Annals of Tropical Medicine and Public Health

LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Year
: 2016  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 362--363

Fukushima 5 years on: Public health consequences and response


Saurabh RamBihariLal Shrivastava, Prateek Saurabh Shrivastava, Jegadeesh Ramasamy 
 Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu, India

Correspondence Address:
Saurabh RamBihariLal Shrivastava
Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, 3rd Floor, Ammapettai, Thiruporur to Guduvancherry Main Road, Sembakkam Post, Kancheepuram - 603 108, Tamil Nadu
India




How to cite this article:
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. Fukushima 5 years on: Public health consequences and response.Ann Trop Med Public Health 2016;9:362-363


How to cite this URL:
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. Fukushima 5 years on: Public health consequences and response. Ann Trop Med Public Health [serial online] 2016 [cited 2019 Oct 19 ];9:362-363
Available from: http://www.atmph.org/text.asp?2016/9/5/362/190208


Full Text

Dear Sir,

It has been 5 years since a major earthquake rocked off the Eastern Japan coast, which then resulted in a series of events eventually leading to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident, which accounted for the deaths of close to 15,900 people and close to 2580 people were never found. [1] The disaster was rated as the most severe form of nuclear accident due to the release of substantial amounts of radioactive materials iodine and cesium into the environment. [1],[2] In fact, it was estimated that a large proportion of the affected population across variable representative groups were exposed to radiation levels of around 10 mSv. [3]

Although, the local authorities were prompt enough to initiate countermeasures with an aim to protect the high-risk group of people, a wide range of social, financial and public health consequences were reported, predominantly due to the response actions of evacuation and relocation of people. [1],[2],[3] These effects included psychosocial effects (like ruptured social links of people who lost their homes/employment, stigma), and mental health impacts (like posttraumatic stress disorder, emotional disturbances, postpartum depression, etc.). [1],[2],[3] In addition, the exposed people have a higher risk of developing thyroid malignancy, in comparison to those who were unexposed. [4]

Further, owing to the prompt action by the stakeholders to control the food chain and monitor food for assessing the levels of radioactive elements, appropriate interventions were done to prevent the sale and distribution of contaminated food within as well as outside the nation. [2],[5] However, some very important lessons were learned from the response to the nuclear disaster, like though evacuation is the need of the hour at times of such disasters, it might itself pose a serious health risk to the vulnerable people; there has to be a comprehensive backup plan or preparedness to respond to the various needs of the relocated people; proactive response from the health sector to address the mental health needs of the evacuees; and strengthen different aspects of risk communication, including training of the health workers to enhance peoples' participation. [1],[2]

Even though, we are not in a state to prevent the occurrence of any natural disaster, reducing the aftereffects of the same is totally dependent on the national capacities for preparedness and prompt implementation of the International Health Regulations. [2],[3] In fact, measures such as developing a policy/action plan based on the risk-assessment, promoting international cooperation, establishing an information-sharing platform to ensure the formulation and promotion of international radiation safety standards, ensuring social mobilization, and empowerment of local communities through involvement of community representatives in the decision-making to take actions depending on the priorities of the affected people, conducting population health surveillance to identify the additional needs, maintaining continuous monitoring and estimating the levels of radioactivity in environment/foods, organizing medical follow-up of both affected populations to detect any early lesion and the emergency workers as a part of ergonomic intervention, extending counseling and mental support services to the affected families, and promoting extensive research, will be of great assistance to deal with the challenges of any such future nuclear accident. [1],[2],[5]

To conclude, the Fukushima nuclear accident was an unprecedented event with regards to its magnitude and nature. Although, not much can be reversed now, the disaster has definitely provided evidence and lessons to all the nations to plan, prepare, respond, and recover from such potential nuclear accidents in a much better way.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

References

1World Health Organization. Fukushima Five Years on; 2016. Available from: http://www.who.int/ionizing_radiation/a_e/fukushima/en/. [Last accessed on 2016 Mar 11].
2Yamashita S; Radiation Medical Science Center for the Fukushima Health Management Survey. Comprehensive health risk management after the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident. Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol) 2016;28:255-62.
3World Health Organization. Health risk assessment from the nuclear accident after the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami, based on a preliminary dose estimation. Geneva: WHO Press; 2013. p. 1-13.
4Suzuki S. Childhood and adolescent thyroid cancer in Fukushima after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident: 5 years on. Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol) 2016;28:263-71.
5Reich MR, Goto A. Towards long-term responses in Fukushima. Lancet 2015;386:498-500.