World Bulletin / News Desk
People in the areaworst affected by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident two years ago have a higher risk of developing certain cancers, the World Health Organisation said on Thursday.
A magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, killed nearly 19,000 people and devastated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, triggering meltdowns, spewing radiation and forcing about 160,000 people to flee their homes.
It was the worst nuclear accident since a reactor exploded at the Chernobyl power plant in Ukraine in 1986.
"A breakdown of data, based on age, gender and proximity to the plant, does show a higher cancer risk for those located in the most contaminated parts," Dr. Maria Neira, WHO director for public health and environment, said in a statement.
In the most contaminated area, the WHO estimated that there was a 70 percent higher risk of females exposed as infants developing thyroid cancer over their lifetime. The thyroid is the most exposed organ as radioactive iodine concentrates there and children are deemed especially vulnerable.
The report estimated that in the most contaminated area there was a 7 percent higher risk of leukaemia in males exposed as infants, and a 6 percent higher risk of breast cancer in females exposed as infants.
The report concluded that for the general population inside Japan, the predicted health risks were low, but that one-third of emergency workers were estimated to have increased risk.
But there was no discernible increase in health risks expected outside Japan, the WHO said in a 200-page report which was based on a comprehensive assessment by international experts.
Jim Smith, Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Portsmouth in England, said: "Apart from emergency workers, the most affected people were those who remained in some highly contaminated towns and villages to the northwest of the power station for up to four months before evacuation.
"The report found that these people received a lifetime radiation dose of up to 50 milli-Sieverts (MSV) and therefore have a significant, but relatively small, additional risk of contracting cancer in later life."
He said the average British person receives more than 150 MSV during their lifetime from background radiation.
He said the report did not yet give data on the numbers of people who received particular radiation doses, so it was not yet possible to estimate the overall health consequences.
Neira said: "The WHO report underlines the need for long-term health monitoring of those who are at high risk, along with the provision of necessary medical follow-up and support services."
Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) earlier this month received approval to tap the Japanese government for 697 billion yen ($7.5 billion) to compensate those harmed by the disaster, taking the total fund to 3.24 trillion yen.
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A 36-year-old man from Senegal is being tested in Barcelona.
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A local priest who asked not to be named said that the illness had affected several villages and estimated that the death toll was over 100 people.
The calculation highlights the dilemma facing officials considering how to distribute the tiny quantities of unproven drugs that are likely to be available in the near term
"We are hopeful and grateful to God and to the medical team that they are showing signs of improvement," Liberia's Information Minister Lewis Brown told a press conference on Tuesday.
The decision came as the Ivorian national football team is due to face Sierra Leone, one of the countries that had been hard hit by the Ebola outbreak, next month in Abidjan as part of the Africa Cup of Nations 2015 qualifiers.
Infant products are particularly vulnerable to food safety scares in China after powdered milk tainted with the industrial chemical melamine led to the deaths of at least six infants in 2008
Countries that do not have Ebola cases must strengthen their capacity to detect and contain any cases immediately, the WHO said
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At the end of last year, 13,254 tonnes of spent fuel was being held in temporary storage at nuclear plants, according to data from the commission, mostly in water tanks but some in concrete containers.
The 35-year-old Nigerian woman was en route to India on a treatment tour from advanced cancer.