The Japanese government has loosed the rules on the amount of radiation children can be exposed to at school. The rules were relaxed in order to allow schools in the region of the nuclear disaster to re-open. However, they are now allowing children to be exposed to ten times the amount of radiation that was previously permissible, according to the Teacher Solidarity website.
Physicians for Social Responsibility condemned the decision, saying that the new limit of 20 millisieverts “for children exposes them to a 1 in 200 risk of getting cancer. And if they are exposed to this dose for two years, the risk is 1 in 100. There is no way that this level of exposure can be considered ‘safe’ for children.”
A statement from the Fukushima Teachers Union is reposted from the Teacher Solidarity website below:
Protect Children from Radiation Health Damage
Since the terrible disaster of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, the radiation levels remain incredibly high. For the protection of children from health damage by radiation, we have been continuously urging the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) and the Fukushima Prefecture Education Board to set guidelines for security measures. On April 19, a month after the catastrophe, the MEXT finally notified “Tentative Guideline on Use of School Buildings and Playgrounds in Fukushima Prefecture”. On this “guidelines”, however, many anxious voices are raised from the parents and teachers in Fukushima whether their children could really be protected from the radiation effect by the new radiation standard.
The MEXT has set 20mSv/y as the upper limit of radiation levels for school children on April 19. It states that this maximum level of 20mSv/y is based on the recommendation Pub.109 by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) that recommended a tentative safety standard within a band of 1 to 20 mSv/y as reference levels in “Post Emergency Situation”. But this standard is set for the general public. It is not for school children. Moreover, it should be noted that the current guideline of regulation is set on 1 mSv/y. The threshold quantity of 20mSv/y is for the planned exclusion zones and also matches the annual radiation exposure dose limit for workers at nuclear plants (the 1990 Recommendation of ICRP). It is apparently very dangerous to adopt this standard to children who are the most vulnerable to radiation. Moreover, when children are exposed to radiation over many years, cumulative radiation will be considerable amount and therefore their risk to cause health damages will be substantial. If we follow the MEXT’s guideline, the lives and health of our children would never be protected.
The MEXT just set the exposure limit at 3.8 μSv/h for children using a school playground. The radiation dose on school playgrounds, however, varies greatly from place to place. The radiation level is comparably high at side ditches and puddles where rainwaters or dusts gather. Children touch soil or sand and run around school playgrounds. They cannot avoid breathing dusts flying in the air. They sometimes fall on the ground and skin their knees. Then radioactive materials would attach to their wounds. Even the air dose rate is less than 3.8 μSv/h, children would receive higher radiation through direct touch with the ground than in the air. There is also a danger of internal exposure.
For the protection of children from health damage by radiation, we strongly demand the rapid control of the nuclear plant accident and the prompt implementation of safety measures to prevent risk to children’s health, instead of repeating, “There is no immediate threat to health”.
TAKENAKA Ryuichi, President of Fukushima Prefecture Teachers’ Union