May 10, 2012

The Japanese government’s brainwashing radiation booklet for children and teachers

The current Japanese government has turned into an insane cult group.  They are spreading poison called radioactive material all over Japan, abandoning sick people to die, and brainwashing children in the educational settings to make them believe radiation is safe.  

This is in essence not different from the Sarin attack on the Tokyo subway by the Aum Shinrikyo.

In October 2011, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology publicized the booklet on basic knowledge of radiation.  It had been under plan even prior to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear accident and commissioned to the Japan Atomic Energy Relations Organization(JAERO) after it won the open competitive bidding on the project at 21,000,000 yen ($262,500) on March 9, 2011, two days before the Great East Japan Earthquake struck. After the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear accident, the operating expense was raised to 37,000,000 yen ($462,500) so that the content can take into consideration the effect of the accident.  However, they still commissioned JAERO to do the job, despite JAERO’s deep ties with the electric utility industry.  On top of it, the committee that actually created the booklet failed to record minutes of the proceedings, leading to the complete lack of transparency.  This committee consisted of 13 specialists and teachers and was headed by Tohoku University Professor Emeritus Takashi Nakamura, a nuclear engineer.  There seemed to be no physician member on the committee, intentionally or unintentionally.

The booklet comes in student and teacher editions.  Each comes in three versions with varying degrees of language and conceptual complexities:  elementary school, junior high school, and high school.  It was distributed nationwide as an educational aid, but it seems to be particularly read in Fukushima prefecture where the matter is more real for an obvious reason.

You can find all of them here. (in Japanese)

The contents cover the basic information about radiation, radioactivity, and radioactive material.  Different units and ways of measuring radioactivity are explained.  It also explains how “useful” radiation is in our lives in such fields as medicine, science, agriculture, manufacturing industry, archeology, etc.  

Although some basic information is legitimate and informative, there were a few points that were quite misleading.  Many Japanese have become quite knowledgeable about radiation, by necessity, since the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident.  We have found the public often have more information than the government officials.  Such misleading information might not have been recognized by the public before the accident.  The government is insulting people’s intelligence by circulating gross inaccuracies.  

The least we could do for the children, who are forced to inherit the nuclear mess created, is to provide them with accurate information so that they can protect themselves and go on with their lives.  We cannot help but think the booklet is telling children to simply accept the use of radiation because it is useful and relatively harmless.  This is brainwashing.

The common messages in all three versions in both student and teacher editions included the following:

  • There is no clear proof that illnesses such as cancer occurred solely from radiation as a cause when a human was exposed to one-time radiation dose less than 100 mSv.  However, cancers might originate from a combination of various causes.  Thus it is important to minimize the radiation exposure.

  • Radioactive materials will fall on the ground with time, thus decreasing in the air, allowing for the use of air conditioners and exhaust fans.  You will also no longer be required to wear masks for protection.  Thus you will no longer be required to keep taking protective measures as the accident is brought to an end.

This statement is misleading on several levels.  First of all, the Fukushima accident has not been brought to an end.  It is an ongoing problem with the tattered buildings unable to contain the radioactive emissions.  In addition, the statement makes it sound like once out of the air and on the ground, the radioactive material is harmless.  Radioactive materials falling on the ground contaminate everything in the biosphere including soil, plants, trees, vegetables, water sources, animals, and of course humans.  Just because the ambient level is low, it doesn’t mean it’s gone.  In fact, the ambient radiation level is higher closer to the ground.  In some cities in Fukushima, the ambient radiation levels are routinely over 0.5 microsievert per hour,  and it might be over 1.0 microsievert per hour right on the ground.  The more accurate way of assessing the contamination is to test the soil for radionuclides.  Moreover, once in the soil, a radionuclide such as radioactive cesium will get into wild mushrooms and vegetables, bioaccumulating in species that eat contaminated produce.  

Some excerpts of the student edition have been translated into English here.  If you have common sense knowledge of radiation, radioactivity and radioactive material, it should be easy to see how the statements are wrong or misleading.

This is an explanation of half-lives in the elementary school student version:
  • Here it talks about the changes seen in radioactive material with a half-life of one month.  Pink dots represent the original radioactive material and blue dots are defined as “something else” that came from the original radioactive material after it emitted radiation.  This “something else” is assumed not to emit radiation, which is quite misleading.  Their attempt might have been to simplify the issue by showing the halving of the numbers, but in reality it is not that simple.  Even elementary school children could appreciate the matter has inherent complexities.

Junior high school student edition has additional information:

  • Human beings always existed and evolved in the environment containing radiation.  We are exposed to radiation in our daily lives.  (Note: This is true in terms of naturally occurring radiation, yet it does not validate exposure to an excessive, uncontrolled amount of artificial, manmade radiation resulting from nuclear reactor fission products.)
  • Both natural radiation and man-made radiation will have the same effects on human bodies if they are in the same amount.  

High school student edition has additional information:
  • One of the effects of radiation on human bodies is physical effects seen in those exposed to radiation.  They are divided into categories such as acute radiation injury, fetal damage, and delayed radiation injury.  In addition, there have been researches on hereditary effects seen in the offspring of the exposed individuals in the absence of their own symptoms, but so far no proof has been reported of such hereditary effects in humans.

The table below is in all versions of the teacher edition, showing the relative risk for developing cancer from various causes.  Rough translation is shown below.

Cause                Relative risk for cancer
Radiation exposure to 1,000 to 2,000 mSv 1.8 times
Smoking and drinking         1.6 times
Emancipation             1.29 times
Obesity 1.22 times
Radiation exposure to 200 to 500 mSv 1.19 times
Lack of physical exercise 1.15 to 1.19 times
High salt intake 1.11 to 1.15 times
Radiation exposure to 100 to 200 mSv 1.08 times
Lack of vegetable consumption 1.06 times

Note: The radiation exposure data is from the one-time exposure due to atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and only includes solid malignant tumors.  It does not reflect the effect of long-term radiation exposure.
Note: The data was based on Japanese people who were 40 to 69 years of age.

The description of the table is self-explanatory in terms of why this data doesn’t make sense.  Clearly, the radiation exposure from the Fukushima accident is long term and different from Hiroshima/Nagasaki.  It also includes only the solid malignant tumors.  It does NOT include leukemia.  The data was also based on people over 40 years of age.  Children have faster rates of cell divisions as they are growing, which means their cells have higher chances of transmitting genetic code errors caused by radiation.

All versions of the teacher edition of the booklet are also full of “instructional pointers” that tell them what to teach children.  Translated excerpts are shown in bold letters.
  • Make the students understand that there are various causes that might lead to diseases such as cancer and there are certain things to consider in leading healthy lives.
  • It is known that an exposure to a massive one-time radiation dose causes cancer in human, but there is no obvious proof that radiation could be a causative factor in increased cancer deaths when the one-time exposure dose is less than 100 mSv, including children.  However, it is the international consensus to decrease the amount of radiation exposure in order to avoid any possibility of developing cancer.
  • In addition, radioactive material emitted into the air will fall on the nearby ground, especially attached to rain.  What didn’t fall on the ground will rise higher into the sky, transported far by the wind, eventually falling onto the ground and the surface of ocean.  The radioactive material that fall on the ground will attach themselves to the soil, minimizing the possibility of being blown up into the air by the wind.
  • Permissible levels of radioactive material in the food defined by the Ministry of Health and Labor are defined on the premise it will not have harmful health effects even after daily consumption of everything for a whole year.  These levels have been set up with considerable built-in safety net.

Instructional pointers:

Make them understand there is no obvious proof in the relationship between low radiation level of below 100 mSv and illnesses.

Make them understand there are various causes in the occurrences of cancer.
  • Effects of radiation on human bodies vary depending on the type and amount of radiation.  It is known that a large amount of radiation causes symptoms in human bodies.  However, the same total radiation dose is more harmful in one-time dose as opposed to cumulative doses.  This is because human bodies have recovery function.
  • There is no obvious proof that one-time exposure to less than 100 mSv of radiation leads to an increased cancer death rate.
  • Moreover, both natural radiation and man-made radiation will have the same effect regardless of the source if the type and the amount of radiation are the same.

Instructional pointers:
Make students understand that when a certain time period passes after the accident, the radioactive material will fall on the ground and earlier protective measures will no longer be necessary.

Annual exposure dose of 20 mSv as a limit used in recommendation for evacuation:
  1. Acute phase: Make sure the exposure dose from the accident does not exceed 20 to 100 mSv annually. At this stage, reduce the amount of radiation exposure by evacuating to far, safe places and conducting thorough radiation measurements of drinking water and food.
  2. Recovery period after the accident resolves: Try not to exceed 1 to 20 mSv annually.  At this stage, reduce the amount of radiation exposure by removing contaminated soil around schools and houses and keeping a watch to make sure no food exceeding the legal limit is distributed.

The limit on radiation exposure in our country is set up according to the ICRP recommendations.  Radiation exposure to the public has been decided not to exceed 1 mSv annually by defining the radiation level limit within the working zones such as nuclear power plants, hospitals and factories.  This radiation limit is regulated under approved conditions with appropriate facility designs and protective plans.  It is not the limit that suggests the border between safety and danger where health effects will appear if exposed to a higher dose.

Radiation exposure from radioactive material emitted into the environment, as seen in the Tokyo Electric Company Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant accident, is different from radiation exposure to controlled radiation sources in planned irradiation.  In this case it is impossible to plan protection.  Thus the mentioned annual limit of 1 mSv is not applied, and the protection is based on limits called reference levels in the acute phase and the recovery phase after the accident comes to an end.  Reference levels are defined as limits that will always be accompanied by protective measures for reducing the radiation levels such as evacuation and decontamination.  However, according to ICRP, these protective measures should not require an excessive amount of expense and personnel but rather should be done within the practical limits, financially and socially.

Not much needs to be explained about the excerpts from the teacher edition.  Not only are they full of inaccuracies but they contain information inconsistent with what the government actually did, for instance, “conducting thorough radiation measurements of drinking water and food.”

Educational settings such as schools should not be the place to distribute inaccurate information.  Sadly, it seems that some teachers actually believe the contents of the booklet.  Most parents, if they are knowledgeable about the true danger of radiation, are upset about the booklet.  There also seems to be a movement amongst some teachers to demand revamping of the booklet.

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