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Not so easy to get workers to agree to participate in health survey

March 15, 2015


Only 35% of Fukushima nuclear plant workers agree to 1st round of health checks




Only 35 percent of the targeted workers who tackled the Fukushima nuclear accident are willing to undergo a health check in a survey to determine the effects of their radiation exposure, a research institute reported March 14.

Experts with the Radiation Effects Research Foundation, which is conducting the survey, said at a meeting in Tokyo that the total of 704 who agreed is significantly smaller than the targeted 2,000 subjects, because many could not be reached.

Toshiteru Okubo, foundation chairman, stressed the importance of convincing the workers to participate in the health checks.

“It is not easy to determine their whereabouts," he said. "But we need to make an effort to convince them to join the survey."

The foundation, a Japan-U.S. institute based in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, plans to carry out the health survey of 2,000 workers who were mobilized to respond to the accident that unfolded at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on March 11, 2011.

It is expected to get under way by the end of March, ahead of a check of 18,000 more such workers that will be launched in fiscal 2015, which starts in April.

In all, the foundation is seeking to survey 20,000 workers who were employed at the plant between March and December in 2011 on emergency tasks, including removing debris.

During that period, the government temporarily raised the limit of their radiation exposure to 250 millisieverts, from 100 millisieverts, to allow them to work longer periods in tackling the accident, triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

The survey is designed to determine whether the workers are developing health problems such as leukemia and other types of cancer throughout their lifetimes, with the foundation collaborating with health centers across the nation.

At the meeting, a health expert said of an inquiry sent to 5,466 workers in Fukushima Prefecture asking whether they intend to get a health checkup, 299 were returned due to an unknown address.

Such papers have been sent from January. The number of replies received stood at 1,071. Of these, 295 workers opted out of the survey.

Some cited a lack of compensation for taking time off from work for a health exam. Others replied that the health centers are not within easy access.

Many of the workers at the plant are employed by subcontractors, who hire them on a temporary basis from around the nation.



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