Japan: Fukushima Woman Organizes Radiation Information Centers At Church

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By Hisashi Yukimoto

Terumi Kataoka, who lives just 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, is one of thousands of Japanese who frankly don’t believe what governments and scientists are telling them about the health effects of low-dose radiation.

So Kataoka, 50, has set up the Aizu Radiation Information Center at her local United Church of Christ church in Aizuwakamatsu. Because she is especially concerned about the effect of radiation on children, she also heads the Aizu Society to Protect the Lives of Children from Radiation.

“There is no time to lose. We are called to pray and act with our voices of anger to save the lives of the little ones,” Kataoka told ENInews.

The plant, damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, has been leaking radiation. A no-entry zone extends 20 km (12 miles) from the facility. Some areas near the zone this month were re-designated by the government as “zones being prepared for residents’ return.” Other areas are called “zones with restricted residency.”

According to the Fukushima Prefectural government’s latest statistics, 62,831 people have been evacuated from the state.

Although Kataoka’s town is outside the evacuation zone, she and many of her neighbours believe they are still in danger from low doses of radiation in the soil, air, food, and water.

Scientist Shunichi Yamashita, a radiologist who serves as Fukushima Prefecture’s radiation health risk management advisor, was widely criticized for saying that the risk from radiation doses below 100mSV (millisieverts) is “unknown” but “not to be worried.”

Kataoka’s Aizu Society, established last May, links mothers who are worried about their children’s exposure to radiation and lessens their “sense of isolation” through sharing information on its Japanese blog and email list and taking action. Membership is free of charge.

The information center offers children’s medical counselling, radiation monitoring of food, radiation counters on loan, a website with a map of readings of radiation levels measured by citizens at certain spots in Aizuwakamatsu, study and lecture meetings, children’s recreation programs, and the sale of safe vegetables.

The center is also publishing electronic and printed news and other information, organizing demonstrations and rallies, negotiating with government administrations, responding to media inquiries, and providing support to groups opposed to nuclear power. The center has an annual paid membership of about 60 individuals and some groups.

Tomoyuki Yamazaki, a Japanese doctor and a United Church member in Wakayama Prefecture in western Japan who provides medical counselling at the information center every month, said in an email to ENInews that an increasing number of children he has seen “have nosebleeds that don’t stop, diarrhea, dark circles under their eyes, and incurable stomatitis [an inflammation of the mucous linings in the mouth]. A growing number of children [at the centre] have pains in their chests.”

The exact number of children with such symptoms and their causes are unknown, Kataoka told ENInews. “We ask so many things of the government, but they don’t listen,” Kataoka said in a YouTube video.

Ecumenical News International (ENI) was launched in 1994 as a global news service reporting on ecumenical developments and other news of the churches, and giving religious perspectives on news developments world-wide.

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