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Fukushima fallout may be causing illness in Alaska & West Coast Babies


April 05, 2013
Friday PM

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska - A new study by the Radiation and Public Health Project suggests that babies born in the western United States and Pacific countries shortly after Japan's March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster may be at greater risk for congenital hypothyroidism.

According to the study, babies born in places including Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California and Hawaii after the disaster were 28 percent more likely to suffer from the illness than children born in those regions one year earlier.

The illness, congenital hypothyroidism, if untreated can cause permanent handicaps in both the body and brain of a child. A potential environmental risk factor in congenital hypothyroidism is prenatal exposure to radioactive iodine isotopes, which seek out the susceptible fetal thyroid gland, according to the study.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, congenital hypothyroidism is a condition that affects infants from birth (congenital) and results from a partial or complete loss of thyroid function (hypothyroidism). The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped tissue in the lower neck. It makes iodine-containing hormones that play an important role in regulating growth, brain development, and the rate of chemical reactions in the body (metabolism).

The U.S. National Library of Medicine's website states, congenital hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland fails to develop or function properly. In 80 to 85 percent of cases, the thyroid gland is absent, abnormally located, or severely reduced in size (hypoplastic). In the remaining cases, a normal-sized or enlarged thyroid gland is present, but production of thyroid hormones is decreased or absent.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, "If untreated, congenital hypothyroidism can lead to intellectual disability and abnormal growth. In the United States and many other countries, all newborns are tested for congenital hypothyroidism. If treatment begins in the first month after birth, infants usually develop normally."

Large amounts of fallout disseminated worldwide from the meltdowns in four reactors at the Fukushima-Dai-ichi plant in Japan beginning March 11, 2011 which included radioiodine isotopes. Joseph J. Mangano and Janette D. Sherman authors of the new study wrote in their abstract that just days after the meltdowns, I-131 concentrations in United States precipitation was measured up to 211 times above normal.

Highest levels of I-131 and airborne gross beta were documented in the five states in the U.S. along the Pacific Ocean -- including Alaska. The number of congenital hypothyroid cases in these five states from March 17 December 31, 2011 was 16% greater than for the same period in 2010, compared to a 3% decline in 36 other U.S. States. The greatest divergence in these two groups (+28%) occurred in the period March 17 - June 30, 2011. Fukushima fallout appeared to affect all areas of the United States, and was found to be especially large in the western part of the nation.

According to Mangano and Sherman, further analysis, in the United States and in other nations, is needed to better understand any association between iodine exposure from Fukushima-Dai-ichi and congenital hypothyroidism risk.


Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


On the Web:

Read the Published 9 page Study: Open Journal of Pediatrics, 2013, 3, 1-9


Sources of News: 

Radiation and Public Health Project

U.S. National Library of Medicine

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