along the Pacific Coast may have felt negative health effects due to exposure from fallout from the nuclear accident on the other side of the ocean:

Radioactive isotopes blasted from the failed reactors may have given kids born in Hawaii and along the American West Coast health disorders which, if left untreated, can lead to permanent mental and physical handicaps.

Children born in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington between one week and 16 weeks after the meltdowns began in March 2011 were 28 percent more likely to suffer from congenital hypothyroidism than were kids born in those states during the same period one year earlier, a new study shows. In the rest of the U.S. during that period in 2011, where radioactive fallout was less severe, the risks actually decreased slightly compared with the year before.

 Substantial quantities of the radioisotope iodine-131 were produced by the meltdowns, then wafted over the Pacific Ocean and fell over Hawaii, the American West Coast, and other Pacific countries in rain and snow, reaching levels hundreds of times greater than those considered safe.

After entering our bodies, radioactive iodine gathers in our thyroids. Thyroids are glands that release hormones that control how we grow. In babies, including those not yet born, such radiation can stunt the development of body and brain. The condition is known as congenital hypothyroidism. It is treatable when detected early.

The piece notes that juvenile hypothyroidism has been well established in medicine as connected to radioactive fallout, particularly in the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown in the former Soviet Union. The authors also note that considerable more research needs to performed before one can be certain of the link. although the early evidence is certainly disturbing. As Grist notes, we’re still waiting on a number of key statistical indicators from the the timeframe of the Fukushima accident, including including fetal deaths, premature births, low weight births, neonatal deaths, infant deaths, and birth defects.

Still, combined with the other evidence that’s accumulated, there’s good reason to be increasingly concerned about the links between nuclear safety and radiologiocal health, and to question whether nuclear power should be part of our future.

To learn more from Grist about fallout from the Fukushima nuclear accident sickening American infants, please read: http://grist.org/news/fukushima-meltdown-appears-to-have-sickened-american-infants/

You can reads the original article from the Open Journal of Pediatrics here: http://www.scirp.org/journal/PaperInformation.aspx?PaperID=28599

To read my Dec. 27, 2012, post on U.S. sailors suing over radiation exposure, please check out: https://www.stuarthsmith.com/u-s-navy-sailors-sue-over-exposure-to-fukushima-radiation/

 Check out my Oct. 29, 2012, post on radioactive fish in the Pacific: https://www.stuarthsmith.com/you-might-even-say-it-glows-radioactive-fish-still-linked-to-fukushima/

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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