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HOME  > Past issues  > 2016 March 2 - 8  > 32K Fukushima workers exposed to radiation exceeding standards for work-related leukemia recognition
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2016 March 2 - 8 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

32K Fukushima workers exposed to radiation exceeding standards for work-related leukemia recognition

March 7, 2016
A total of more than 32,000 workers at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant have been exposed to radiation doses of over 5mSv, the government-set standards for recognizing leukemia as work-related, Akahata reported on March 7.

Akahata calculated the figure based on data regarding workers’ radiation exposure made public by the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company. The data covers the time period between March 11, 2011, when a massive earthquake and tsunami hit the power plant, and January 31, 2016.

As of the end of January 2016, 174 workers at the plant were exposed to accumulated radiation doses of 100mSv or over, which is known to increase the risk of death from cancer by 0.5%. Among the 174 workers, some recorded radiation exposure of 679mSv. Many of these highly-exposed workers were probably at the plant just after the meltdown accident, Akahata pointed out.

The Labor Ministry designates the annual radiation exposure of 5mSv as one of the criteria in judging whether a worker’s leukemia is work-related or not. A total of 32,760 Fukushima workers went beyond this set radiation exposure. In 2014 alone, the number of such workers stood at 6,600 because the operator sent more workers to the plant in order to deal with the radioactively-contaminated water problem.

As the utility will face further challenges, including checking the inside of damaged reactors and bringing out spent nuclear fuel, it will be required to properly manage workers so that they will not be exposed to excessive radiation doses.

A local labor standards inspection office in October 2015 recognized a Fukushima worker’s leukemia as work-related. This is the first case where a worker’s cancer was judged to have been induced by radiation exposure at the Fukushima plant.

On the other hand, the Labor Ministry says that among Fukushima workers who had applied for the recognition of their cancer as work-related, three applications were rejected.
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