社説:食品の放射能 説明と測定を徹底せよ

(Mainichi Japan) October 29, 2011
Gov't should thoroughly explain health risks from internal radiation exposure through food
社説:食品の放射能 説明と測定を徹底せよ

The Japanese government is required to thoroughly explain health risks from overall radiation exposure to the public and ensure that food products are measured for radiation now that the Food Safety Commission (FSC) has shown its safety standards on internal radiation exposure through foods.

In a report it submitted to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry on Oct. 28, the FSC explained that if lifetime cumulative exposure to radiation exceeds roughly 100 millisieverts, excluding natural radiation, it will adversely affect human health.

Based on that report, the ministry will set upper limits on radiation for each type of food product.

The problem is the interpretation of the 100 millisievert upper limit.

When it released an initial draft of the report in July, the FSC explained that 100 millisieverts refers to the upper limit on the total amount of overall radiation exposure, both internal and external.

However, the report submitted to the ministry limits it to internal exposure through food.

The report has raised questions as to whether the upper limit on internal radiation exposure through food should remain at 100 millisieverts or should be lowered if the amount of external radiation exposure is high.

The FSC has declined to answer this question on the grounds that the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry or other government organizations in charge should decide on the matter.

The FSC apparently believes that it should stick to its mission of evaluating risks involving food.

However, the government should stop such sectionalism and evaluate risks of overall radiation exposure as what members of the public want to know is how their health is affected by both internal and external radiation exposure.

The current regulations on food safety set the upper limit on exposure to radioactive cesium at 5 millisieverts per year.

However, since this is a provisional limit set following the accident at the tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, it is an urgent task for the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry to set stricter standards.

In doing so, the ministry should thoroughly explain the basis for the new standards, including health risks involving external radiation exposure and internal exposure to less than 100 millisieverts, in an effort to convince the public.

The FSC report suggests that children are more vulnerable to radiation than adults.

However, as it is unrealistic to set separate upper limits for children and adults, it is necessary to set a figure that can protect the health of children as the upper limit on all citizens.

But even if a stricter upper limit is set, it alone cannot eliminate consumers' anxieties as long as they do not know how much radiation they have been exposed to through food.

Sample surveys on food that national and local governments are currently conducting are far from sufficient.

In order to protect the health of citizens and relieve their concerns and mental stress, central and local governments should conduct more thorough and detailed measurements of radiation contained in food.

Such measurements should cover a wider diversity of food products, as fish and other marine products could later turn out to be contaminated with radiation as a result of bioaccumulation.

University of Tokyo professor Ryugo Hayano has proposed that the amount of radioactive cesium contained in school lunches should be measured and that the results be released on a daily basis.

Tatsuhiko Kodama, professor at the same university, has suggested that all food products should be measured for radiation using belt-conveyer-style measurement devices.

A growing number of retailers and citizens are voluntarily measuring food products for radiation.

The national and local government should actively support these moves.

If the current situation continues, consumers' concerns about food safety cannot be eliminated even if the actual radiation levels remain low.

毎日新聞 2011年10月29日 2時30分

by kiyoshimat | 2011-10-31 07:11 | 英字新聞

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