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Physical, Mental Toll of Japanese Nuke Plant Meltdown Assessed
Date:8/14/2012

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Aug. 14 (HealthDay News) -- More than one-third of residents of a town near the Japanese nuclear reactor that underwent meltdown last year showed evidence of exposure to radioactive cesium six months after the disaster, new research shows.

However, the levels aren't terribly high -- even those with the highest levels of radiation contamination still had levels that were lower than what would be treated with Prussian blue, which is used to remove radioactive materials from the body.

In addition, radiation levels in the Japanese six months after exposure were much lower than the levels seen in people exposed to Chernobyl, even seven to 10 years after the Ukraine nuclear accident, according to the study.

"Exposure levels were low in a majority of tested adults and children, and notably were much lower than those reported in studies even several years after the Chernobyl incident," said study author Dr. Masaharu Tsubokura, of the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Tokyo.

The study is published in the Aug. 15 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers used whole-body counters to measure radiation exposure in nearly 9,500 residents of Minamisoma, a town about 14 miles north of the plant and in the evacuation zone. Researchers were asked by the mayor to monitor the health of residents, Tsubokura explained.

On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 offshore earthquake caused a deadly tsunami, which knocked out the cooling system at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, sending some reactors into meltdown and releasing radioactive material into the air, water and soil.

Most exposures likely happened with a week of the meltdown, Tsubokura said, when residents of Minamisoma inhaled airborne cesium. But some exposure could have happened when they were returning home after the evacuation and ate contaminate
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