Fukushima Now Leading to Childhood Obesity?
It’s no surprise that Japan’s nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant nearly four years ago has had numerous side effects on nearby residents. From conditions like blotchy skin and stomach pains, to nose bleeds and hair loss, there are no doubts in researchers’ minds that these health issues all stem from radiation exposure caused by the Fukushima explosion. Now scientists have linked another health concern to the failed nuclear plant: childhood obesity.
The Guardian reports that children from Fukushima are the most obese in all of Japan, with almost double the amount of children 20% heavier than the standard weight for their age. According to an education ministry survey, 15.07% of nine-year-olds in Fukushima were obese compared to all other Japanese prefectures (counties) at only 8.14%. Children ages 6, 7, 11, 12, and 13 also came in well above the national average.
The reason behind the increase in obesity is simple; people are afraid to let their children play outside due to fear of radiation exposure. The once vibrant parks sit empty, and even though schools have lowered restrictions on playing outside, a lot of the children have been dealing with the aftermath of the disaster for most of their memories. So they too fear the outdoors and feel safer being inactive inside.
Many of the areas in the Fukushima prefecture have been deemed safe with low levels of radiation. However, the culture among the children has also changed since the disaster. The children are now used to staying indoors, and they have little desire to run around outside. Educators in the area say the school children have “lost interest in physical exercise.”
Along with a spike in childhood obesity, there has been a reported rise in thyroid cancer among children who lived near the plant at the time of the disaster. In addition, anxiety, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder have been recorded as well. Japanese health officials are shy to say whether these conditions are directly correlated with Fukushima, but those affected are being closely monitored in order to make future conclusions on the matter.
It will be years, most likely decades, before any certain effects are determined. Yet, it is obvious this nuclear tragedy has caused a shift in the children’s way of life.
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