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Environ Health Perspect. 2014 Jun;122(6):587-93. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1306848. Epub 2014 Mar 14.

Assessment of the risk of medium-term internal contamination in Minamisoma City, Fukushima, Japan, after the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear accident.

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Department of Global Health Policy, Graduate School of Medicine, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan.



The Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster, the first level-7 major nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, raised concerns about the future health consequences of exposure to and intake of radionuclides. Factors determining the risk and level of internal radiation contamination after a nuclear accident, which are a key to understanding and improving current nuclear disaster management, are not well studied.


We investigated both the prevalence and level of internal contamination in residents of Minamisoma, and identified factors determining the risk and levels of contamination.


We implemented a program assessing internal radiation contamination using a whole body counter (WBC) measurement and a questionnaire survey in Minamisoma, between October 2011 and March 2012.


Approximately 20% of the city's population (8,829 individuals) participated in the WBC measurement for internal contamination, of which 94% responded to the questionnaire. The proportion of participants with detectable internal contamination was 40% in adults and 9% in children. The level of internal contamination ranged from 2.3 to 196.5 Bq/kg (median, 11.3 Bq/kg). Tobit regression analysis identified two main risk factors: more time spent outdoors, and intake of potentially contaminated foods and water.


Our findings suggest that, with sensible and reasonable precautions, people may be able to live continuously in radiation-affected areas with limited contamination risk. To enable this, nuclear disaster response should strictly enforce food and water controls and disseminate evidence-based and up-to-date information about avoidable contamination risks.

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