The town of Kawauchi has been trying to encourage residents to return to the town on the edge of the evacuation zone since 2012. Portions of the town remain off limits and part of the evacuation zone. Some of the schools reopened but the high school and many of the other nearby services were located further into the evacuation zone, leaving the town isolated. A few residents have returned, mostly seniors. Families with children have mostly opted to not return. The town seems to rationalize it as being just an issue of lacking services. The issues of radiation risk may be playing a larger role in why families are not returning.
NGO groups have continued to provide kids a break from the stress and health risks of living in a contaminated area. Summer camps in Okinawa provide some relief for families that have found themselves unable to move. The camps are funded by donations and run by volunteers. Some of these same groups have helped coordinate independent thyroid screenings.
A network of pediatricians have helped provide these free, independent and comprehensive thyroid screenings for children from Fukushima. The exams include a review of the child’s exposure history and previous radiation scans. Children are given an ultrasound examination of their thyroid then the results are discussed with the parents as would be done in a normal doctors appointment. Parents are given a book to record all tests and medical findings for themselves. The process used for these free examinations is the opposite of what the Fukushima Health Survey has done. The independent health screenings do not give any data to the Health Survey, so their results will not show up in the official data. It does provide honest and accessible health care that allows parents to understand their children’s health status and take action if needed.
Those in need of assistance and medical help extends beyond the borders of Fukushima. Residents in Miyagi prefecture filed a lawsuit in 2013 to try to obtain some of the assistance people in Fukushima have had. Portions of the radioactive plume reached Miyagi. Soil and food have been found to be contaminated in some areas. Children were found to have elevated levels of thyroid disorders and cesium 137 in their urine.
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