Sunday 2 September 2012

Rum Tales

This disaster's turned up some strange stories. Here's a selection from this week's papers. First, medics at the hospital in Hirata-mura which installed whole body counters last October were amazed to find a man in his 70s who has 19,508 becquerels of caesium in his body. When some of the dried shiitake mushrooms he'd been eating were measured they were found to contain 140,000 bq/kg! (The limit is 100 bq/kg.)  He also ate chestnuts and wild ferns. Fortunately for him, his lifetime accumulated exposure is calculated to be 0.85 mSv, so well below the 100 mSv where there is a proven risk of cancer. Most people are sensibly cautious. I am super cautious. I just cannot imagine how anyone could be so unconcerned! The doctors advised him to test his food before eating it.

But if there were more people like him, there might be fewer bears causing trouble. Japanese are great foragers, for roots and shoots and mushrooms. But with the trees being contaminated, people aren't going out into the woods and mountains like they used to. So the bears are getting bolder. One hit by a train, two hit by cars and several sightings last week alone.

And here's an unexpected turn of events. In view of the outbreak of thyroid cancer after the accident at Chernobyl, the prefecture decided early on to test all the kids in Fukushima to make sure the same didn't happen here. 38,000 children have been tested already with no signs of cancer yet. However, a third of the children have been found to have lumps on their thyroids. Benign and probably nothing to worry about but a survey of this kind has never been done before and no one knows what's normal. So a similar survey of 4,500 children in other parts of Japan, well away from Fukushima, is to be carried out as a benchmark. We're going to be the most researched people in the world! Let's hope some good comes of it.

Then there's the story of the couple in Naraha who ignored the order to evacuate and stayed home to look after an aged parent, 92 and bedridden, who they were convinced would die if evacuated. The house was within the 20 km zone imposed last year but the ban was lifted three weeks ago, on 10 August. The family had supplies brought in by the army and police and made odd forays outside the zone. They also had to put up with some rather unpleasant accusations, but were vindicated in the end. Incidentally, in April last year levels at the house were 0.5 - 1 μSv/hour, a lot less than in Koriyama at that time. Forced evacuation caused many deaths at Chernobyl and the same happened here - whatever anyone says about no one having died as a direct result of the nuclear accident.

And finally, here's a glimpse of life in the sea. There's been a ban on fishing in Fukushima since the disaster though fishing for a big red octopus started a couple of months ago and operations are to be extended to 10 more types of fish soon. But one kind of cod found further north was found to be contaminated. The theory is that since the sea off the Fukushima coast is not being fished, it's got overcrowded and there's too much competition for food so fish are swimming off looking for less crowded waters.
It's a rum world indeed.
Bye for now

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