Archive for the ‘– social issues’ Category

Effects of lead pollution on the brain

March 20, 2016

an astonishing body of evidence. We now have studies at the international level, the national level, the state level, the city level, and even the individual level. Groups of children have been followed from the womb to adulthood, and higher childhood blood lead levels are consistently associated with higher adult arrest rates for violent crimes. All of these studies tell the same story: Gasoline lead is responsible for a good share of the rise and fall of violent crime over the past half century……

 It’s the only hypothesis that persuasively explains both the rise of crime in the ’60s and ’70s and its fall beginning in the ’90s.

A second study found that high exposure to lead during childhood was linked to a permanent loss of gray matter in the prefrontal cortex—a part of the brain associated with aggression control as well as what psychologists call “executive functions”: emotional regulation, impulse control, attention, verbal reasoning, and mental flexibility.

highly-recommendedLEAD – America’s real criminal element. Mother Jones, By Kevin Drum, February 16    “…………IN 1994, RICK NEVIN WAS A CONSULTANT working for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development on the costs and benefits of removing lead paint from old houses. This has been a topic of intense study because of the growing body of research linking lead exposure in small children with a whole raft of complications later in life, including lower IQ, hyperactivity, behavioral problems, and learning disabilities.

But as Nevin was working on that assignment, his client suggested they might be missing something. A recent study had suggested a link between childhood lead exposure and juvenile delinquency later on. Maybe reducing lead exposure had an effect on violent crime too?

That tip took Nevin in a different direction. The biggest source of lead in the postwar era, it turns out, wasn’t paint. It was leaded gasoline. And if you chart the rise and fall of atmospheric lead caused by the rise and fall of leaded gasoline consumption, you get a pretty simple upside-down U: Lead emissions from tailpipes rose steadily from the early ’40s through the early ’70s, nearly quadrupling over that period. Then, as unleaded gasoline began to replace leaded gasoline, emissions plummeted.

Gasoline lead may explain as much as 90 percent of the rise and fall of violent crime over the past half century.

Intriguingly, violent crime rates followed the same upside-down U pattern. The only thing different was the time period: Crime rates rose dramatically in the ’60s through the ’80s, and then began dropping steadily starting in the early ’90s. The two curves looked eerily identical, but were offset by about 20 years.

So Nevin dove in further, digging up detailed data on lead emissions and crime rates to see if the similarity of the curves was as good as it seemed. It turned out to be even better: In a 2000 paper (PDF) he concluded that if you add a lag time of 23 years, lead emissions from automobiles explain 90 percent of the variation in violent crime in America. Toddlers who ingested high levels of lead in the ’40s and ’50s really were more likely to become violent criminals in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.

And with that we have our molecule: tetraethyl lead, the gasoline additive invented by General Motors in the 1920s to prevent knocking and pinging in high-performance engines. As auto sales boomed after World War II, and drivers in powerful new cars increasingly asked service station attendants to “fill ‘er up with ethyl,” they were unwittingly creating a crime wave two decades later.

It was an exciting conjecture, and it prompted an immediate wave of…nothing. Nevin’s paper was almost completely ignored, and in one sense it’s easy to see why—Nevin is an economist, not a criminologist, and his paper was published in Environmental Research, not a journal with a big readership in the criminology community. What’s more, a single correlation between two curves isn’t all that impressive, econometrically speaking. Sales of vinyl LPs rose in the postwar period too, and then declined in the ’80s and ’90s. Lots of things follow a pattern like that. So no matter how good the fit, if you only have a single correlation it might just be a coincidence. You need to do something more to establish causality.

As it turns out, however, a few hundred miles north someone was doing just that. In the late ’90s, Jessica Wolpaw Reyes was a graduate student at Harvard casting around for a dissertation topic that eventually became a study she published in 2007 as a public health policy professor at Amherst. “I learned about lead because I was pregnant and living in old housing in Harvard Square,” she told me, and after attending a talk where future Freakonomicsstar Levitt outlined his abortion/crime theory, she started thinking about lead and crime. Although the association seemed plausible, she wanted to find out whether increased lead exposure caused increases in crime. But how?

The answer, it turned out, involved “several months of cold calling” to find lead emissions data at the state level. During the ’70s and ’80s, the introduction of the catalytic converter, combined with increasingly stringent Environmental Protection Agency rules, steadily reduced the amount of leaded gasoline used in America, but Reyes discovered that this reduction wasn’t uniform. In fact, use of leaded gasoline varied widely among states, and this gave Reyes the opening she needed. If childhood lead exposure really did produce criminal behavior in adults, you’d expect that in states where consumption of leaded gasoline declined slowly, crime would decline slowly too. Conversely, in states where it declined quickly, crime would decline quickly. And that’s exactly what she found.

Meanwhile, Nevin had kept busy as well, and in 2007 he published a new paper looking at crime trends around the world (PDF). This way, he could make sure the close match he’d found between the lead curve and the crime curve wasn’t just a coincidence. Sure, maybe the real culprit in the United States was something else happening at the exact same time, but what are the odds of that same something happening at several different times in severaldifferent countries?

Nevin collected lead data and crime data for Australia and found a close match. Ditto for Canada. And Great Britain and Finland and France and Italy and New Zealand and West Germany. Every time, the two curves fit each other astonishingly well. When I spoke to Nevin about this, I asked him if he had ever found a country that didn’t fit the theory. “No,” he replied. “Not one.”

Just this year, Tulane University researcher Howard Mielke published a paperwith demographer Sammy Zahran on the correlation of lead and crime at the city level. They studied six US cities that had both good crime data and good lead data going back to the ’50s, and they found a good fit in every single one. In fact, Mielke has even studied lead concentrations at the neighborhood level in New Orleans and shared his maps with the local police. “When they overlay them with crime maps,” he told me, “they realize they match up.”

Put all this together and you have an astonishing body of evidence. We now have studies at the international level, the national level, the state level, the city level, and even the individual level. Groups of children have been followed from the womb to adulthood, and higher childhood blood lead levels are consistently associated with higher adult arrest rates for violent crimes. All of these studies tell the same story: Gasoline lead is responsible for a good share of the rise and fall of violent crime over the past half century……

It’s the only hypothesis that persuasively explains both the rise of crime in the ’60s and ’70s and its fall beginning in the ’90s. Two other theories—the baby boom demographic bulge and the drug explosion of the ’60s—at least have the potential to explain both, but neither one fully fits the known data. Only gasoline lead, with its dramatic rise and fall following World War II, can explain the equally dramatic rise and fall in violent crime.

IF ECONOMETRIC STUDIES WERE ALL THERE were to the story of lead, you’d be justified in remaining skeptical no matter how good the statistics look. Even when researchers do their best—controlling for economic growth, welfare payments, race, income, education level, and everything else they can think of—it’s always possible that something they haven’t thought of is still lurking in the background. But there’s another reason to take the lead hypothesis seriously, and it might be the most compelling one of all: Neurological research is demonstrating that lead’s effects are even more appalling, more permanent, and appear at far lower levels than we ever thought. For starters, it turns out that childhood lead exposure at nearly any level can seriously and permanently reduce IQ. Blood lead levels are measured in micrograms per deciliter, and levels once believed safe—65 μg/dL, then 25, then 15, then 10—are now known to cause serious damage. The EPA now says flatly that there is “no demonstrated safe concentration of lead in blood,” and it turns out that even levels under 10 μg/dL can reduce IQ by as much as seven points. An estimated 2.5 percent of children nationwide have lead levels above 5 μg/dL.

But we now know that lead’s effects go far beyond just IQ. Not only does lead promote apoptosis, or cell death, in the brain, but the element is also chemically similar to calcium. When it settles in cerebral tissue, it prevents calcium ions from doing their job, something that causes physical damage to the developing brain that persists into adulthood.

Only in the last few years have we begun to understand exactly what effects this has. A team of researchers at the University of Cincinnati has been following a group of 300 children for more than 30 years and recently performed a series of MRI scans that highlighted the neurological differences between subjects who had high and low exposure to lead during early childhood.

One set of scans found that lead exposure is linked to production of the brain’s white matter—primarily a substance called myelin, which forms an insulating sheath around the connections between neurons. Lead exposure degrades both the formation and structure of myelin, and when this happens, says Kim Dietrich, one of the leaders of the imaging studies, “neurons are not communicating effectively.” Put simply, the network connections within the brain become both slower and less coordinated.

A second study found that high exposure to lead during childhood was linked to a permanent loss of gray matter in the prefrontal cortex—a part of the brain associated with aggression control as well as what psychologists call “executive functions”: emotional regulation, impulse control, attention, verbal reasoning, and mental flexibility. One way to understand this, says Kim Cecil, another member of the Cincinnati team, is that lead affects precisely the areas of the brain “that make us most human.”

So lead is a double whammy: It impairs specific parts of the brain responsible for executive functions and it impairs the communication channels between these parts of the brain. For children like the ones in the Cincinnati study, who were mostly inner-city kids with plenty of strikes against them already, lead exposure was, in Cecil’s words, an “additional kick in the gut.” And one more thing: Although both sexes are affected by lead, the neurological impact turns out to be greater among boys than girls.

Other recent studies link even minuscule blood lead levels with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Even at concentrations well below those usually considered safe—levels still common today—lead increases the odds of kids developing ADHD.

In other words, as Reyes summarized the evidence in her paper, even moderately high levels of lead exposure are associated with aggressivity, impulsivity, ADHD, and lower IQ. And right there, you’ve practically defined the profile of a violent young offender.

Needless to say, not every child exposed to lead is destined for a life of crime. Everyone over the age of 40 was probably exposed to too much lead during childhood, and most of us suffered nothing more than a few points of IQ loss. But there were plenty of kids already on the margin, and millions of those kids were pushed over the edge from being merely slow or disruptive to becoming part of a nationwide epidemic of violent crime……….http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/02/lead-exposure-gasoline-crime-increase-children-health

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Impact of Jaitapur nuclear project on community and environment

March 20, 2016

France Peddles Unsafe Nuclear Reactors to India, Drawing Protest 29 January 2016  By Kumar Sundaram, Truthout | News Analysis “………the concerns of the local community in Jaitapur go beyond the cost of the project. Jaitapur is located in the stunningly beautiful Konkan region, replete with verdant plateaus, magical mountains and undulating hills, lagoons, creeks, the open sea and infinite greenery. The NPCIL has labeled nearly 65 percent of the land as “barren,” despite the fact that Konkan is one of the world’s 10 “biodiversity hotspots,” sheltering over 5,000 species of flowering plants, 139 of mammals, 508 of birds and 179 of amphibians, including 325 globally threatened species.

Altogether, the nuclear park would jeopardize the livelihoods of 40,000 people. The annual turnover of Jaitapur’s fishing villages is about $2.2 million. In Nate Village alone, there are 200 big trawlers and 250 small boats. Nearly 6,000 people depend directly on fishing and over 10,000 are dependent on ancillary activities.

The community is apprehensive that the elaborate security arrangements around the project would block the fisherfolks’ use of the two creeks of Jaitapur and Vijaydurg. The fish population will also be affected since the nuclear plant would release a massive 52 billion liters of hot water into the Arabian Sea daily, raising the local sea temperature by 5 to 7 degrees Celsius.

Jaitapur has highly fertile land, which produces rice and other cereals, and arguably the world’s most famous mango, the Alphonso. Cashews, coconuts, kokum, betel nuts, pineapples and other fruits are found in abundance. The land is also quite productive in terms of its use for cattle-grazing and rain-fed agriculture.

The environmental impact assessment (EIA) for Jaitapur, conducted by the government-run National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), did not even look into the crucial aspects of radiological releases, decommissioning and nuclear waste, besides summarily neglecting the vital issues of ecosystems and livelihoods, terrestrial ecosystems and farming, mangrove forests and the fragile marine ecology and fisheries in the region.

NEERI admits it does not have any expertise in radiation-related issues and it just mentioned in its report that all the stipulations of the government’s nuclear regulator would be followed. The then-minister for environment and forests, Jairam Ramesh, had himself termed these EIA assessments a joke. Even that environmental clearance, granted on 35 absurdly weak conditions, was given only for a period of five years, which lapsed as of November 2015. Citizens groups and independent experts have demanded a fresh EIA in place of an extension……… http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/34627-france-peddles-unsafe-nuclear-reactors-to-india-drawing-protest

The mental health toll, and discrimination effects, for victims of a nuclear catastrophe

February 2, 2015

When life becomes a shadow – after nuclear catastrophe, Ecologist Robert Jacobs 8th April 2014  “……Discrimination

People who may have been exposed to radiation usually experience discrimination in their new homes and often become social pariahs. We first saw this dynamic with the hibakushain Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

They found it very difficult to find marriage partners since prospective spouses feared they would have malformed children, found it difficult to find jobs since employers assumed that they would be sick more often, and often become the targets of bullying. It became very common to hide the fact that one’s family had been among those exposed to radiation.

Many people are familiar with the story of Sadako Sasaki who died at the age of twelve after being exposed to radiation from the nuclear attack on Hiroshima ten years earlier.

Sadako folded paper cranes in accordance with a Japanese tradition that someone who folds 1,000 paper cranes is granted a wish. Sadako’s story has become well known and children around the world fold paper cranes when they learn her story, many of which are sent here to Hiroshima.

While Sadako has become a symbol of the innocence of so many hibakusha who were victims of the nuclear attack, her father tried to hide this fact so that his family would not suffer discrimination and was upset that his daughter had become so famously afflicted.

Fukushima victims bullied

Children whose families evacuated from Fukushima prefecture after the triple meltdowns at Fukushima found themselves the victims of bullying at their new schools. Cars with Fukushima license plates were scratched when parked in other prefectures.

Often this is the result of the natural fear of contamination that is associated with people exposed to a poison. In the Marshall Islands those who were evacuated from Rongelap and other atolls that became unlivable after being blanketed with radioactive fallout from the Bravo test in 1954 have had to live as refugees on other peoples atolls for several generations now.

The Marshall Islands have a very small amount of livable land and so being moved to atolls that traditionally belonged to others left them with no access to good soil and good locations for fishing and storing boats. They have had to live by the good graces of their new hosts, and endure being seen as interlopers.Becoming medical subjects – or ‘objects’?

Many people who have been exposed to radiation then become the subjects of medical studies, often with no information about the medical tests to which they are subjected.

For example Hibakusha of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki became medical subjects of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission during the American occupation of Japan after World War Two.

This study has continued to this day under the now jointly US-Japan operated Radiation Effects Research Foundation. In the early days of the study Japanese hibakusha had no choice about being subjected to the medical exams.

An American military jeep would appear in front of their homes and they had to go in for an examination, whether it was a good time or not. They were not given information about the results of their tests. This has happened in many radiation-affected communities.

In 1966 a US nuclear bomber blew up in midair and its debris fell on the small village of Palomares, Spain. Four H-bombs fell from the plane, one into the sea, and three onto the small village. None exploded but two broke open and contaminated part of the town with plutonium and other radionuclides.

To this day some of the residents of Palomares are taken to Madrid each year for a medical examination as the effects of exposure on their health is tracked.

They have never been given any of the results of the tests nor informed if any illnesses they develop were related to their exposures. They are subjects, not participants in the gathering and assessing of the effects of radiation on their bodies.

There is no doubt that such studies contribute data to our understanding of the health consequences of radiation exposures (the data itself is contentious for reasons that I won’t go into here), however for those from whom the information is gathered, being studied but not informed reduces ones sense of integrity and agency in one’s own health maintenance.

Many Pacific islanders exposed to radiation by the nuclear tests of the US, the UK and France had such experiences where they were examined and then sent off with no access to the results. Many report feeling as if the data had been harvested from them.

Anxieties belittled

Often the first thing that those exposed to radiation are told is that they have nothing to worry about. Their anxieties are belittled.

Radiation is a very abstract and difficult thing to understand. It is imperceptible – tasteless, odorless, invisible – adding to uncertainty that people feel about whether they were exposed, how much they were exposed to, and whether they and their loved one’s will suffer any health effects.

The dismissal of their anxieties by medical and governmental authorities only compounds their anxiety. When other members of their community develop health problems, such as thyroid cancer and other illnesses years later it can cast a pall over their own sense of wellbeing for the rest of their lives.

Every time that they run a fever, every time that they experience pain in their stomachs, nosebleeds, and other common ailments this anxiety rears up and they think – this is it, it’s finally got me. These fears extend to their parents, their children and other loved ones. Every fever that their child runs triggers horrible fears that their child will die.

Sadako was healthy for nine years following her exposure to radiation when she was two years old in Hiroshima. Then suddenly her neck began to swell and she was soon diagnosed with leukemia. This is the nightmare world that the parents of children exposed to radiation experience on a daily basis. Every ailment can rip them apart.

Radiophobia and ‘blaming the victim’ Radiophobia and ‘blaming the victim’

Iit is often the case that who is and isn’t exposed to radiation, especially to internalized alpha emitting particles, is unknown. So large numbers of people near a nuclear detonation, a nuclear production plant, a nuclear power plant accident, a uranium mining location and countless other sources of exposure to radiation worry about their health and the health of their loved ones.

Among this group, some have been exposed and some have not. The uncertainty is part of the trauma. Often, as is currently the case for the people of Northern Japan, all of these people are dismissed as having undue fear of radiation, and are often told that their health problems are the result of their own anxieties. In some cases that may well be true but it is beside the point.

For those who have experienced some radiological catastrophe – who may have been removed from their homes and communities and lost those bonds and support systems, who are uncertain as to whether each flu or stomach ache is the harbinger of the end, and who cannot be certain that contamination from hard to find alpha emitting particles is still possible when their children play in the park – anxiety is the natural response.

Even if it does cause health problems, it is not their fault: forces outside of their control have upended their lives and they now must live a life of uncertainty and often experience discrimination.

Of course they are going to suffer from the anxiety that this situation produces. To blame them for this is to blame the victims in the situation and is a further form of traumatization.

Their lives will be divided in two parts – before, and after

Radiation makes people invisible. It makes them second class citizens who no longer have the expectation of being treated with dignity by their government, by those overseeing nuclear facilities near to them, by the military and nuclear industry engaged in practices that expose people to radiation, and often by their new neighbors when they become refugees.

People exposed to radiation often lose their homes, either through forced removal or through contamination that makes living in them dangerous.

They lose their livelihoods, their diets, their communities, and their traditions. They can lose the knowledge base that connects them to their land and insures their wellbeing.

Radiation can cause health problems and death, and even when it doesn’t it can cause devastating anxiety and uncertainty that can become crippling. Often those exposed to radiation are blamed for all of the problems that follow their exposures.

After a nuclear disaster we count the victims in terms of those who died – but they are only a small fraction of the people who are truly victimized by the event. Countless more suffer the destruction of their communities, their families, and their wellbeing. The devastation that a nuclear disaster truly wreaks is unknowable.

The lives of those exposed to radiation, or those in areas affected by radiation but uncertain about their exposures, will never be the same. As Natalia Manzurova, one of the ‘liquidators’ at Chernobyl said in an interview published two months after the Fukushima triple meltdowns:

“Their lives will be divided into two parts: before and after Fukushima. They’ll worry about their health and their children’s health. The government will probably say there was not that much radiation and that it didn’t harm them. And the government will probably not compensate them for all that they’ve lost. What they lost can’t be calculated.”

Radiation victims of a nuclear catastrophe become “un-persons”

February 2, 2015

When life becomes a shadow – after nuclear catastrophe, Ecologist Robert Jacobs 8th April 2014 Those caught up in nuclear disasters suffer many times over, writes Robert Jacobs. Ill-health and early death aside, they are also cut off from their former communities, identities and family life, and the victims of social and medical discrimination. Radiation makes people invisible. We know that exposure to radiation can be deleterious to one’s health; can cause sickness or even death when received in high doses.

But it does more. People who have been exposed to radiation, or even those who suspect that they have been exposed to radiation that never experience radiation related illnesses may find that their lives are forever changed – that they have assumed a kind of second class citizenship.

They may find that their relationship to their families, to their communities, to their hometowns, to their traditional diets and even traditional knowledge systems have become broken. They often spend the remainder of their lives wishing that they could go back, that things would become normal.

Unpersons

They slowly realize that they have become expendable and that their government and even their society is no longer invested in their wellbeing.

As a historian of the social and cultural aspects of nuclear technologies I have spent years working in radiation-affected communities around the world.

Many of these people have experienced exposure to radiation from nuclear weapon testing, from nuclear weapon production, from nuclear power plant accidents, from nuclear power production or storage, or, like the people in the community that I live, in Hiroshima, from being subjected to direct nuclear attack.

For the last five years I have been working with Dr. Mick Broderick of Murdoch University in Perth, Australia on the Global Hibakusha Project. We have been working in radiation-affected communities all around the world. In our research we have found a powerful continuity to the experience of radiation exposure across a broad range of cultures, geographies, and populations.

Fukushima – the victims’ future is all too predictable

About half way between beginning this study and this present moment the nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi happened here in Japan.

One of the most distressing things (among so many) since this crisis began is to hear so many people, often people in positions of political power and influence say that the future for those affected by the nuclear disaster is uncertain.

I wish that it were so, but there is actually a deep historical precedence that suggests that the future for the people of Tohoku is predictable.

In this short article I will outline some continuities to the experiences of radiation-affected people. Most of the following is also true for people who merely suspect that they have been exposed to radiation, even if they never suffer any health effects.

Many have already become a part of the experiences of those affected by the Fukushima disaster. There are, of course, many differences and specificities to each community, but there is also much community……..http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/Blogs/2351503/when_life_becomes_a_shadow_after_nuclear_catastrophe.html

Devastating social plight of the irradiated community

February 2, 2015

The Radiation That Makes People Invisible: A Global Hibakusha Perspective Robert Jacobs The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 12, Issue 30, No. 1, August 3, 2014.

“…………Losses of homes, community and identity–Areas that experience radioactive contamination often have to be abandoned by those who live there. The levels of radiation may be so high that continued habitation could be dangerous to health. In these cases people lose their homes, often permanently.

For communities that have to be abandoned, the bonds that have been built up and that sustain the wellbeing of the community disintegrate. Friends are separated, extended families are often separated, and schools are closed. People who have lived in the same place all of their lives have to make a fresh start, sometimes in old age, sometimes as children. The communal structures that sustained them are destroyed: shopkeepers who know them, neighbors who can be relied on, the simple familiarity of communities. What is lost when a person is no longer able to eat an apple from a tree planted by a parent or grandparent? Tony Hood, a former uranium miner from Gallup, New Mexico, spoke of the sense of loss when contemplating the necessity for his Navajo community to abandon their homes because of uranium contamination, “Our umbilical cords are buried here, our children’s umbilical cords are buried here. It’s like a homing device.”2

With the loss of community, many people lose their livelihood. This is especially true in places where many have been farmers, fishers or herders for generations. When someone who has only known farming is taken from the land they have tended, when fishers can no longer fish in areas where they understand the natural rhythms and habits of the fish, it can be impossible to start over. Often such people are forced to enter service positions or become dependent on state subsidies, further eroding their sense of self and wellbeing. Usually, those removed from their land because of contamination are placed into temporary housing. In Fukushima this has been the case for 100,000 who remain in temporary housing while hundreds of thousands of others who are not housed by the government have fled the area.3 In almost all cases the public housing provided to officially recognized victims proves not to be temporary, but becomes permanent.

Frequently, multigenerational families that have been living together for decades, find it impossible to remain together. This can remove care for the elderly, childcare for young families and further erodes the continuity of family identity, knowledge and support. Removal from land also is accompanied by the loss of a traditional diet. Those without access to the land and seas that have provided food for their families often begin a journey of dislocation and ill health. In some communities such as the small villages around the former Soviet nuclear test site in Kazakhstan, many people simply continue to live in dangerously contaminated homes. The state responsible for their exposures (the Soviet Union) no longer exists and neither the Russian nor Kazakh governments feel the responsibility to evacuate them or to provide health care for those with disabilities. Many live very traditional lives deriving most of their food from their own gardens and from livestock raised on their contaminated land. Many long-lived radionuclides simply cycle through this ecosystem and residents can be contaminated and recontaminated over generations.4

In Fukushima Prefecture the Japanese government proclaimed a 20km mandatory evacuation zone, while also designating a “suggested” evacuation zone from 20km to 30km. These zones do not directly reflect the dangers from radiation levels. In some of the mandatory evacuation areas the gamma levels are below those in parts of the suggested evacuation areas. Some areas where the plumes came down 50-80km away have even higher levels. The limits to mandatory evacuation areas reflect efforts to limit the direct liability of the government. Even today children live in areas where the radiation levels are too high for them to be allowed to play or spend significant time outdoors.http://japanfocus.org/-Robert-Jacobs/4157

Loss of traditional knowledge– In some remote places survival is dependent on centuries old understandings of the land. In Maralinga, Australia the areas where the British conducted nuclear tests between 1956 and 1963 are very difficult places to live. Traditional communities in these areas often have songs that hold and transmit essential knowledge about how to survive in such a harsh environment, such as where to find water, when to hunt specific animals, when to move to various locations. But can knowledge gathered over millennia be effectively applied to radiation disasters?

When the British relocated entire communities to areas hundreds of kilometers from their homes, the local knowledge chain was broken. It became impossible for the refugees to sustain a traditional life in areas where they had no knowledge of the rhythms of the land and animals. This removal from their lands led to ever increasing dependence on governmental assistance and severed what had been millennia of self-reliance. While self-reliance had been dramatically impacted by the brutal rule of the Australian government and its policies towards aboriginal peoples, the people living near the test site were still living on the land in the 1950s. Relocation led to the further erosion of community, familial and personal wellbeing………http://japanfocus.org/-Robert-Jacobs/4157

Victims of nuclear radiation suffer discriminaion

February 2, 2015

The Radiation That Makes People Invisible: A Global Hibakusha Perspective Robert Jacobs The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 12, Issue 30, No. 1, August 3, 2014.

“…………Discrimination– People who may have been exposed to radiation often experience discrimination in their new homes and may become social pariahs. We first saw this dynamic with the hibakusha in Hiroshima and Nagasaki who found it very difficult to find marriage partners, since prospective spouses feared they would have malformed children, and found it difficult to find jobs since employers assumed that they would be chronically sick. Hibakusha children, moreover, often become the targets of bullying. It became very common to attempt to hide the fact that one’s family had been among those exposed to radiation.6

Many people are familiar with the story of Sadako who died at the age of twelve after being exposed to radiation from the nuclear attack on Hiroshima ten years earlier. Sasaki Sadako folded paper cranes in accordance with a Japanese tradition that someone who folds 1,000 paper cranes is granted a wish. Sadako’s story has become well known and children around the world fold paper cranes when they learn her story, many of which are sent to Hiroshima. While Sadako has become a symbol of the innocence of so many hibakusha, her father tried to hide this fact so that his family would not suffer discrimination and was upset that his daughter had become so famously afflicted.

Children whose families evacuated from Fukushima prefecture after the triple meltdowns at Tepco’s nuclear power plant frequently became victims of bullying at their new schools. Cars with Fukushima license plates were scratched when parked in other prefectures. Often this is the result of the natural fear of contamination that is associated with people exposed to a poison. In the Marshall Islands those who were evacuated from Rongelap and other atolls that became unlivable after being blanketed with radioactive fallout from the US Bravo test in 1954 have had to live as refugees on other atolls for several generations now, with no prospect of return home. The Marshall Islands have a very small amount of livable land and so being moved to atolls that traditionally belonged to others left them with no access to good soil and good locations for fishing and storing boats. They have had to live by the good graces of their new hosts, and endure being seen as interlopers.

Becoming medical subjects– Many people who have been exposed to radiation then become the subjects of medical studies, often with no information about the medical tests to which they are subjected, and frequently without provision of treatment by those conducting the tests. Hibakusha of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki became medical subjects of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission during the American occupation of Japan after World War Two. This study has continued to this day under the now jointly administered US-Japan Radiation Effects Research Foundation. In the early days of the study Japanese hibakusha had no choice about being subjected to the medical exams. An American military jeep would appear in front of their homes and they had to go in for an examination, whether it was a good time or not. Not only did they receive no information about the results of their tests but the US government provided no treatment.7 This has happened in many radiation-affected communities.

In 1966 a US nuclear bomber blew up in midair and the debris fell on the small village of Palomares, Spain. Four H-bombs fell from the plane, one into the sea, and three onto the small village. None exploded but two broke open and contaminated part of the town with plutonium and other radionuclides. To this day some of the residents of Palomares are taken to Madrid each year for a medical examination as the effects of exposure on their health is tracked. They have never been given any of the results of the tests nor informed if any illnesses they develop were related to their exposures. They are subjects, not participants in the gathering and assessing of the effects of radiation on their bodies. There is no doubt that such studies contribute data to scientific understanding of the health consequences of radiation exposures (the data itself is contentious for reasons cited below)8, however for those from whom the information is gathered, being studied but not informed reduces one’s sense of integrity and agency in one’s health maintenance. Many Pacific islanders exposed to radiation by the nuclear tests of the US, the UK and France had such experiences where they were examined and then sent off with no access to the results and no medical follow-up. Many report feeling as if the data had been harvested from them and at their expense.

Anxiety– Often those exposed to radiation are told that they have nothing to worry about. Their anxieties are belittled. Radiation is a very abstract and difficult thing to understand. It is imperceptible – tasteless, odorless, invisible – adding to uncertainty that people feel about whether they were exposed, how much they were exposed to, and whether they and their loved ones will suffer any health effects. The dismissal of their anxieties by medical and governmental authorities only compounds their anxiety. When other members of their community develop health problems, such as thyroid cancer and other illnesses years later it can cast a pall over their own sense of wellbeing for the rest of their lives.

Every time that they run a fever, every time that they experience stomach pains, nosebleeds, and other common ailments, this anxiety rears up and they think – this is it, it’s finally got me. These fears extend to their parents, their children and other loved ones. Every fever that a child runs triggers fears that one’s child will die. Sadako was healthy for nine years following her exposure to radiation when she was two years old in Hiroshima, then one day her neck suddenly began to swell and she was soon diagnosed with leukemia. This is the nightmare world that the parents of children exposed to radiation, or who even simply suspect radiation exposure, experience on a daily basis. Every ailment can rip them apart.

Radiophobia and blaming the victim– Since it is often the case that who is and isn’t exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, especially to internalized alpha emitting particles, is unknown, large numbers of people near a radiological incident of some kind worry about their health and the health of loved ones. Among this group, some have been exposed and some have not. The uncertainty is part of the trauma. Often, as is currently the case for the people of FukushimaNorthern Japan, all of these people are dismissed as having undue fear of radiation, and are often told that their health problems are simply the result of their own anxieties. In some cases that may be true, but it is beside the point.

For those who have experienced a nuclear catastrophe, who may have been removed from their homes and communities and lost those bonds and support systems, who are uncertain as to whether each flu or stomach ache is the harbinger of the end, and who cannot be certain that contamination from hard to find alpha emitting particles is still possible when their children play in the park, anxiety is the natural response. Regardless of whether it causes acute health problems, forces outside of their control have upended their lives. They now must live a life of uncertainty and often experience discrimination. Of course they are going to suffer from the anxiety that this situation produces. To blame them for this is to blame the victims and is a further form of traumatization.9……….http://japanfocus.org/-Robert-Jacobs/4157

 

Christian conference highlights the social tragedy of Fukushima

December 28, 2012

The science in play is not fiction. Children are growing up forbidden to play outdoors, young women worry that no one will want to marry them, a mother tests her rice harvest to see if she can share it with her children, families are paying off loans on radioactive homes they will never use. These are the kind of stories heard every day at a parish radiation information centre in Aizu Wakamatsu, Japan.

The conference concluded that “there is no safe use of nuclear power, no safe level of exposure to radiation, and no compatibility between nuclear power, life and peace.”

Nuclear tragedy finds  a human face in Fukushima,  Insights, ON 19 DEC 2012 BY STEPHENW
The everyday effects of radiation borne by survivors of the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan add up today to an involuntary experiment with public health, community life and environmental affairs.
An ecumenical conference, called to listen to local residents, found that last year’s chain reaction of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear calamity has generated a “live” human tragedy, across a province, with no end in sight.
The Geiger counters that priests and parishioners pull out of their pockets like cell phones made the local anxieties and fears real for their visitors.
“I cannot tell my children that there will be something good if they live,” one mother told a Buddhist priest.  (more…)