Japan Tsunami 2011: Fukushima Moms Run Radiation Lab to Protect Their Kids

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  • Bloomberg Quicktake: Now published this video item, entitled “Japan Tsunami 2011: Fukushima Moms Run Radiation Lab to Protect Their Kids” – below is their description.


    It’s been 10 years since Japan’s Fukushima earthquake and tsunami, but radiation fears have lingered in the Japanese prefecture.

    In Iwaki city, Tarachine lab measures radiation for free. Ai Kimura, the lab manager and technician, carries out complicated tests every day. But she was never trained as a scientist.

    “I have no background in science at all,” says Kimura. “I’ve only gone as far as high school in my education. But in high school I focused on studying in science so that’s as much as I knew.”

    She’s part of Tarachine, a donations-based NGO set up by mothers who live about an hour’s drive away from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant. The plant was destroyed by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

    “The reason why I first started monitoring this area was because it became contaminated after the nuclear accident on March 11, 2011,” says Kaori Suzuki, Tarachine’s executive director. “Moms were worried about what to feed their kids for dinner and what to pack in their bento lunch the next day. And is the water okay? Is the tap water safe to drink? So this lab was born out of the anxieties moms felt during that time.”

    Tarachine which means “mother,” employs 14 full-time staff. People send in samples like food, soil from kindergartens and dust from vacuum cleaners.

    “Tarachine currently measures radiation from cesium 134 and cesium 137, strontium 90 and tritium,” explains Suzuki. “If you ask a private agency to measure strontium 90, for example, it would cost 200,000 to 250,000 yen. But at Tarachine we can measure it with the same accuracy at no cost.”

    Tarachine’s ability to measure tritium and strontium is unusual for a citizen-led lab. Suzuki and her team learned through trial and error and by consulting experts. “Measuring strontium 90 and tritium is difficult even for professionals,” she says. “So at first we needed the help from experts to even understand the ABCs.”

    Radiation exposure can lead to an increased risk of cancer. The government tests radiation on farm products and says food in the grocery stores is safe.

    And while radiation levels have improved since 2011, there’s still a long road ahead. “Some foods have seen readings go down,” says Kimura. “But others like bamboo shoots or wild mountain vegetables, their numbers are still the same after all these years.”

    The mothers continue to fight for the future of their children and beyond. “I think we need to build some sort of foundation for them today,” says Suzuki. “We can’t necessarily solve everything right now but I think Tarachine can contribute at least a little. I think that’s what we are here to do.”

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    In This Story: Japan

    Japan is an island country in East Asia located in the northwest Pacific Ocean. Part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, Japan comprises an archipelago of 6,852 islands covering 377,975 square kilometers (145,937 sq mi); the country’s five main islands, from north to south, are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu, and Okinawa. Tokyo is Japan’s capital and largest city.

    Japan is divided into 47 administrative prefectures and eight traditional regions. The Greater Tokyo Area is the most populous metropolitan area in the world, with more than 37.4 million residents.

    Japan is a great power and a member of numerous international organizations, including the United Nations (since 1956), the OECD, and the G7. Japan is a leader in the automotive and electronics industries.

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    Nuclear power is the use of nuclear reactions that release nuclear energy to generate heat, which most frequently is then used in steam turbines to produce electricity in a nuclear power plant. Nuclear power can be obtained from nuclear fission, nuclear decay and nuclear fusion reactions.

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