«The World Health Organisation (WHO) is failing in its duty to protect those populations who are victims of radioactive contamination.»

28 - March - 2013

Japanese citizen associations have been reporting violations of the right to health of populations in Fukushima since the first months of the accident. Meanwhile WHO continues to minimize health risks, despite reports from independent scientists, health professionals and citizen groups of high levels of contamination, inadequate radioprotection and early signs of very serious health problems. The Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Anand Grover, has issued a strong statement (1) following his visit to the stricken area.

 WHO’s health risk assessment of Fukushima – a travesty

Within days of the Fukushima nuclear accident and on the basis of no information whatsoever, WHO stated that “at the moment there is very little public health risk outside the 30 km (evacuation) zone”. In contrast, independent researchers (2) stated – on the basis of the composition of the emissions – that core meltdowns had occurred with massive radioactive contamination. They were right of course as TEPCO and the Japanese government conceded a few weeks later – too late to avoid harm.

Two years on, despite the availability of huge quantities of information, the WHO has issued no corrective to its initial statements. On the contrary, it has just published its “Health Risk Assessment”(3) which denies any health consequences with the exception of a slightly higher risk of developing certain cancers in populations in the worst affected areas.

The report bases its conclusions on “Preliminary Dose Estimations”(4) published by WHO but written by “experts” from the IAEA, UNSCEAR and national nuclear authorities, in other words, the nuclear lobby. The Estimations blithely report levels of radioactivity in Fukushima Prefecture of over 1 – 10 mSv and even 10-50 mSv without commenting on the fact that these are 10 to 50 times higher than the limit (1mSv/year) set by the International Commission on Radiation Protection (ICRP).

No international health authority on radiation and health

In May 2011, Rémy Pagani, Mayor of Geneva, told Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (5) that if her organization continued in its current subservient role with the International Atomic Energy Agency, part of whose mandate is to promote use of the atom, it would be completed discredited.

Despite wide recognition of its unhealthy links with the nuclear lobby, WHO continues its criminal complicity in covering up the health consequences of nuclear activities. Today WHO’s abdication of responsibility in the area of radiation and health is complete – as is its discredit.

In December 2012, UNSCEAR’s chairman, Wolfgang Weiss claimed (6) that “no radiation effects had been observed in Japan among the public, workers or children in the area of the Fukushima-Daichi nuclear power plant.” This statement is inaccurate and grossly misleading. Firstly, a colossal 35% of children in Fukushima have already developed cysts and nodules on the thyroid gland. Thyroid abnormalities are early manifestations of serious health consequences as we know from Chernobyl. Secondly, given the ten to twenty year latency period for radiation related illness, particularly cancers, it is meaningless to report on what is currently being observed. However misleading they are, such statements provide false reassurance to governments and the public.

Cancer risk 20 times higher than international “acceptable” level

CRIIRAD (7) reports soil contamination in the Planned Evacuation Zones (outside the 20 km circle) that implies exposures exceeding 20 mSv/year (8). This corresponds to a risk of cancer that is 20 times higher than the level that is judged “acceptable” by the ICRP. Hundreds of thousands of people have been exposed to unacceptable levels of radiation in 2012, as they were in 2011.

In a letter to the Special Rapporteur, ACSIR (9) reports terrifying levels of radioactivity in Fukushima, Koriyama and Date – towns situated in areas designated as Safe Zones! In Date, Dr Nesterenko of the Belrad Institute found 88 mSv/year and 237 MSv/year – equivalent to the exclusion zone in 1991 in Ukraine.

The Fukushima Centre for Agricultural Technology reported an increase in the radioactivity of vegetables over six days from 0 Bq/kg to 3421 Bq/kg in just six days’ exposure to dust in the air. (10) This provides an indication of the contamination to which children in the local school are being subjected.

Criminal negligence

The initial comments (11) made by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Mr Anand Grover, after his visit to Japan, confirm that the government has been willfully and perhaps criminally negligent in failing to protect the population from radioactive contamination.

Grover notes for example that the government :

  • neither provided instructions nor distributed stable iodine to the affected population;
  • did not make public essential information from SPEEDI which would have ensured safe evacuation;
  • used a dose of 20 mSv/year to determine evacuation areas, which is 20 times the international standard;
  • installed radiation monitoring stations that give artificially low readings;
  • is conducting a health survey that is too narrow and ignores evidence that cancer and other diseases do occur in relation to internal, low dose radiation below 100 mSv;
  • is denying access to the medical records of children with thyroid abnormalities.

A cover up will not be possible this time

In a previous meeting, Dr Chan specifically requested that IW provide her with independent information from alternative networks. With this in mind, IndependentWHO has requested that Dr Chan, Director-General, WHO, organize a meeting with Japanese citizen associations, in the presence of Anand Grover, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, before the next World Health Assembly in May 2013.

Given WHO’s total abdication of responsibility in radiation and health, it does not much matter whether Dr Chan listens either to citizens or the Special Rapporteur. The truth will out. The Japanese people have denounced official lies and disinformation since the first weeks of the catastrophe and will continue to do so over the next decades. In ten to twenty years, the tragedy of the continuing health catastrophe will be there for all to see.

 Alison Katz

Le Courrier – Daily newspaper – Geneva – 25th of March 2013


1 – UN Special Rapporteur’s Press Statement. County Visit to Japan, 15­26 November 2012.

2 – Such as Fairewinds

3 – Health Risk Assessment from the nuclear accident after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. WHO, 2013.

4 – Preliminary dose estimations from the nuclear accident after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. WHO, 2012.

5 – During a meeting with IndependentWHO

6 – Weiss, Wolfgang. Preparing a scientific report to the General Assembly on exposures due to nuclear accident following the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami. J. Radiol. Prot. 32 N113.

7 – Commission de Recherche et d’Information Indépendantes sur la Radioactivité. Communiqué de Presse 5 et 11 décembre, 2012

8 – 1 mSv/year is the permissible dose for adults set by the ICRP

9 – Association of Citizens and Scientists Concerned about Internal Radiation, letter dated 8 November 2012

10 – Fukushima Institute of Agricultural Technology

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