It has been several years now since the shocking events of earthquake and tsunami did such damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant spilled untold gallons of radioactive waste into the water and atmosphere. Even years later, the fallout from this disaster persists in the form of the multiple health issues which those who live near the plant have suffered, including those discussed below.
Exposure of the skin to chemicals and radioactive material in the wake of a nuclear disaster like Fukushima is common. What makes this situation worse is that decontamination agents can be in short supply after an incident of this magnitude and even when they are available, they often require fresh water to use and that can also be in scarce. This exposure can result in damage to the skin as well as the endocrine system.
Not surprisingly, survivors of a nuclear crisis such as this one can experience a variety of symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and this apparently is especially true for plant workers as well as for mothers of young children. Some researchers suspect that exposure to radiation could cause such mood disorders as well.
Perhaps the most widely-publicized side effect of a nuclear disaster, the cancer risk for those exposed to high level of radiation remains frighteningly high. What is also disturbing is the potential for genetic defects resulting from exposure that can be passed on to future generations.
Thyroid issues are also a problem after a radiological incident like Fukushima because radioactive iodine can be gathered up by the thyroid gland. This uptake can lead to thyroid cancer, hypothyroidism and effect areas of the health such as weight, hormonal balance and energy levels.
Risk to Women
Research which studied the impact that gender had upon the consequences of the Fukushima disaster found that women were more highly impacted than men from this fallout. The particular problems for pregnant women are discussed below.
Exposure to radioactive iodine while pregnant can increase a woman’s chance of abnormal thyroid and hormonal function which can lead to a greater risk for miscarriage and death of the fetus.
Thyroid Disorders in Infants
In the months following the tragedy in Fukushima, there was found to be a 28% increase in children born with thyroid problems not only in Japan but along the Pacific Rim in general, and this includes Hawaii, Alaska and West Coast states.
Pediatric Thyroid Cancer
Children are at risk for more than just hypothyroidism when they live through this kind of disaster: to date, 44 Japanese children who were living near Fukushima at the time of the disaster have developed thyroid cancer. This constitutes a significant increase from incidence of cancer previous to the fallout.
Ultimately, what is most tragic about these consequences is that they are, in effect, still largely unknown. Not enough time has passed to understand the full magnitude of what took place at Fukushima in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami and there could still be long-term damage from this incident that has not even been considered to date.
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