Japan city to give radiation counters to children

TOKYO (AFP) – Japan’s Fukushima city said Tuesday it would hand radiation measuring devices to 34,000 children to gauge their exposure from the crippled nuclear power plant about 60 kilometres (40 miles) away.

The city will hand the “dosimeters” to all children aged between four and 15 for three months from September so that they can wear them around the clock, an official at the city’s education board told AFP.

The city is located outside the government’s no-entry zone 20 kilometres (12 miles) around the tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, but many residents are concerned about radiation, he said.

“There have been fixed-spot radiation measurements but parents and citizens are concerned about individual exposure,” said the official.

“We also believe the distribution of dosimeters will help ease parents’ worries if they confirm their children’s exposure does not pose health risks.”

He added that radiation in the city had been below the official threshold for health risks, and said the children’s dosimeters would be read out once a month to assess cumulative radiation exposure.

Since the March 11 disaster, Japan has raised the legal exposure limit for people, including children, from one to 20 millisieverts per year — matching the safety standard for nuclear industry workers in many countries.

Environmental activist group Greenpeace called on Japan last Thursday to evacuate children and pregnant women from the town.

It said its people were being exposed to 10 to 20 millisieverts per year through the air, not counting contaminants inhaled or ingested, a level Greenpeace considers unacceptable, especially for high-risk groups.

Radiation experts agree that children are at the greatest risk from cancers and genetic defects because they are still growing are more prone to thyroid cancers, and because they will have more time to develop health defects.

The city of Date, located just outside the nuclear no-go zone, said last Thursday it would distribute radiation dosimeters to all its 8,000 pre-school, elementary and junior high pupils, a news report said.

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