The UN Special Rapporteur on the 'right to health', Mr. Anand Grover, delivered a statement to the press in Tokyo Monday, November 26, at the conclusion of a 12 day investigative visit to Japan. During his stay, he met with various members of the government, TEPCO, medical and legal experts and citizens groups, and also visited affected regions in Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures, he said. His mission was to assess Japan's response to the tsunami and nuclear accident in terms of the UN recognized right to health.
The response to the nuclear disaster in Fukushima
He cited a number of failings in the government response, among them, the failure to inform local residents of emergency management plans before the accident, the failure to promptly distribute or give instructions to take stable iodine immediately following the accident, and the failure to communicate radiation dose information through the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI) in a timely fashion. He commended the recent reorganization of Japan's nuclear regulatory authority, now under the auspices of the Ministry of Enviroment, which promises greater independence and accountability than its predecessor, but said that further measures to vet potential conflicts of interest still need to be put in place. Government collection of radiation monitoring data should be expanded to include validated independent data collected by residents, he said. Mr. Grover noted that that government's 20 microsievert per year threshold for designating areas for evacuation is inconsistent with Japanese industrial regulations, the standard for obligatory evacuation used in Chernobyl (5 microsieverts per year), and a significant number of epidemiological studies, which have found increased risks for cancer and other diseases at exposures less than 100 microsieverts per year. He urged that the government should broaden the scope of efforts to monitor and treat radiation health effects, including in populations outside Fukushima prefecture. Parents of children whose thyroids were tested should have access to test results on-demand rather than only after onerous application procedures, and they should have opportunities to seek second opinions or retests. The large numbers of workers who have been employed at the Fukushima Daiichi accident site, often under a layer of sub-contractors, need to be systematically monitored and treated, unlike the situation at present, he said.
'Right to health' framework
Grover said that he had heard from affected residents who feel they have had no say in decisions affecting them, and that meaningful public participation is essential within the 'right to health' framework.
During questions and answers at his statement to the national press club, he said he had shared his prepared remarks with representatives of the government earlier that day and that they had already responded favorably to some of his recommendations.
Grover will submit a final report to the UN Human Rights Council in June next year. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health is a position mandated in 2002 by the UN Commission on Human Rights, as it was called until 2006.
Source: Our Planet-TV