Butterflies dying in Fukushima


This video from China is about a pale grass blue butterfly.

From BioMed Central:

Are butterflies still fluttering in Fukushima?

September 23, 2014 at 9:00 am

In this guest blog, Joji M. Otaki discusses the impact feasting on radioactively contaminated leaves has on the surrounding blue butterfly population.

The collapse of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011 is the second largest nuclear accident, next to Chernobyl, in the history of mankind. Many theoreticians and politicians have claimed, without any field-based or experimental evidence, that there are no harmful biological effects caused by the released artificial radionuclides.

Even worse, some biologists have claimed that there are no biological impacts in the polluted area, based solely on fragmentary data from a short survey or a non-informative experiment (or based on irrelevant data) that have no power to resolve the issue. These claims were often relatively well advertised.

However, this situation has changed in recent years. For example, it has already been reported that some animals, especially butterflies, decreased in number in the polluted areas in Fukushima, based on field surveys conducted by Prof. Timothy Mousseau and his colleagues. We have been working on the pale grass blue butterfly, Zizeeria maha, to evaluate the biological impacts of the accident … . We are sure that this species of butterfly was considerably affected by the accident, based on several field surveys, rearing experiments in our laboratory, external exposure experiments, and internal exposure experiments, some of which have already been published. The internal exposure experiments were performed in the previously published papers by feeding Okinawa larvae (least affected in Japan) leaves contaminated at high levels.

Now in the paper just published in BMC Evolutionary Biology, we tested if leaves contaminated at relatively low (or very low) levels from places where many people live could be harmful to this butterfly from Okinawa. As expected, leaves contaminated at very low levels (e.g., Okinawa, 0.2 Bq/kg; Atami, 2.5 Bq/kg) did not show any significant effect. However, to our surprise, leaves contaminated at relatively low levels, approximately 100 Bq/kg (e.g., Koriyama, 117 Bq/kg), resulted in a mortality rate of more than 50%. This result differs from the previous one which was based on leaves contaminated at relatively high levels (e.g., Fukushima, 7,860 Bq/kg; Iitate-flatland, 10,170 Bq/kg) see). Because the breeding lines used in these two experiments were different, the difference indicates sensitivity variation within this single species.

Indeed, in our experiments, a mortality rate never reached 100%, even in feeding leaves contaminated at extremely high levels. In other words, some are completely fine at least morphologically, but others are heavily ill or dead. Sensitivity to radiation varies very much among individuals.

The ingestional impacts appear to be transgenerational, as the body size (more precisely, the forewing size) of this butterfly decreased in the offspring generation. Moreover, the sensitivity of the offspring generation increased, resulting in very high mortality rates. Interestingly, feeding the offspring larvae non-contaminated leaves resulted in low mortality rates.

Of course, we do not know how much of our experimental results from the pale grass blue butterfly are applicable to humans. However, it is widely believed among modern biologists that insights obtained from one biological system are largely applicable to other systems. This is why biologists study model organisms such as the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. Studies on this insect have greatly contributed to our understanding of humans.

To my knowledge, there have been no cases of human health effects of the Fukushima accident reported in scientific literature thus far, although anecdotal evidence has been around. To be sure, human-based studies are slow, descriptive, less conclusive, and more often a target of political pressure, compared with insect studies, but of course human studies are necessary. I believe that at least some studies on human health will appear sooner or later in scientific literature.

‘Remember Fukushima’: Thousands rally against nuclear restart in Japan — Common Dreams: here.

Tepco struggling to win approval of fishermen over water-discharge plan — The Asahi Shimbun; The Japan Times: here.

Tritium up tenfold in Fukushima groundwater after Typhoon Phanfone — The Japan Times; Fukushima plant prepares for typhoon Vongfong — IANS, Yahoo! News: here.

About a third of the 180 monitoring cameras installed at the experimental Monju fast-breeder reactor were found broken during a safety inspection last month, a source familiar with the matter said, renewing concerns about safety management at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, which runs it: here.

More than 25,000 people will never go home because of Fukushima contamination — Rob Edwards, Sunday Herald: here.

Fukushima young people have thyroid cancer


This March 2014 video is called The Thyroid Cancer Hotspot Devastating Fukushima’s Child Survivors.

From the Asahi Shimbun in Japan:

Thyroid cancer diagnosed in 104 young people in Fukushima

August 24, 2014

By YURI OIWA/ Staff Writer

The number of young people in Fukushima Prefecture who have been diagnosed with definitive or suspected thyroid gland cancer, a disease often caused by radiation exposure, now totals 104, according to prefectural officials.

The 104 are among 300,000 young people who were aged 18 or under at the time of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and whose results of thyroid gland tests have been made available as of June 30. They were eligible for the tests administered by the prefectural government.

Of these 104, including 68 women, the number of definitive cases is 57, and one has been diagnosed with a benign tumor. The size of the tumors varies from 5 to 41 millimeters and averages 14 mm.

The average age of those diagnosed was 14.8 when the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.

However, government officials in Fukushima say they do not believe the cases of thyroid gland cancer diagnosed or suspected in the 104 young people are linked to the 2011 nuclear accident.

The figure can be extrapolated for comparison purposes to an average of more than 30 people per population of 100,000 having definitive or suspected thyroid gland cancer.

The figure is much higher than, for example, the development rate of thyroid cancer of 1.7 people per 100,000 among late teens based on the cancer patients’ registration in Miyagi Prefecture.

But experts say the figures cannot be compared because the test in Fukushima Prefecture covers a large number of people who have no symptoms.

Experts are divided over whether the cases of thyroid gland cancer diagnosed or suspected in the 104 young people should be linked to the 2011 nuclear accident.

In connection with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, the number of young people diagnosed with thyroid cancer rose only after four years. The cancer is also known to develop slowly.

But some researchers say that the occurrence of thyroid gland cancer is likely to be increased by the Fukushima nuclear accident.

“Many people are being diagnosed with cancer at this time, thanks to the high-precision tests,” said Yoshio Hosoi, professor of radiation biology at Tohoku University. “We must continue closely examining the people’s health in order to determine the impact of radiation exposure on causing thyroid tumors.”

By regions, 27.7 people per 100,000 people have been diagnosed with definitive or suspected thyroid cancer in the Aizu region, located 80 kilometers or farther from the crippled nuclear plant. The number could increase after thorough examinations are completed for people in the region

Around 35 people per 100,000 have been diagnosed with definitive or suspected cancer in the Nakadori region, which includes Fukushima city and several municipalities designated as mandatory evacuation zones, and the coastal Hamadori region.

Hokuto Hoshi, who chairs a panel that discusses matters related to the prefectural survey on the health impact from radiation on Fukushima’s residents, said the panel’s subcommittee will soon analyze the test results to determine the impact of the accident on the thyroid tumor rate.

“In order to scientifically compare the results of the development rates of each region, we must take into account age and other characteristics (of the 104 people),” he said.

The prefecture also plans to continue medical checkups on residents in the prefecture and use the test results as a basis for comparison in the future, prefectural officials said.