Fukushima fallout sickens U.S. babies?
Children born in Pacific coastal states in 2011 may be at greatest risk.
It's already well known how devastating the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown was for Japan -- dramatic spikes in radiation-related illnesses, an increase in likely cancer deaths over the next several years, and pollution which may never truly be cleaned up.
A new study suggests what many worldwide have feared -- that the devastation from the traveling radiation has in fact sickened infants in other countries, including babies born shortly after the incident in Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California.
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The study, conducted by scientists with the Radiation and Public Health Project, found that babies born shortly after the incident were 28 percent more likely to suffer from congenital hypothyroidism than were children born in those states during the same period one year earlier. In the rest of the U.S., which received less radioactive fallout, the risks actually decreased slightly compared with the year before.
The explosions produced the radioisotope iodine-131, which floated east over the Pacific Ocean and landed through precipitation on West Coast states as well as other Pacific countries. The levels of that isotope were measured in levels hundreds of times greater than supposedly safe levels. Radioactive iodine accumulates in human thyroid glands, and, in babies and fetuses, the radiation can stunt the growth and development of both the body and the brain. That condition is congenital hypothyroidism (which, luckily, is treatable when and if detected early).
Fukushima fallout appeared to affect all areas of the U.S., and was especially large in some, mostly in the western part of the nation, the study said. Even worse, other conditions affecting babies born in that time frame may have been caused or worsened by Fukushima, the researchers said.
"[State and federal] health departments will soon have [data] available for other 2010 and 2011 indicators of fetal/infant health, including fetal deaths, premature births, low weight births, neonatal deaths, infant deaths, and birth defects.”
Scary? You bet. But information is power. If you have a baby born in March or April 2011 and you live on the Pacific Coast of the U.S. (or other Pacific countries), ask your pediatrician to test your child for congenital hypothyroidism -- and anything else he or she believes could have been caused by radiation.
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