Resources for Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Edit
Corrected on 21 March to reflect updated alert level.
Over a week after the magnitude 9 earthquake and the massive tsunamis it triggered, information continues to coalesce on the health risks from theFukushima Daiichi nuclear power station explosion. Here’s a roundup of what various people are saying about radiation and other threats.
1. On millisieverts and cancer
Radiation fears may be greatly exaggerated. Everyone is exposed to small amounts of radiation every day just from living on earth or flying in an airplane.
That all adds up to about 2.4 units, known as millisieverts (mSv), a year – though it varies from 1 to 10 mSv depending on where you live. Theaverage American absorbs 6.2 mSv a year. US guidelines recommend evacuation with 10 to 50 mSv.
In Tokyo, 150 miles from the nuclear plant, readings rose about 10 times above the norm. That’s 0.809 microsieverts (not milli) per hour – or about10 times less than a chest X-ray.
A Japanese broadcast reported 0.17 mSv per hour 30 km northwest of the reactor. There’re also reports of 0.012 mSv/hr in Fukushima City, 60 km away from the plant.
In terms of long term health effects, it’s generally acceptable to make a worst-case estimate by multiplying the dose by hours in the day and days in the year. That’s roughly 1,500 mSv/yr around 30 km away and 100 mSv/yr in Fukushima City. An exposure rate of 100 mSv/yr is considered the threshold at which cancer rates begin to increase, and 1,500 mSv/yr is certainly dangerous.
To be lethal, the blast of radiation would have to top 5,000 mSv delivered within minutes. Measurements at the damaged plants are at 400 mSv.Unprotected workers may have been exposed to about 4 times the level for elevated cancer risk (or 20 times the annual exposure for uranium miners).
Fukushima was rated a 4 on a scale of nuclear incidents, but that level has been raised to a 5. Three Mile Island rated a 5 and had no impact on cancer incidence in the region. Chernobyl was a 7, and people exposed to radioactive fallout showed higher rates of thyroid cancer because the gland sequesters radioactive iodine.
2. And iodine
Potassium iodide, which there are ample supplies of, prevents radiation poisoning of the thyroid gland. The drug blocks the uptake of radioactive iodine by filling the gland with a safer form of iodine.
But potassium iodide can interfere with the body’s normal production of thyroid hormone, leading to hypothyroidism, or can provoke an already diseased thyroid gland to make too much of the hormone.
3. Shower off the plume
Outside the immediate vicinity of the nuclear site, the primary danger is airborne radioactive material released into an atmospheric plume. That material can pose additional hazards if inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the skin to emit radiation from inside the body.
“If there’s a plume that passes overhead and some of the material precipitates down, you may be externally contaminated, but it’s nothing that a change of clothes and a shower can’t take care of,”according to a medical physicist from the University of California, Davis.
4. Food contamination?
Many countries have started to test food imported from Japan for radiation.But radiation experts say there was virtually no chance of major contamination of industrial products, even if the leakage were to worsen. Particles like the ones containing escaped radioactive iodine or cesium can be deposited on products, but given the nature of the manufacturing industries in Japan, there is little danger of contamination reaching harmful levels.
5. Other (ignored) health threats
Radiation fears divert attention from other (and worse) health threats. These include disrupted supplies of safe drinking water and the disposal of sewage to prevent outbreaks of diseases like typhoid and cholera.
Image of the ocean floor by Japan from NOAA
Related on SmartPlanet:
- Just how safe are America’s nuclear reactors?
- A meltdown-proof nuclear reactor may alleviate fears
- Japan’s partial meltdowns and the future of nuclear power in the U.S.
- With radiation levels high in Japan, radiation exposure is explained
- Japanese nuclear plant damaged in earthquake, needs coolant
Anshuman Bhardwaj 05:10, March 28, 2011 (UTC)
2011 Earthquake, Tsunami, and Radiation Release in Japan: Health Information for Expatriates and Students Living in JapanEdit
This information is current as of today, March 28, 2011 at 01:05 EDTEdit
Released: March 17, 2011
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission recommends that all Americans within 50 miles of the Fukushima reactors should evacuate the area.
On March 11, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake occurred off the east coast of Japan. A subsequent tsunami struck the coast, killing thousands of people and causing serious, widespread damage to buildings, roads, and power lines, particularly along the east coast of the Tohoku region. Nuclear power plants damaged by the earthquake and tsunami have emitted radioactive material into the environment. If you are a US citizen living or studying in Japan, CDC recommends that you take precautions to protect your health.
Damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant following the earthquake and tsunami has resulted in an ongoing leak of radiation from this facility. The Japanese government has evacuated hundreds of thousands of residents of Fukushima Prefecture living within 20 km (12 miles) of the nuclear power plant. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission recommends that all Americans remain a minimum of 80 km (50 miles) away from the plant. At this time, the risk of exposure to radiation and the risk of contamination from radioactive materials are believed to be low, especially for anyone outside a 50-mile radius of the nuclear power plant.
If you believe that you have been exposed to radiation, seek medical care right away. If you have already returned to the United States, explain that you have traveled to Japan and might have been exposed to radiation.
Floodwaters, downed power lines, wet electrical outlets, interrupted gas lines, and debris all pose health risks. Any wound or rash can become infected, so clean any wound thoroughly with soap and water and have it evaluated as soon as possible by a health care professional. Wear sturdy, thick-soled shoes to protect your feet in tsunami-affected areas. Avoid downed power lines.
Because of the tremendous devastation and loss of life and the worry about radiation, you may find the situation extremely stressful. Keeping items of comfort, such as family photos, favorite music, or materials that provide spiritual support nearby can offer comfort in such situations. Checking in with family members and close friends from time to time can also be a source of support. For detailed information about mental health resources after a disaster, visithttp://www.bt.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/.
Food and Water PrecautionsEdit
Although travelers’ diarrhea is generally considered to be a low risk in Japan, disruptions caused by the tsunami could have contaminated water sources. You should follow basic food and water precautions in affected areas: drink only bottled beverages, eat only food that is cooked and served hot, and eat raw fruits and vegetables only if you have washed and peeled them yourself. For more information on travelers’ diarrhea, visithttp://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/travelersdiarrhea_g.htm.
Returning to the United StatesEdit
The United States is not evacuating citizens from Japan. In areas not affected by the tsunami and outside the nuclear power plant evacuation zone, the threat to health is currently thought to be minimal. However, US citizens who wish to leave Japan are encouraged to use commercial flights. International commercial carriers continue to offer regular flights from numerous Japanese airports.
For more information on the tsunami, visit http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/tsunamis/. For more information on radiation emergencies, visithttp://www.bt.cdc.gov/radiation/contamination.asp. For travel advice during a natural disaster, visit http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/content/sick-during-trip.aspx#disaster. For information on seeking health care abroad, visithttp://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2010/chapter-2/health-care-abroad-for-the-ill-traveler.aspx.
- Page last reviewed: March 17, 2011
- Page last updated: March 17, 2011
- Page created: March 17, 2011
- Content source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID)
Division of Global Migration and Quarantine (DGMQ)
Anshuman Bhardwaj 05:07, March 28, 2011 (UTC) Edit
Japan: health after the earthquake Edit
LINKS: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(11)60368-1/fulltextThe magnitude 9·0 earthquake that hit the northeast coast of Honshu at 2·46 pm on March 11 has shocked TV viewers worldwide. The unstoppable force of the tsunami that followed was a hitherto rarely seen spectacle—and tragedy. Estimates suggest that as many as 10 000 people may have died. Half a million people have been made homeless and the country has been plunged into a state of emergency. The Japanese Government has responded calmly and carefully to the catastrophe. But the very real danger of radiation exposure now represents a sinister further complication facing Japan's political leaders.Although the earthquake caused huge structural damage, fires now seem largely under control and most hospitals are fully operational. Over 1 million households are still without electricity or running water, but those numbers are falling fast. The government acted quickly by establishing an emergency management committee, led by the Prime Minister. A disaster medical assistance team activated 120 field units, with a further 119 on standby. Food, water, blankets, and portable latrines have been widely distributed to those affected. The international response has also been impressive, with at least ten countries sending additional rescue teams.The disaster is bad enough. But the multiple explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station have caused temporary increases in radiation outside the affected reactor units. WHO immediately sought help from its Radiation Emergency Medical Preparedness and Assistance Network—40 specialist institutions expert in radiation emergency medicine. WHO's task in this situation is to assess the public health risk and provide technical guidance and assistance. It has done so, reporting that although the public health risk is small, conditions could change. What happens over the next few days depends on whether further radiation is released, as well as the weather.In the coming weeks, Japan will inevitably enter a period of profound mourning and reflection. WHO might consider convening experts to review the consequences for human safety of nuclear energy, and the wider lessons to be learned from recent earthquakes. The mounting anxiety about events in Japan demands a calm but considered international, as well as national, response.Full-size image (38K) AP Photo/The Yomiuri Shimbun, Osamu Kanazawa
Anshuman Bhardwaj 05:07, March 28, 2011 (UTC)
Statement on Japan earthquake and tsunamis from World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick Edit
Japan nuclear blast: Fresh blast in Japan n-plant; 2,000 more bodies foundhttp://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2011-03-14/news/28688463_1_japan-nuclear-blast-reactor-industrial-safety-agency
Anshuman Bhardwaj 08:25, March 17, 2011 (UTC)
Disaster could cost Japan $235 billion: WBank Edit
By Martin Abbugao (AFP)
SINGAPORE — Japan's massive earthquake and tsunami could cost its economy up to $235 billion, or 4.0 percent of output, and reconstruction may take five years, the World Bank said Monday.
"If history is any guide, real GDP growth will be negatively affected through mid-2011," the World Bank said in its latest East Asia and Pacific Economic Update report.
But growth should pick up in subsequent quarters "as reconstruction efforts, which could last five years, accelerate", it added.
The lower end of the World Bank's estimate of the twin disasters' impact was $122 billion, equivalent to 2.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
Since the natural disasters struck on March 11, Japan has also had to grapple with a nuclear power plant crisis in Fukushima, but the World Bank did not mention the atomic issue in its assessment of the economic damage.
Japanese financial markets were closed Monday. On Friday, Japan and its fellow G7 rich nations vowed to intervene in currency markets to stem the yen's rise and support Japan's economy.
The dollar immediately strengthened after the move and was trading at 80.90 yen in morning Asian trade Monday, up from 80.59 in New York on Friday.
Japan's GDP grew 3.9 percent in 2010, when it was overtaken by China as the world's second-biggest economy. But Japan has been mired in a malaise for years, since a property bubble imploded in the early 1990s.
Vikram Nehru, the World Bank's chief regional economist, said the Japan disasters would affect the rest of Asia but it was too early to give estimates of the cost to the region.
"In the immediate future, the biggest impact will be in terms of trade and finance," he told reporters in Singapore.
The World Bank noted that after the 1995 Kobe earthquake, Japan's trade slowed only for a few quarters, with imports recovering fully within a year and exports rebounding to 85 percent of pre-quake levels in the same period.
"But this time around, disruption to production networks, especially in automotive and electronics industries, could continue to pose problems (beyond one year)," the report added.
The World Bank said developing East Asia's trade with Japan accounted for about 9.0 percent of the region's total external trade in the past five years.
It estimated exports from the region could slow by 0.75-1.5 percent if Japan's GDP shrank 0.25-0.5 percent.
The auto and electronics industries are already feeling the impact from Japan's deadliest natural disaster since 1923, with production at major companies including Toyota and Sony disrupted.
Thai car exporters who buy Japan-made parts only have enough stocks to last until April while factories in the disaster-hit country are experiencing parts shortages sourced from the devastated northeast coastal region.
GM Korea, the South Korean unit of General Motors, plans to scale back production as it braces for a possible lack of Japanese parts, Dow Jones in Seoul reported Monday.
In the electronics sector, prices of memory chips have shot up by more than 20 percent in some segments, the World Bank said.
Japan supplies up to 36 percent of the world's memory chips.
The World Bank also indicated that reconstruction efforts by Japan may affect East Asian countries holding yen-denominated liabilities, and the foreign direct investment (FDI) by Japanese firms to these economies.
It said one-quarter of the region's developing economies have long-term debt denominated in yen ranging from eight percent in China to roughly 60 percent in Thailand.
"A one percent appreciation in the Japanese yen translates into a $250 million increase in annual debt servicing on yen-denominated liabilities held by East Asia?s developing countries," the World Bank said.
"At this stage, it is unclear how the disaster will affect Japanese outward FDI, but it may dent the pace of overseas investment as the country's focus turns inward on reconstruction."
Copyright © 2011 AFP. All rights reserved.
Anshuman Bhardwaj 08:00, March 21, 2011 (UTC)
Japan tsunami: Toll tops 10,000 two weeks after quake Edit
The death toll from Japan's 11 March earthquake and tsunami has topped 10,000, police say.
More than 17,440 people are listed as missing, and 2,775 as injured.
Many hundreds of thousands of people remain homeless, short of food, water and shelter after the magnitude 9.0 quake shattered communities.
At the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant work is continuing to find the source of escaping vapour which has caused fears about food and water purity.
Engineers are hoping to re-start generators to run vital cooling equipment for nuclear rods in the six-reactor plant at Fukushima.
Two workers at the Fukushima Daiichi plant were taken to hospital after being exposed to high levels of radiation.
The government has ordered new safety measures at the plant after it emerged the workers had not been wearing the correct protective boots and had ignored a radiation alarm.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which runs the nuclear plant, has said a cold shutdown may still take a month.
"We are still in the process of assessing the damage at the plant, so that we can't put a deadline on when the cooling operations will work again," a TEPCO spokesman told AFP.
The plant is 250km (155 miles) north-east of the capital, Tokyo. The government has declared a 20km exclusion zone and evacuated tens of thousands of people.
Those living up to 30km away have been told to stay indoors to minimise exposure.
Radiation levels in Tokyo's water supply have now fallen, but remain high in other areas of northern Japan.
People in Fukushima prefecture have been told not to eat 11 types of green leafy vegetables grown locally because of contamination worries.
Demand at Tokyo's usually busy Tsukiji fish market has dropped dramatically.
Importers of Japanese products are finding low levels of radiation in some food stuffs; though unsettling, the amounts found have in no cases been life-threatening.
Singapore's Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority said it had found small levels of contamination in Japanese mustard, parsley and two other plants imported from the prefectures of Tochigi, Ibaraki, Chiba and Ehime.
Singapore, Hong Kong, and other Asian importers have already placed bans on the import of vegetables, seafood and milk products from Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma prefectures.
Australia, the European Union, the United States and Russia have followed suit.
Shipping has also been affected: Hapag-Lloyd container shipping line is among a handful of companies that have said they will temporarily avoid sailing to Yokohama Port, inTokyo Bay.
Most of Japan's oil terminals remain open, Inchcape Shipping Services was quoted as saying.
The Chinese news agency, Xinhua, said abnormal radiation was found on a ship coming from japan to Xiamen port in Fujian province.
Although damaged by the tsunami, 12 out of 15 ports in north-eastern Japan have started functioning again.
At least 18,000 houses were destroyed and 130,000 damaged by the quake and ensuing tsunami, and about 250,000 people are living in emergency shelters.
The Japanese government has said it will cost as much as 25 trillion yen ($309bn; £189bn) to rebuild the country after the disaster. Are you in Japan? Are you taking part in the recovery efforts? Send us your comments and experiences using the form below. Send your pictures and videos to firstname.lastname@example.org or text them to61124 (UK) or +44 7725 100 100 (International). If you have a large file you can upload here.
Anshuman Bhardwaj 05:33, March 25, 2011 (UTC)
Workers at stricken nuclear plant endure tough conditions Edit
Each of the employees of Tokyo Electric Power Co and other workers engaged in containing damage at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is given 30 survival food crackers and a 180 milliliter pack of vegetable juice for breakfast after getting up just before 6 a.m.
Around 400 workers including subcontractors are working there and are given just two meals per day, according to Kazuma Yokota, an official of the government’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.
Yokota stayed at the nuclear power plant damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami for five days through March 26 to check on progress in the ongoing operations.
After breakfast, the workers move on to their respective assignments at various locations within the plant at the center of the worst nuclear crisis in Japan. The workers are given no lunch.
Until March 22, they were given only one 1.5 liter bottle of mineral water per day. From March 23, however, with more supplies having arrived, they can ask for one more bottle, according to the official.
As the sun starts to set at around 5 p.m., they come back to the building where they are lodging within the plant’s premises. The workers look worn out, according to Yokota.
Supper is also survival food item—dried rice and only one can of chicken or fish for each person. Boiled mineral water is put into the pack of ‘‘Magic Rice,’’ making it ready for consumption in about 15 minutes. The workers eat their meals quietly, though some say they want something a little better.
At 8 p.m., the workers have a meeting and report to each other about any progress made in their work. At the end of the meeting, before everyone realizes it, it has become a practice for them to clap their hands together at the call of an officer. It is then followed by a chant from others, ‘‘Gambaro!’’ (Let’s do our best!).
The radiation level within the building is 2-3 microsievert per hour. They sleep in conference rooms and hallways in the building. To shield them from radiation from the floor, they cover themselves with lead-containing sheets before they put on blankets.
Most workers are replaced by others in one week. Mobile phones cannot be used as no signals reach there. ‘‘The workers are doing their best while they cannot even contact their family members,’’ Yokota said.
Meanwhile, industry minister Banri Kaieda, who serves as a deputy head of the nuclear disaster task force jointly set up by the government and TEPCO, said Tuesday that around 500 to 600 people were at one point lodging in a building on the plant’s premises and that was ‘‘not a situation in which minimum sleep and food could be ensured.’‘
Kaieda said that he had also heard that not all of the workers had been equipped with lead sheeting to shield themselves from the possibly radiation-contaminated floors while sleeping, and some were leaning against walls as they were unable to lie down on floors.
‘‘The workers, as well as the Self-Defense Forces and firefighters, are working under extremely harsh conditions…so (the conditions for) food and sleep must be improved first,’’ the minister said.