ASIA/JAPAN-Serious health risks for pregnant women and fetuses exposed to radiation in Fukushima

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Tokyo (Agenzia Fides) - These days mark the 25th anniversary of the catastrophic explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, releasing clouds of radioactive particles into the atmosphere across Russia and Europe. The catastrophe had lasting effects on people`s health, particularly on women and their unborn children. This anniversary unfortunately coincides with the recent catastrophe in Fukushima in Japan. According to a statement released by IPS, the Japanese government recently raised the alert level of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power plants, on par with the only nuclear disaster of this magnitude: Chernobyl. However a clear protocol has not yet been established to protect the Japanese against radiation, particularly the most vulnerable: pregnant women and their unborn fetuses. Even women of reproductive age are at significant risk from the effects of radiation on their bodies and reproductive systems. Studies show that women's exposure to radiation can damage her future ability to bear children and can cause premature aging.
The U.S. Center for Desease Control warns pregnant women that, in the event of exposure to radiation, even at low doses, the health consequences for unborn fetuses can include stunted growth, deformities, abnormal brain function, or cancer that may develop sometime later in life. No one understands the implications of radiation on women`s health better than the Russian women who survived the Cernobyl nuclear holocaust. The amount of radiation levels released into the atmosphere was comparable to 500 atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. In these two decades after Chernobyl, about 200 000 people have died. Women living in highly contaminated areas in Ukraine and Belarus were affected by chromosome disorders, leukemia, psychological trauma, depression and multiple birth defects in their children. Thyroid cancer and breast cancer are among the diseases that affected mainly the inhabitants of these areas. In light of these risks, the Japanese government and international agencies must take urgent action.
Yet neither the WHO (World Health Organization) or the International Atomic Energy Association, the two international bodies that monitor health and nuclear security respectively, have provided any information about the effect of radiation exposure to women`s bodies. The Japanese government is called upon to tackle the situation by encouraging women to undergo medical evaluations and to provide them with specific resources and strategies to reduce exposure to radiation, avoiding foods produced locally, including lettuce, milk, berries and mushrooms. Pregnant women, specifically those in their first or second trimesters, must be especially vigilant about what they consume, as radiation passes through the umbilical cord. (AP) (Agenzia Fides 28/04/2011)