Thyroid growths found on Fukushima children

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 July, 2012, 12:00am


A study on children in Fukushima prefecture has found that nearly 36 per cent have abnormal growths on their thyroids, although doctors say there is no link between the 'cluster' of cases and the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in March last year.

The Sixth Report of Fukushima Prefecture Health Management Survey, released in April, included examinations of 38,114 children, of whom 35.3 per cent - some 13,460 children - were found to have cysts or nodules of up to 5mm in their thyroids. A further 0.5 per cent, or 186 youngsters, had nodules larger than 5.1mm.

A study by the Japan Thyroid Association in 2001, jointly authored by Dr Shunichi Yamashita, who is also president of the association, found that no children in the city of Nagasaki had nodules and only 0.8 per cent had cysts on their thyroids.

'Yes, 35.8 per cent of children in the study have lumps or cysts, but this is not the same as cancer,' Naomi Takagi, an associate professor at Fukushima University Medical School Hospital, told the South China Morning Post. 'We do not know the cause of this, but it is hard to believe that it is due to the effects of radiation,' she said. 'This is an early test and we will only see the effects of radiation exposure after four or five years.'

The local authority is carrying out long-term testing of children who were under the age of 18 on March 11 last year, the day the magnitude-9 Great East Japan Earthquake struck off the coast of northeast Japan, triggering the massive tsunami that devastated the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Thyroid examinations were first carried out in October last year and will be continued every two years up to the age of 20 and every five years for the rest of their lives.

The tests are being co-ordinated by Fukushima University Medical School.

A second report has been issued by Japan's Institute of Radiological Sciences, which found that some children living close to the plant have been exposed to 'lifetime' doses of radiation to their thyroid glands.

The government had previously stated that more than half the children in Fukushima had zero exposure to radiation but the independent study contradicted that.