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American Babies Born Right After Fukushima Show Elevated Rate of Abnormalities

A new study shows elevated rates of congenital thyroid illness among infants born on West Coast right after the meltdown in Japan.
 
 
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This article was published in partnership with  GlobalPossibilities.org.

A new study suggests nuclear fallout from Fukushima caused a spike in congenital illnesses among infants in the United States.

The peer-reviewed research, published in the Open Journal of Pediatrics, found increased rates of congenital hypothyroidism (CH) in West Coast babies born within nine months of the Fukushima meltdowns beginning March 11, 2011. Newborns in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington showed up to 28 percent higher rates of CH than in 36 control states. If left untreated, congenital hypothyroidism can impede physical and mental development.

Researchers working with the Radiation and Health Project noted that even low doses of radiation have been associated with congenital illnesses, and past studies point to a link between radioactive exposure and hypothyroidism. The study concludes that the CH spikes in the West Coast provides scientists a chance to further study a potential link:

Exposure to radiation, especially the thyroid-seeking radioiodine isotopes, should be considered as one of these factors. The meltdown at Fukushima Dai-ichi presents an opportunity to analyze this factor, and studies such as this one should continue.

The study also confirms that the elevated CH could just be a horrific beginning to the revelations. Health departments will soon release data on “fetal deaths, premature births, low weight births, neonatal deaths, infant deaths, and birth defects.” Not omitting the far worse devastation in Japan, researchers said their findings demand additional studies.

Thus, while environmental levels of Fukushima fallout were thousands of times greater near the stricken plant than those in the US, these relatively low (but elevated) exposures should be analyzed for any potential links with diseases.

In essence a nuclear disaster 8,000 miles away probably sickened American infants, and we may not have seen the worst of the toll.

Steven Hsieh is an editorial assistant at AlterNet and writer based in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter @stevenjhsieh.