Six years after Fukushima began, “normalizing” radiation exposure risks the health of women and children; evacuees are given few options but to return to contamination
BEYOND NUCLEAR PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 8, 2017 (International Women’s Day)
CONTACT: Cindy Folkers, Beyond Nuclear, 240.354.4314
Six years after Fukushima began, “normalizing” radiation exposure risks the health of women and children
Evacuees are given few options but to return to contamination
TAKOMA PARK, MD- Six years after the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe began, Japan is lifting evacuation orders in a narrow radius around the ruined reactors, and removing compensation for evacuees. These evacuees will be moving back to towns that are still contaminated with hazardous radioactivity that can reach 20 times the internationally recommended level for human exposure. Even at the recommended level, most people would end up doubling the annual dose that they normally receive from unavoidable natural background.
Radiation is associated with disease, even at low levels. Females, children and pregnancy are especially vulnerable to radiation damage, but many of these sensitivities are unaccounted for in international recommendations. Despite these unique vulnerabilities, and lack of protection for them, women and children are often accused of “radiophobia”, characterized by nuclear proponents as an irrational fear of radiation exposure—a point highlighted in a recent article in Counterpunch by Beyond Nuclear’s Radiation and Health Hazard Specialist, Cindy Folkers.
“Females, children and pregnancy pay a disproportionate health price for nuclear energy because they are especially vulnerable to radiation damage. When a catastrophe like Fukushima happens, they become targets of ridicule for asking about safety, and often end up socially isolated or worse.
“In reality, science shows that women have every right to express grave concern over exposure to radioactivity without unscientific, misogynistic terms like ‘radiophobia’—or in the case of Japan, ‘radiation brain mom’—being applied to them,” said Folkers.
In the wake of catastrophes that release hazardous man-made radioactivity, national and international agencies have acted to “normalize” radiation exposure by endorsing higher levels of allowable exposures (sometimes up to 20 times recommended levels) as well as encouraging the growing, eating and distributing of contaminated foods.
In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency has recently recommended levels of radioactive contamination that are hundreds, even thousands or more, times higher after a nuclear incident. Under these Orwellian-named Protective Action Guides (PAGs), people could be exposed to these unsafe levels for years.
“These attempts to ‘normalize’ radiation exposure, by telling people it’s alright to get more radiation than they already are, will continue to leave women and kids unprotected both internationally, and in the event of another nuclear catastrophe in the U.S.,” Folkers contends.
According to the first-of-its-kind United Nations investigation linking health impacts of industrial radiation from a nuclear catastrophe to human rights, economic convenience is an unacceptable reason for increasing allowable levels of exposure post accident. A just-released report details how the nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima, and the official response to it, continues to be in violation of women’s and children’s human rights. This report is by Kendra Ulrich, a senior global energy campaigner for Greenpeace Japan, and a Beyond Nuclear board member.
“On this International Women’s Day, we need to remember, women’s voices should count for more, not less. The fact is, women and children are more vulnerable to radiation’s harmful impacts, and the life-stage of pregnancy is uniquely sensitive. Since they pay the highest price for nuclear power and its releases, they should have a greater say in the energy decisions we currently face, and in how we protect those whose lives are devastated by nuclear catastrophes,” says Folkers.
Also see the blog by Kendra Ulrich of Greenpeace Japan, as well as the video of some of the women fighting for compensation (please like and share it!).