Can education in “Risk Communication” in Fukushima protect children’s health? Results of thyroid examination emphasizes “nothing is abnormal” in Fukushima


Early spring in Fukushima city
Early spring in Fukushima city

According to Fukushima Minpo (12th May, 2013), Fukushima prefecture and Fukushima Medical University will hold explanatory meetings for parents and educators in all the schools in Fukushima about results of the thyroid screening examination of children who reside in 3 other prefectures, these examinations having been conducted by the Ministry of Environment. The Ministry had independently conducted thyroid screening surveys of children in 3 cities outside Fukushima after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. The result was compared to the result of the on-going screening examination conducted by the Fukushima prefecture. The Ministry concluded in its report that  the situation of Fukushima prefecture is not abnormal compared to other prefectures.


The meetings will be held at 1700 educational institutions in the prefecture, including daycare centers/kindergartens and private schools, from June this year to March next year. This large scale series of meetings is planned as a part of educational program for risk communication in Fukushima.

The government has provided six hundred million yen to the risk communication program in Fukushima in the fiscal year of 2011, and a part of the meeting expenses will be covered by these funds.  

At the meetings, examiners of thyroid examination from the Center of Radiation Medical Science (Fukushima medical school) for the Fukushima health management survey, as well as medical doctors in the prefecture, are scheduled to attend. Expected attendants from the public are teachers and parents, including those who have infants in the community. Furthermore, for school educators, making a booklet of hypothetical questions & answers has been proposed. This booklet is to be supplied to educators as a manual that can be used to answer questions from guardians.

According to the prefecture, the purpose of the public meeting is to ease anxiety of inhabitants and educators against radiation by health professionals explaining the purpose of the screening test and its benefit.

In the Minpo newspaper, "Risk communication is defined as : Public administrators and companies provide correct information to the inhabitants about things and phenomena such as radiation and chemical substances, which may affect health of the inhabitants, and the risks on the inhabitants are aimed to be eased by the communication between public administrators, companies and the inhabitants. 

Following this concept, the intention of both national and local government for holding parental meetings is to provide correct information to the residents in order to fill the communication gap between the government and residents. But is it really true that Fukushima is not special for outset of thyroid illnesses? Is the Ministry’s survey data for the control groups, compared to the ones conducted in Fukushima, credible? 


What is this survey by the Ministry of the Environment?

Examinations carried by Fukushima prefecture are for the age group 0-18 years, a total of 360,000 children. The prefecture has finished processing 133,089 people. Three of these are confirmed as thyroid cancer patients and 7 show signs of possible thyroid cancer (at the point of May 12, 2013. Later in June another 12 cases came out as confirmed and 15 cases as suspected thyroid cancer)

On the other hand, the survey by the Ministry of the Environment, which concluded the situation of this prefecture is not abnormal compare to other prefectures, used as a reference group 4365 people aged 3-18, living in Hirosaki-city (Aomori prefecture), Kofu-city (Yamanashi pref) and Nagasaki city (Nagasaki pref) . The impact from the nuclear incident in these three cities appears to be small. The screening was made by ultrasound examination. It was found that, in this reference group, 58.2% fall in the judge A1 category, meaning they have no tumor, 0.6% go into group judge B1 who need secondary examination. One individual was found to be in group judge C, needing immediate secondary examination.

The percentage of persons deemed to be in judge A2 category (no need to take secondary examination but who have small tumor) was higher in the reference group, 41.2%, than that of thyroid examinations in Fukushima.

From this comparison, the Ministry of the Environment concluded  that the results are almost identical, bearing in mind the difference in the number of people who took the examination.

However, the survey by the Ministry did not include children below at the age of 3 in the reference group from the 3 prefectures, although the thyroid examination in Fukushima includes children between 0 and 3. Thus, infants, who can be expected the most vulnerable against radioactive iodine, are excluded from the data to be compared.


What did the United Nations Commission on Human Rights recommend on education approach in Fukushima?

Anand Grover, a Special Rapporteur to United Nations Commission on Human Rights, who inspected Fukushima prefecture in November 2011, said:

 The State should ensure that accurate and scientifically sound information on radiation and radioactivity is provided as regards children. Where appropriate, their parents must be given adequate information in order to facilitate their informed decision-making concerning matters of the childrens health. Additionally, respect for peoples right to health requires the State to refrain from misrepresenting information in health-related matters in his report. The repot can be read on the link)

The report on the results of thyroid examinations of the reference groups from three cities, compared to those of Fukushima prefecture, as conducted by Ministry of the Environment, is not covering whole age groups of children. Although a significant age group was left out of the reference survey, they make the conclusion Fukushima is not abnormal and it is presented as if the result were the same for all the age groups. This misrepresenting message is going to be delivered to parents in Fukushima as independent scientific findings with the presence of authorities such as medical professionals, spending grant money from the government for risk communication program.

One would wonder: What is the purpose of risk communication when the professionals with authority who hold the thyroid data - which is not even accurate - emphasize safe and secure in public meetings? Are the meetings are really for the sake of residents? Certainly the doubt will not be wiped away, when the local and national government along with medical professionals keep serving misleading information.




Fukushima Minpo article

Report on the thyroid screening conducted by Fkuhsima prefecture

Report on the thyroid screening conducted by the Ministry of Environment

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health,  Anand Grover,  Human Rights Council 23rd session


Text written by WNSCR team


福島における「リスクコミュニケーション」教育は子どもたちの健康を守るのか。 甲状腺検査の結果は「特異な状況にない」ことを強調。

福島民報(2013年5月12日)によると、県と福島県立医大は、6月より来年3月まで、県内すべての教育機関(保育所/幼稚園、私立の学校も含む)1700カ所において、環境省が行った甲状腺検査結果と、福島県が行った甲状腺検査の比較の結果を説明する説明会を行う。説明会はリスクコミュニケーション教育の一環として行われる。環境省は、 東京電力福島第一原発事故に伴う甲状腺検査を実施しており、「福島県が他県と比べて特異な状況にない」と結論づけている。






リスクコミュニケーションは、福島民報には「 放射線や化学物質など健康への影響が心配される物・事象について、事業者や行政が説明会などで住民に正しい情報を伝え、互いに意思疎通を図った上でリスク(危険性)の軽減に取り組むこと。」とある。しかし、6億円の資金を使い環境省の調査を持ち出して、福島に置ける甲状腺の異常が特別ではない事を子どもたちの親に向けて強調する事は、さらなる健康被害を防ぐリスクマネージメントにつながるのであろうか?そもそも、「福島は特別ではない」事を示す根拠となった環境省が独自に行った調査とはどのようなものなのか?














2011年11月に福島県を視察した国連人権委員会特別報告者ANAND GROVER氏は、その報告書のなかで、「国家は、十分な情報に基づいて子どもの健康に関する決定がなされることを促進するために、子ども、適切な場合には、親に提供される放射能及び放射線に関する情報を正確かつ科学的なものとするべきである。さらに、健康に対する権利を尊重することは、国家に健康に関する事項についての誤った情報の伝達を慎むよう要求する。」(ヒューマンライツナウ仮訳


The State should ensure accurate and scientifically sound information on radiation and radioactivity is provided to children and, where appropriate, their parents to facilitate informed decision making regarding their health. Additionally, respecting the right to health requires the State to refrain from misrepresenting information in health-related matters. (51、A/HRC/23/41/Add.3)




環境省の行った甲状腺検査の結果と福島県内の検査結果を、対象グループが異なるにもかかわらず比較し、「福島が特異ではない」との結論を導くことは、国連の人権委員会の報告であったように「誤った情報 の伝達を慎むように」という意見とは逆である。またその結果をリスクコミュニケーション教育の一環として教育機関を通して広めるのは、いったい誰のためなのか。健康被害の拡大を防ぐために統計学的に正しくない情報を示し、「安全安心」を強調する事は、危険に備えて準備するリスクコミュニケーション本来の目的とは合致しないに違いない。


(WNSCR team)


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