Abnormal thyroid growths
A Japanese study discovered that children living near the earthquake-damaged Fukushima nuclear plant have received large doses of radiation to their thyroid glands. What do these findings mean for the children and their parents?
Last year the earthquake that struck Japan triggered a tsunami that severely damaged a nuclear power plant in Fukushima. Although a major nuclear disaster was narrowly avoided at the Fukushima Dachii nuclear power plant, large amounts of radiation leaked into the environment. But public concerns still remain over the long term effects of radiation exposure. These fears were recently confirmed by a new health survey conducted on children living around the Fukushima area.
Out of more than 38,000 children tested from the Fukushima Prefecture in Japan, 36 percent were found to have cysts or nodules on their thyroids. Apparently, the children developed these abnormal growths just a year after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. These results were documented in the "Sixth Report of Fukushima Prefecture Health Management Survey," published by the Fukushima Radioactive Contamination Symptoms Research. Several children seemed to have received the equivalent of a lifetime dose to the thyroid.
In stark contrast to these findings, the number of children with abnormal thyroid growths in 2001 was 0.8 percent, according to the Japanese Thyroid Association.
Medical experts’ warnings
In contrast to the report, the Japanese government allegedly reported that more than half of the children had zero exposure. Some doctors insist that there is still no direct link between the children’s abnormal thyroids and the Fukushima radiation leaks. Naomi Takagi, an associate professor at Fukushima University Medical School Hospital, which administered the tests stated:
“We do not know the cause of this, but it is hard to believe that is due to the effects of radiation,” she said. “This is an early test and we will only see the effects of radiation exposure after four or five years.”
But Australian pediatrician Helen Caldicott stated that it is "...not at all normal for children to have thyroid nodules or cysts and that early appearance of thyroid abnormalities.”. Caldicott went on to theorise that since these thyroid growths appeared less than one year after the earthquake, there was a very high possibility that the Fukushima children received a very high dose of radiation.
Detecting thyroid disorders in children
Thyroid disorders are common in children although thyroid nodules and cysts are not as common in young children. The danger stems from the likelihood that some of the growths may turn cancerous in later life.
If you suspect that you child has symptoms of thyroid disease please consult your family health care provider for further help.