Report on the “Learn from Chernobyl” tour in Japan

Ms. Kazuko Kawai, Founder of Voices for Lively Spring
HD, 30 min 26 sec, in English with Japanese subtitles

~How to protect the right to health and life of citizens from radiological contamination after the nuclear accident in Fukushima?~

Ms. Mari INOUE, Esq., Human Rights Now New York
HD, 22 min 14 sec, in English

Special Rapporteur, Mr. Anand Grover Press Conference in Tokyo, November 26th 2012

12 min 47 sec, in English with Japanese Subtitles (from OurPlanet-TV)

WHAT: A Japan-based human rights organization and a grass-root organization will speak about how the lives and health of local citizens were affected by the nuclear accident in Fukushima. They will discuss current issues and concerns regarding the healthcare system as well as health exams that are provided to children in affected areas, and how civil societies could support and protect right to health and life of citizens from radiological contamination after a nuclear disaster. A Q&A session will follow after presentations.

WHERE: Bahai International Community United Nations Office
866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 120, New York, NY 10017

WHEN: Friday, November 16, 2012, 12-2PM
WHO: Ms. Kazko Kawai, Voices for Lively Spring, Japan; Mari Inoue, Esq., Human Rights Now.

BACKGROUND: After the nuclear disaster in Fukushima in March 2011, local communities in Japan continue to be exposed to radioactivity. Many citizens still live in areas where the radiation level is dangerously high. The Japanese government continues to keep its citizens in harms’ way by applying a 20mSv per year standard to establish evacuation zone. There are serious concerns on children’s health in affected areas. However, sufficient health investigation or health exams are not conducted in contaminated areas, and the right of access to medical treatment as well as the right to know about one’s own body has been seriously denied.

HUMAN RIGHTS NOW: Human Rights Now (HRN) is an international NGO with consultative status with the ECOSOC, and is based in Tokyo with more than 700 members, composed of lawyers, scholars and journalists. HRN dedicates itself to the protection and promotion of human rights. In July 2011, on behalf of a coalition of civil society groups in Japan, Human Rights Now requested the Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) for Special Rapporteurs to investigate human rights situations after the disaster. In response to the request, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to the highest attainable standard of health (right to health) will be on a country mission to Japan from 15 to 26 November 2012. To raise awareness of the situation in Fukushima after the nuclear accident, HRN NY organized a human rights forum, seminars and press conference to inform the international community about the ongoing crisis. Our goal is to advocate for the protection of local citizens in underrepresented communities in Japan.

VOICES FOR LIVELY SPRING: Founded in December 2011, Voices for Lively Spring is a Japanese advocacy group for safe environment, working to save lives of Japanese people in the post-Fukushima era. It hosts seminars by renown scientists and journalists in cities in Japan, and sends instructors to local study groups to teach radiation protection seminars in Shizuoka Prefecture. In August 2012, the organization sponsored health forums on effects associated with radiological contamination, and hosted health consultations in five cities across Japan with local Japanese medical doctors in cooperation with medical doctors representing the Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) and the German affiliate of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW).

To stop burning of radioactive disaster debris PETITION

2012 Copy Rights, East River Films Inc

9 responses

  1. In this report, Ms. Kawai talks about current condition of Evacuees as well as burning of radioactive disaster debris in three cities and their health effect on residence & evacuee who live there.

  2. Transcript:

    Report on the “Learn from Chernobyl” tour in Japan
    By Kazko Kawai
    Hello, everyone. I am Kazko Kawai of Voices for Lively Spring.
    Thank you very much for joining me on a very short notice. I invited Mr. Hiroaki Koide of Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute last May, which resulted in what I am going to talk about right now.
    Mr. Koide presented in New York on two occasions: his talk on May 3, and a press conference on the following day. The latter was co-hosted by three organizations: Mari’s organization, Human Rights Now, the US anti-nuclear medical professionals’ organization, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Voices for Lively Spring. Dr. Andy Cantor, the president of PSR as well as two doctors from Japan, Dr. Junro Fuse and Dr. Ken Nakayama, participated in the press conference. The talk and the press conference were webcast with accesses over 13 thousands, which surprised even Mr. Koide.
    In the press conference, the doctors explained about the danger of the low-dose internal radiation, and called for immediate evacuation from the contaminated areas. However, there was no proposal for instructions or means for such evacuation, or no information on available doctors in Japan.
    On the following day, I attended a symposium hosted by University of Chicago, where Mr. Koide and Ms. Ruiko Muto of Fukushima as well as Dr. Jefferey Patterson of PSR talked. I learned a lot from Dr. Patterson while chatting with him in a group dinner after the symposium and a trip to the Chicago Pile, the experimental research reactor for the Manhattan Project.
    When I thought about the current Japanese irradiation conditions in the East Japan, doctors’ networks as well as evacuation support networks must be established as soon as possible. In particular, there is huge distrust on the Administration, and we must take actions on grass root levels to make things happen at all. For patients, primary care doctors are their first contact, but the doctors really lack in the radiation knowledge.
    After returning to New York, I had to think what to do next after Koide events in NY. In my opinion, the Japanese primary care doctors in private practices might ignore nuclear scientists and physicists, but should be glad to hear what their colleagues, e.g., clinical doctors would say.
    A while later, I remembered that Dr. Patterson was saying that he would go to Japan in the summer. After a little research, I found out that it should be for the Hiroshima Congress of the IPPNW (International Physicians for the Prevention of the Nuclear War), and started thinking of having him in a seminar in Japan before or after the congress. He did confirm that he would attend this conference, and agreed to speak for Japanese people.
    Then I started looking for a doctor who can talk about an area that was not very badly but slightly contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, for instance, Germany or Austria. It was not easy to find a right one, and finally, I found Dr. Doerte Siedentopf of Germany, who continued her efforts to support Chernobyl over 20 years.
    I proposed my plan to activists whom I had worked with on the tsunami debris issues in Japan, and the plan became bigger and bigger. Finally we decided on the basic idea for an event with three sections, now it expanded from one stop to five stops. I asked each supporting group to start building locally a doctors’ network and an evacuee support network.

    There were various nasty obstructions in the planning process, but finally five local committees were set up and started preparing for events. Five cities are: Yokohama in the Tokyo metropolitan area, Shimada of the tsunami debris issue, Osaka and Kita-kyushu, both with many evacuees from East Japan, but the mayors are willing to burn tsunami debris, and Fukuoka, where Mr. Koide’s talk was to follow our event. Events of this scale usually require at least six months of preparation, but we had only two months due to the timing of the doctors’ visit to Japan in August. There were many irregularities due to a lack of time. Furthermore, five local committees had different levels of experiences in event organization — from almost professional to almost novice.
    Maryann De Leo, the director of Chernobyl Heart, made a last-minute cancellation, but I had to find a replacement. Irene Zabytko, the Ukrainian American author and documentary film maker, accepted to visit Japan, and read out her writing on Chernobyl, which you will hear later.
    Please refer to Page 3. There is the summary of the events – talks by US and German doctors, the screening of the Academy Award-winning “Chernobyl Heart” and the director’s talk as well as health consultation by Japanese doctors with the foreign doctors as observers. Dr. Doerte Siedentopf talked about her personal and medical experiences with Chernobyl, and Dr. Jeffery Patterson spoke about the danger of nuclear testing and accidents. There were also a mini symposium and/or talks by evacuees from Fukushima and East Japan.
    All committee members, donors, supporters, exhibitors, volunteer staff, etc. made their efforts to make their events successful.
    Due to the very short notice, we could not draw too many people to events (please refer to the data section on Page 4), but the word started circulating even after the events. In October, I published this report, and sent to parties involved, including local committees, supporting doctors, media, etc. The Fukuoka committee chair even delivered by hand a copy to the governor of Fukuoka Prefecture in connection with their debris actions. Evacuee mothers as well as anti-nuclear groups use the report in their study meetings. Doctors’ circles also noticed this report.
    Next, I will make a brief report on each city.
    First, Yokohama. The radiation contamination in Yokohama is not as bad as Chiba and Tokyo, but the soil contamination is about 300-400 Bq/kg. Many people made “mini evacuation” to Yokohama from the heavily contaminated Chiba and East-Tokyo as husbands still can commute to Tokyo from Yokohama. The committee consisted mainly of local mothers’ groups. The health interviews were packed, and many just walked in without reservations. As we arranged only six doctors and dentists, we could accommodate only 50 families due to the time constraint. Many of them stayed on for the lectures with great enthusiasm.
    Shimada City of Shizuoka Prefecture became famous nationwide for its burning of tsunami debris. It is a small city with 100 thousand people. The local committee was led by people involved in the local medical advocacy groups; so over 20 local doctors attended the event. They sent notices for the health consultation to all mandatory evacuees from Fukushima, but none of them signed up. People evacuated from the Tokyo area as well as local residents came to the consultation. They also could not get any help from doctors within Shizuoka Prefecture, and Dr. Matsui of Gifu Pref and Dr. Miyaka of Kyoto Pref were in charge of the consultation. There was a talk by an evacuee from Futaba Township, which is included in your handout. Obviously, those who immediately moved out had some advance knowledge.
    In Osaka, the local committee was led by debris activists. We participated as part of their all-day-long event. A doctor evacuated from Saitama saw patients in the consultation. A mother evacuated from the Tokyo area was in tears when talking to the doctor about her child’s thyroid disorder. There were also talks by a journalist, a Koriyama assembly woman and evacuees as well as a mini symposium with them.
    In Fukuoka, the committee was led by Mr. Hara, who has been involved in the grass roots activities for many decades. In the mini symposium, evacuees from Fukushima and East Japan expressed their opinions. Ms. Kazumi Watanabe, who was hosted by HRN last month to talk about her mobile nursery project in Fukushima, was interviewed at the end of the Fukuoka event. In the evening, the committee presented Mr. Hiroaki Koide in a talk, which I interpreted for the both foreign doctors while they were taking notes enthusiastically.
    Kita-Kyushu was the last stop. The local committee was represented by Ms. Satoko Murakami, who led the local debris actions. The former housewife, Ms. Murakami expressed her intention to run for the city assembly after realizing that nothing would change in the city unless people could change the politics. The local doctor Kitagawa and the evacuee lawyer Saito participated in the mini symposium. In Kita-Kyushu and Fukuoka, many health affects were reported after the test burning of tsunami debris in Kita-Kyushu. So the health consultation for ten families was filled up as soon as they started taking reservations.
    Please refer to Page 6 for the summary of the tour. It is an interview webcast by IWJ (Independent Web Journal) of Japan. Mr. Yasushi Aoki, the journalist for environmental issues, interviewed the both doctors in Kita-Kyushu on the final day of the tour. You can see it on YouTube. I functioned as interpreter.
    The both foreign doctors participated in the IPPNW world congress and the field trip in Fukushima, organized by Peace Boat, etc., and thought that they had sufficient information. Then they observed the health consultations on the tour, and were surprised to find out that actual patients were in even worse conditions than they had anticipated.
    The symptoms were always the same: nose bleed, skin diseases, diarrhea, respiratory diseases, pains at the rear of the ears, stomatitis, etc. as well as thyroid disorders. Although thyroid disorders in Fukushima had been much reported by the media, we found out that evacuees from the Tokyo area also complained about thyroid cysts and nodules.
    The both doctors were very angry about the Fukushima prefecture government’s handling of patients with thyroid disorder (i.g. no re-testing in two years). It is internationally agreed upon to control such patients by repeated testing at least once in six months and every two months in more serious cases.
    Furthermore, it is widely talked that thyroid cancer started surfacing in Chernobyl four years after the nuclear disaster, and it is based on the data in Chernobyl. According to Dr. Siedentopf, Chernobyl did not use to have such precision devices for thyroid as we have in Japan now, and doctors in Chernobyl manually diagnosed thyroid cancer; the ultrasound devices were introduced in big cities in Chernobyl about four years after the disaster, and now are equipped even in small cities.
    Dr. Siedentopf emphasizes on the rehabilitation projects from her own experiences over 20 years of running a Chernobyl support group. She had her own small town in the suburbs of Frankfurt get involved in the support project, and the group had 1,000 Belarusians stay at private homes in the town in the summers and treated them for whatever medical treatments they could have during their stay.
    Thyroid disorders are very rare diseases at normal times; therefore, there are not many thyroid specialists in Japan, and not many doctors can handle patients with such symptoms. In health consultations, we kept hearing about doctors who laughed at patients or did not listen to patients. It is supposedly because of those Japanese doctors’ lack of knowledge and their pride, which prevent them from acknowledging such lack.
    There is also a family issue. In case of voluntary evacuation, most families moved only mothers and children out of contaminated areas with husbands still working at their old home towns. The evacuees were really battered financially and psychologically; then they must face their children’s and their own health issues. They need immediate assistance for psychotherapy and financials.
    We found out that doctors with radiation knowledge are needed nationwide in Japan, not only in contaminated areas. Japanese doctors with Chernobyl experiences are into Fukushima, and do not pay much attention to other areas. However, we found out that there are patients everywhere, whether they are evacuees from Fukushima or Tokyo, or local residents. This was the reality of low dose radiation.
    So what is the next step for Voices for Lively Spring?
    The doctors’ networks did make their kick start in five cities. The local committees mostly are working to coordinate local doctors who are interested to support patients with radiation health effects. In addition, evacuee mothers’ groups are trying to locate supporting doctors. I have also been prospecting supporting doctors. My next task will be to connect these networks within Japan.
    On the other hand, the evacuee support network is something to be done yet. The top priority is, of course, evacuation of children in Fukushima. The lawsuit for Koriyama school evacuation is still pending despite efforts by many people. So-called Share Houses, which function as temporary shelters and rehabilitation venues, are popping up in Japan. I think these are two things that I can start helping with.
    Thank you very much for listening to my talk. Before a short break, I would like Rachel to read out an essay “From Chernobyl to Fukushima” by Irene Zabytko, who is an Ukrainian American author and documentary film maker. Irene read this out on the tour in Japan. What you will see on the screen is her short documentary shot in Chernobyl.

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