Reports of cancer start to be more than just rumors

I have resisted paying attention to tweets and anonymous blog posts about sicknesses emerging in Fukushima, but recently there have been a number of credible reports of leukemia being diagnosed among people who have spent time in Fukushima since March 11th, 2011. We can expect TEPCO and other authorities to deny any link between these cases and radiation exposure, and they will probably get away with doing so as long as hospitals don't overflow with hundreds of patients dropping on the sidewalks, banging on the doors begging for treatment. It is impossible to prove definitively that any single case of cancer was caused by radiation or a given exposure to a carcinogen. Even when cases cluster in a certain time and place, the patterns of distribution may resemble random distributions. Real, naturally occurring random distributions show clusters in ways that appear to be non-random and deceive human observers into thinking there is a pattern.

But here's the thing. There is a chance that these cases below were cherry picked out of the number of leukemia cases that occur in a large population every year, but when you reduce that population to the much smaller number of known public figures and persons working at a nuclear accident site, the evidence of a causal relation becomes more persuasive. Another suspicious factor is that some of the cases reported are acute types of cancer and types that occur more commonly in children.

In the list of five people below, one of them was working at the Fukushima Dai-ichi site, two are public figures, one was known through appearances in a local hobby magazine, and the last one is both a public figure and a worker at Fukushima Dai-ichi site. In your country, when was the last time you heard of five prominent personalities being diagnosed with acute, rare types of leukemia in a period of a few months?

1. A 40-year-old Fukushima radiation worker died of acute leukemia after working at plant for week.
2. Nagashima Kazuyuki, 30, won a silver medal at Asian wrestling league last year. He has been diagnosed with acute myelocytic leukemia. He trains in Iwaki, Fukushima.
3. Nationally known broadcaster Mr. Otsuka Norikazu was diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia. In the months after March 11th, 2011, he spent a lot of time in Fukushima and he made a point of demonstrating the safety of Fukushima food products by eating them on air. 
4. Mr. Abe Hiroto, 23, of Fukushima Prefecture, who wrote columns for a fisher’s magazine called Rod & Reel, died of acute lymphocytic leukemia. He prided himself on living off fish from the local rivers and sea.
5. Masao Yoshida, Plant manager of Fukushima Daiichi
Hospitalized mid-November with an unspecified serious illness that required him to resign. TEPCO denies that his illness was caused by radiation, but of course they would. TEPCO has little credibility left. Besides, they have a motive to not discourage workers still toiling in the danger. If his illness were really unrelated to radiation exposure, they would be eager to tell us what it is. (UPDATE: On December 9, 2011, Mr. Yoshida decided that he wanted the nature of his illness to be made public. TEPCO announced at a press conference that he has esophagal cancer, and insisted it was not caused by radiation, in spite of such a claim being unprovable).

How much evidence would you need to decide to remove yourself to a safer location? I suspect it has always been clear to all authorities involved that large numbers of people are going to get sick. They have probably just decided that, on balance, a massive evacuation would cause more suffering than the illness caused by radiation. From the outset, it's been a given that X number of people are going to suffer loss of livelihood, health or life. They are hoping they will be able to treat most of the cancers and other health problems with good chances of survivability (money has been pledged for a new cancer hospital!) and still keep Fukushima City and Prefecture functioning as some kind of viable human settlement. Good luck with that as the cases pile up. Time will soon tell how wise this decision was.

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